Federal Training Requirements
Most employers understand that good employee training is essential
for an organization's success. A wide variety of training platforms and media
are utilized by employers. Training topics may include general skills such
as literacy, technical skills, orientation about the organization, and programs
designed to prevent legal problems, such as sexual harassment training and
ethics training. Training programs must not discriminate, and time spent in
training may be compensable. Federal law requires training in many health
and safety related areas. The federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funds
numerous job skill training programs that are coordinated through individual
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Why Offer Training?
Employee training was once considered an optional benefit, an
"extra" that only the most forward-looking employers provided to the most
promising employees. Even now, when the economy turns downward, employee training
is often the first to go, viewed not as an investment but as an expense to
be disposed of in tough times. But today more and more employers understand
that, far from being a frill, good employee training is necessary to a company's
success and that an intelligent, well-trained workforce is central to worker
productivity and well-being. In fact, more than 70 percent of employers provided
some sort of job training for their employees, according to a Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS) survey.
The survey also found that employers with high employee turnover
train less and spend less on training than other businesses. While it is unclear
which comes first, the probable inference is that training is linked to long-term
employment and is an important factor in successful performance, productivity,
Types of Training
Employers offer training in sales, customer relations, various
work skills, management skills, computer skills, new technology, production
methods, safety and health, hazardous chemical exposure prevention and treatment,
communication skills, workplace law, sexual harassment, ethics, and diversity,
according to the BLS survey. Large companies often have on-site training departments;
medium and small companies may hire consultants, or send their employees to
training courses or community colleges. Both large and small employers often
use on-line training, or software programs.
Although most managers say they still prefer traditional face-to-face
training methods, there is strong growth in the computer-based training industry.
More economical in both time and money than conventional training, computer
training appears to be the wave of the future. Computer-based training may
be interactive and can take place at a trainee's own pace and convenience.
Training programs are offered on CD-ROM, and on the Web as well, and cover
every sort of skill or discipline.
Because orientation is generally the employee's first introduction
to the organization, it is important to do it well. Properly introducing and
assimilating new employees into the company will have a real effect on the
kind of job they do in the future. Orientation training generally should not
be done all at once and on the employee's first day of work, but should happen
over a period of weeks, or even months as part of the worker's progress to
maximum productivity, and to provide an ongoing check on the person's absorption
into the workplace.
Employers, supervisors, and human resources professionals should
assess the orientation training in terms of its effect on the individual worker:
Does the worker understand and feel comfortable with the culture of the company?
Does he or she know all about the benefits the company provides? Does he or
she understand the primary responsibilities of his or her job? The impressions
a new worker forms during the first weeks on the job have a significant impact
on long-range performance as well as job satisfaction, and may mean the difference
between an employee who succeeds and one who fails. Orientation is where most
of these first impressions are formed.
Today's workers, from salespeople to factory workers to managers,
need far more education and training than did their predecessors simply to
maintain their jobs today, and handle the expanded duties they may have tomorrow.
Experts recommend that businesses seek partnerships with local and state high
schools, technical schools, community colleges, and government agencies, to
enhance basic educational skills (e.g., math calculations, good writing skills).
Employers can set up school-to-work programs, apprenticeships, or mentorships
for new employees and for adults seeking to strengthen or redirect their work
skills. Beyond this, employers can develop specific skill training tailored
to their own workplaces, to teach employees how the job is done, how the particular
employer wants the job to be done, and how the job is likely to be done in
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that one in eight
of our nation's workers reads below the fourth grade level. Poor basic skills
in the workforce also include an inability to deal with numbers--this, at
a time when complex technology and international competition require ever
more sophisticated manuals, statistical applications, and communication techniques.
However, there are a few relatively inexpensive and effective steps employers
can take to address this problem:
Test employees for job-related literacy and math skills. Many
people become quite adept at hiding the fact that they can't read, write,
or handle numbers. If you have good employees with this problem, consider
sending them to one of the many literacy or math programs run by local schools
or community colleges.
Form a partnership with a local school. Thousands of employers
nationwide have made arrangements with schools in their communities, in which
the employer provides the school with management expertise and exposure to
the business environment. In turn, the school provides educational help to
The Supreme Court recently ruled that employers may be held liable
for sexual harassment if they did not exercise reasonable care to prevent
and promptly correct any such behavior in the workplace--even if they were
not aware of the specific actions in question. The decision highlights the
great importance of sexual harassment training. With the increased costs of
litigation and the many large jury verdicts, training programs are a relatively
small, but absolutely critical investment. Effective sexual harassment training
must involve all managers (to the highest level), supervisors, and rank-and-file
Training should not be a one-time event, but must be repeated
for all new employees, and held at least annually for all employees. It should
inform employees what sexual harassment consists of, and what the legal standards
for liability are, and instruct employees at all levels about the mechanisms
and procedures in place for immediate reporting of infractions. In addition,
because the burden is on employers to correct sexually harassing behavior,
special consideration should be given to training those responsible for investigating
such behavior when it is brought to their attention.
