Recently, I read an article in Sports Illustrated about the reinvention of a 500-year old sport—cricket. Back in 2002, the sport faced waning interest by its fans and sponsors, so the cricket board, based on their research, decided to make the sport faster and more explosive. They introduced Twenty20, which essentially shrinks a contest into a more-digestible three hours. This was one of the most radical changes made in the sport’s history—and it worked. As a fan myself, I can attest to the fact that the new format certainly made it more accessible, entertaining, and exciting to watch.
Reinventing products or internal systems and processes is periodically necessary to meet the needs of the current era, but also to take advantage of advances in technology and address increasing complexity in organizations. For many companies, the ergonomics program has been around for years in some form or another. Over time, the program may have yielded some success, so you may assume that it is not broken. But, there may be clear signs that point to the need for re-imagining the program. These signs may include a lack of an ergonomics improvement process, assessments completed using paper-based forms, improvements not formally tracked, risk reduction not measured or reported, and training still being delivered using the PowerPoint lecture format.
The way you reinvent your ergonomics program is to review the people that are involved, the process they follow to improve ergonomics conditions, the technology they use, and the metrics they track. While it’s not possible to touch on each one of these items here, I’ll leave you with four things that you must implement right away to take your ergonomics program to the next level. All of these are related to leveraging technology.
Eliminate training delivery using the old PowerPoint lecture-based training. Blended learning is a learner-centered method in which the content and instruction are delivered in a mix of two ways: online and hands-on.
Online training content allows each student to control the place, time, path, and pace of his or her learning while delivering the content consistently. The training is not driven by the instructor, but rather “pulled” by students as they work through the concepts and information.
Following online training, hands-on application of learned information or skills enables participants to apply the concepts, information, tools, and methods in real workplace situations. Hands-on application aligns with principles of adult learning: learn by doing, affected by experience, problem-based, and learning what is practical.
Use a cloud-based system that electronically tracks assessments, direct causes, improvements, and follow-up assessments. The system must serve the needs for each location and across the company, be accessible from any device including smart phones and tablets, and be designed for use across the globe. It should also allow you to monitor and manage the ergonomics process from one to hundreds of locations.
In conjunction with an online system, provide tablet devices so that users can complete all related activities electronically. This will eliminate the need to use paper-based assessment forms and the need for point-to-shoot cameras. Many time-consuming steps, like transferring photos and videos from cameras to the computer and eventually to the system, will no longer be necessary.
Above all, ensure that the system you decide to use is secure. In today’s world, this is a must. Get your internal IT department involved early in the process; they have rolled out other similar systems, and they often have a defined review process to ensure that the platform is safe and secure.
If a 500-year old sport can reinvent itself, we can reinvent our ergonomics programs. Just like the sport of cricket, you will need to make some bold and drastic changes to see significant results. It is part of evolving to the needs of today’s workplace.