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ISO 14001 Blog

John Nolan

Measuring training effectiveness in ISO 14001:2015

If you ask many business leaders what are the most important clauses of the ISO 14001:2015 standard, it is highly likely that very few answers will include mention of “training.” However, training of the workforce is obviously a critical part of any organization’s EMS (Environmental Management System), and therefore compliance with the ISO 14001:2015 standard. And, if employee training is ineffective, badly delivered, or too infrequent, then it stands to reason that the organization’s environmental performance will suffer as a result. Therefore, it makes sense that companies should have a training plan that is structured, planned, and effectively delivered, and that underpins the ability of the EMS to deliver consistent results that can provide a basis for continual improvement. So, given that training is so vital to EMS performance, how can your organization ensure that the training being delivered is effective enough to support excellent EMS performance, and critically – can be measured and evaluated as such?

Training – Why does it have to be effective?

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Section 7.2 of ISO 14001:2015 deals with “Competence.” In summary, it deals with the employees who have specific responsibility for the EMS and asks that they should have appropriate training to help with the tasks required to improve environmental aspects and EMS performance, have training needs evaluated and delivered, and that the actions taken can be evaluated and the results analyzed. This sounds pretty standard, but let us consider the possible consequences that ineffective training may bring to the organization:

  • Environmental incidents are often irreversible; once they have happened the impact often cannot be mitigated, only prevented from reoccurring. Prevention is not only better than cure, but the only solution. Effective training can aid this.
  • Training that cannot be effectively measured or assessed can bring a negative “creep” into your environmental performance, which has a long-term environmental impact. Every organization should avoid this at all costs.
  • Ineffective training can often have an exponential and long-term effect. Employees pass on information to each other by words, deeds, and example. Ineffective training will breed bad habits and a culture of bad performance, with EMS performance and the environment suffering as a result.

Given that the impact of ineffective training is now clear, how can we ensure that we construct a training plan that is effective, sustainable, and measurable?

Training – How to define requirements

We have discussed certain aspects of training in the previous article Do you have to train all your employees on ISO 14001?, but for now let us concentrate on the employees who have been given responsibility for tasks and results within your EMS. Let us look at the actions it may be wise to take:

  • Examine the ISO 14001:2015 standard, assess your own environmental aspects, and examine your legal register. Only with full knowledge of these three angles will you be able to assess the training you require.
  • Consult your local environmental agency. Most government and local government bodies have departments where free advice is given to organizations who want to improve environmental performance, and often free training and consultation are available. It is wise to use it.
  • Consult your employees and management in terms of perceptions of training required. All opinions should be sought before deciding on a training plan.
  • Establish a training matrix that records date and subject of training delivered, refresh date if relevant, and any other details thought important.

Read the article ISO 14001 Competence, Training & Awareness: Why are they important for your EMS? to learn more about the requirements.

Training: Measuring effectiveness

One of the most difficult things in an EMS can be to measure the success of something that seems intangible, such as training; however, it is obvious that if you do not train your employees correctly or on the appropriate topics, your EMS will display non-conformities accordingly. As mentioned above, in environmental terms non-conformity or incidents can be impossible to undo, so it is vital that you take the following two-pronged approach to measuring the effectiveness of training:

  • Ensure training and the results are part of your risk-based thinking discussions. Is a lack of training likely to cause non-conformity or under performance against a target or environmental aspect you have identified? If so, use the “plan, do, check, act” method to ensure risk is removed at the earliest possible stage.
  • Use your corrective action procedure to ensure there is no reoccurrence of non-conformity that may have been caused by ineffective training. Perhaps it is worth looking through your EMS results and incident register to ensure that any ongoing incidents have been dealt with and future risk removed by learning lessons.
  • Consider using formal risk assessment to measure any gaps between your training program and your EMS performance, taking any incidents, non-conformity, and employee feedback into consideration. This will ensure your training plan shows continual re-evaluation and improvement.
  • Seek formal employee and stakeholder feedback. Consider questionnaires and feedback forms; employee feedback is a critical component in ensuring that the employees perceive that the training delivered meets the requirements in the workplace.

So, training not only has to be effective, but quantifiable; otherwise, you will have no starting point to begin from in your search for continual improvement. Plan and assess your training effectively, and your results will speak for themselves. Treat your training program as both a risk and an opportunity, and you will give yourself a better chance of seeing the benefits for both your EMS and the environment.

Why not use our  ISO 14001:2015 Foundations Training Course to enhance your knowledge of the ISO 14001:2015 standard and good practices?

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