Diversity training refers to an employer's attempt, through
training programs, to create a workforce where employees of both genders and
all ages, ethnic groups, races, and religions, as well as those with disabilities
are represented at every level throughout the company and are able to work
harmoniously. It is about acceptance of others based upon their contribution
to the workplace, and their capacities as human beings. Diversity programs
are critical to an organization, but they must be extremely well done to be
effective. Often, outside consultants offer diversity training in combination
with sexual harassment training.
As a growing number of American businesses become global organizations,
more employers are sending employees to foreign countries for a short duration,
or a long stay. The kind of training provided these employees might make the
difference between success and failure for these businesses. Today, training
companies, private consultants, and most universities and colleges offer cross-cultural
training programs. Such programs are generally country- or at least region-specific,
and usually feature communication skills, social attitudes, religious mores,
gender roles, and much more. Training should not be confined to the new culture
itself, but cover the ways in which that culture may differ from American
culture--in its approach to punctuality, for example, or to conflict resolution,
or selling techniques, or to the meaning of a gesture. Employers may find
this sort of training invaluable, even for their stay-at-home employees as
a growing number of workers interact with employees from around the globe.
Apprenticeships are on-the-job training programs involving a
"learner" engaged in classroom instruction or education, and also working
under the guidance of an experienced member of the profession, trade, or craft.
Apprenticeships are generally a function of private sector employers, unions,
or trade groups, but often receive technical assistance or supervision from
federal and state agencies. They usually take from 3 to 5 years and wages
are generally progressive, increasing by agreed-upon increments as greater
competence is acquired.
Most adults are self-directed
learners; they want to learn what they want, when they want, and how they
want. Adult learners have their own style of learning that includes four key
elements, discussed below. Even if an employer structure its training program
to meet these elements, it may still run into reluctant learners.
The Four Elements of Adult Learning
1. Motivation. To motivate adult learners, set a friendly or open
tone at each session, create a feeling of concern, and set an appropriate
level of difficulty. Other motivators for adult learners include:
- Personal achievement—including attaining higher job status or keeping up
with and/or surpassing competitors
- Social well-being—including
opportunities for community work
- External expectations—such
as meeting the expectations of someone with formal authority
- Social relationships—including opportunities for making new friends that
satisfy people’s desire for association
breaks the routine of work and provides contrast in employees’ lives
- Interest in learning—which gives employees knowledge for the sake of knowledge
and satisfies curious minds
2. Reinforcement. Use both positive and negative reinforcement to
be successful in training adult learners. Use positive reinforcement, such
as verbal praise frequently, when teaching new skills in order to encourage
progress and reward good results. Use "negative" reinforcement, such as constructive
criticism, to stop bad habits or poor performance.
3. Retention. Adults must retain
what they’ve learned in order to realize benefits on both the personal and
companywide levels. Achieve great retention rates by having trainees practice
their newly acquired skills again and again until they are familiar and comfortable
enough to ensure long-term success.
4. Transference. Adults want to bring
what they learn in training directly to the workplace. Positive transference
occurs when adults are able to apply learned skills to the workplace. Negative
transference occurs when learners can’t—or don’t—apply skills to the workplace.
Know the Audience
Instructors need to know what kinds of learners trainees are. In general, people learn
in one of three ways:
learners receive information best through seeing it or reading it. Their brains
process the information and retain it once they see it. These learners benefit
from written instructions, diagrams, handouts, overheads, videos, and other
learners receive information best when they hear it. They respond best to
speakers, audio conferences, discussion groups, Q & A sessions, and other
Kinesthetic or Tactile--These
learners learn by touch and feel. They will benefit from show and tell where
equipment is available to handle. They also respond well to demonstrations
of new procedures and in having the chance to practice themselves. Instructors
will inevitably have all three kinds of learners in every training session.
It’s important, therefore, to integrate a combination of teaching styles into
When Training Isn’t the Answer
The next step is to analyze and confirm the data to determine what training needs
exist. Remain open to the idea that training may not always be the answer
in every case. Use these guidelines to determine if another approach might
- In cases where the overall
size or difficulty of the skill or procedure is complex or where only one
employee is having trouble, coaching or other one-on-one job aids may be better
than a training session.
- Qualified training is not
enough because participants must also be motivated to learn and perform. If
training has already been conducted , more sessions may not be needed; instead,
there may be a need to find ways to change the working environment in order
to encourage better job performance.
- If previous
training hasn’t met its goals, find out why it failed. Was there too much
downtime between the session and performance? Was the session held under ideal
conditions, or was there a poor training environment? All these factors must
be taken into consideration before any decisions are made. The solution may
be as simple as revising an old program.
Draw Up a Detailed Blueprint
Once it is determined what the training needs are, who needs to be trained, and
how best to train them, it is time to develop a plan. Here’s how:
1. Set specific goals to meet each identified training
- >Use quantifiable
measurements for what employees are to achieve after training, such as an
increased production quota or decreased injury reports.
- Use charts, graphs, and tables wherever possible to show management specific
numbers and trends that the training program will achieve. For example, chart
the increased productivity.
- Set realistic targets
that are achievable, but not necessarily easily achieved. Get to know how
to challenge the trainees to reach for more effective performance. For example,
look at the highest production peak employees have ever achieved, even if
it was only one time, and set the target slightly above this point. Employees
know they can achieve it because they already have. But they also know it’s
challenging to accomplish.
2. List everyone who needs to be trained in each topic area.
- Use these lists to help customize the training to the audience.
- Prepare trainees by communicating before sessions with prequizzes, agendas,
or requests for specific topics trainees want addressed.
3. Make a master schedule of all the training to be conducted this month or
- Within the master schedule, set specific
dates for each session.
- Include makeup dates for
trainees who cannot attend scheduled sessions.
a logical progression for multipart training; make sure sessions aren’t too
far apart so that trainees forget the first training or too close together
so that trainees suffer information overload.
- Also allow time for trainees
who want more training in the first section to receive it before the next
session is held.
4. Choose the appropriate method(s) for each group of trainees in each topic
Plan to use more than one training method for each topic to ensure that you reach all the types
of learners in the session. Plan flexibility in to your use of materials so
that you are prepared for technical difficulties or other problems.
- List the materials and methods for each session.
Once all this information is collected and organized, it will be easy to develop and conduct the training sessions.
Many employers encourage their employees to attend outside education
or training programs by offering tuition-assistance, most commonly reimbursing
a specified percentage of the tuition to the worker upon successful completion
of the course.
Employers must be especially careful that their training programs
are free of discrimination in selection and presentation. Performance evaluations
of trainees should be reviewed for possible discrimination, and training documentation
should be kept in employee personnel files.
Training Time as Compensable Hours
Training programs conducted during regular working hours constitute
work time and must be compensated as such, according to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). After-hours
training need not be compensated if:
- Attendance is entirely outside normal working hours and is
voluntary (attendance will not be found voluntary if the employee is led to
believe that attending is critical to his or her job).
- The training is not directly related to the employee's present
- The employee does not do any productive work during the program.
A training program is considered directly related to the job
if the training is designed to help the employee handle the present job more
effectively (but voluntary attendance at school outside the workplace, after
hours is not work time, even if it is related to the employee's present job).
Time spent in training for a new job or in the development of new skills is
less likely to be classified as compensable work time.
Training Required by Federal Law
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) requires the following safety training:
- Emergency plan. Before implementing
an emergency action plan, employers must designate and train a sufficient
number of people to assist in the safe and orderly emergency evacuation of
- Fire hazards. Employers must make known
to employees the fire hazards of the materials and processes to which they
- Hearing protectors. Employers must provide
training in the use and care of all hearing protectors provided to employees.
- Processes and operations. Each employee
presently involved in operating a process, or before operating a newly assigned
process, must be trained in the operating procedures, with emphasis on the
specific safety and health hazards, emergency operations including shutdown,
and safe work practices applicable to the employee's job tasks. Alternatively,
an employer may certify in writing that the employee has the required knowledge,
skills, and abilities to safely carry out the duties and responsibilities
as specified in the operating procedures. Refresher training must be provided
at least every 3 years, and more often if necessary, to each employee involved
in operating a process to assure that the employee understands and adheres
to the current operating procedures of the process. The employer, in consultation
with the employees involved in operating the process, will determine the appropriate
frequency of refresher training.
The employer shall ascertain that each employee involved in
operating a process, has received and understood the training required by
this paragraph. The employer shall prepare a record that contains the identity
of the employee, the date of training, and the means used to verify that the
employee understood the training.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE). Employers
must train every worker that is required to use PPE. Training must cover,
at a minimum: what PPE is necessary; when it is necessary; how to wear, use,
and adjust the particular PPE; its proper care, maintenance, useful life,
and disposal; and its limitations. If an employee that has already been trained
does not appear to have a good understanding, the person must be retrained.
Respirators. Employees using respirators
in their jobs must be trained in procedures to ensure adequate air quality,
quantity, and flow of breathing air for atmosphere-supplying respirators.
Training should also cover the respiratory hazards to which workers are potentially
exposed during routine and emergency situations, and the proper use, maintenance,
and limitations of respirators.
Right to Know/Hazard Communication
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act's (OSH
Act) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires employers to
provide employees with information and training on hazardous chemicals in
their work area. The training must be given at the time of the initial assignment
and whenever a new hazard is introduced into the work area. The OSH Act's
requirements for employee information and training are flexible, allowing
a company to design a program tailored to its needs and operations. At a minimum,
the training must cover the following:
- The location of workplace areas where hazardous
chemicals are present and where the workplace chemical list, MSDSs, and the
written communications program are kept
- How the hazard communication program is implemented, how to
read and interpret labels and MSDSs, and how employees can obtain and use
available hazard information.
- How workers can detect the presence of hazardous chemicals
(e.g., visual appearance, smell); their physical and health hazards; and protective
measures employees can take, including specific protective procedures the
employer is providing such as engineering controls, work practices, and personal
Information and training must be specific to the kinds of hazards
present in the workplace and the particular protective equipment, measures,
and procedures that are necessary. General training or a general discussion
of hazardous chemicals, for example, is not enough. This is a critical part
of the HCS, and if an inspector concludes that training is inadequate, a more
rigorous review of the company's entire compliance program will probably follow.
Federal Requirements for Effective Ethics Programs
Under the amended Federal Sentencing Guidelines,
effective November 1, 2004, employers are able to reduce the fines imposed
on them for the criminal acts of their employees by providing their employees
at every level within the company, as well as agents of the company, with
compliance and ethics training in order to demonstrate an effective compliance
and ethics program. Before November 1, 2004, training was not a required element
of an effective compliance and ethics program. These new amendments have rigorously
toughened the requirements for companies to reduce their fines if even one
of their employees is guilty of criminal misconduct.
Whenever an employee commits a criminal act within
the scope of his or her employment, the organization as a whole can be held
criminally liable for that act. Companies can face hefty fines and probation
for a period of up to 5 years; can be forced to pay back victims of the their
employees' criminal activities, apologize to the victims, and post public
notices of the conviction; and have property used in the commission of, or
acquired from the proceeds of, criminal activity seized by the government.
According to the Federal Sentencing Commission, an organization that has
an effective compliance and ethics program can reduce its fines for a criminal
conviction by as much as 90 percent.
The Federal Sentencing Commission states that
the Federal Sentencing Guidelines apply to "all organizations whether publicly
or privately held, and of whatever nature, such as corporations, partnerships,
labor unions, pension funds, trusts, nonprofit entities, and governmental
The Federal Sentencing guidelines outline seven steps an employer must take to have an effective compliance and ethics program:
- An organization must establish standards and procedures to
prevent and detect criminal conduct.
- An organization’s high-level personnel must be knowledgeable
about and oversee the content, implementation, operation, and effectiveness
of the program.
- An organization must take reasonable efforts to avoid giving
substantial authority to an individual that the organization knew, or should
have known, has engaged in criminal activity or other conduct inconsistent
with an effective ethics program.
- An organization must take reasonable measures to periodically
conduct training programs for and disseminate information to the organization’s
governing authority, high-level personnel, employees, and agents.
- An organization must monitor and audit for criminal activity,
periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the program, and create and communicate
procedures for employees and agents to report criminal activity without fear
- An organization must provide incentives to comply with the
program and enforce disciplinary measures for engaging in criminal conduct
or failing to prevent or detect criminal conduct.
- An organization must respond appropriately to criminal conduct
and modify the compliance and ethics program, if needed, to prevent further
Federal Training System
The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA)
WIA consolidates about 60 federal job-training programs into
an integrated whole. The program gives each state three block grants targeting
adult employment and training, disadvantaged youth employment and training,
and adult education and family literacy programs. The federal government retains
oversight, reviews state programs, and rejects those that don't meet the Act's
The Act requires that each state establish a state partnership
made up of the state's governor; his or her representatives; and representatives
of business, labor, youth activity organizations, vocation and adult education,
state agency officials, and state legislators. The partnership must develop
a detailed, thorough 3-year plan for submission to the federal secretary of
labor, which must describe how the state will spend the funds for adults,
dislocated workers, and youth. When a state plan is approved, the governor
of the state will allocate funds for the various training programs in various
Each state must establish a one-stop training system, with at
least one center in each local area that provides core services. These core
services include determination of eligibility, outreach, intake and orientation,
skill level assessment, case management assistance, job search and placement,
provision of information regarding job opportunities, and information about
the performance of local providers. When a state's workforce development plan
is approved by the Department of Labor, the state is eligible for funding
of WIA programs. Employers who train workers through this system are then
eligible for grants, significant tax credits, and other benefits. Many state
plans have been approved to date
For further information, employers should contact their state
labor department or the Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department
of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20210.
Certification in the context of workplace safety and health training is verifiable documentation that training, and in some cases evaluation, of employees has taken place. Employee training and evaluation is “certified” either by the employer or a third party organization that is authorized by a reg