Conscious Competence



Then think of your workplace like a golf game. Start working on correct physical movement and practice…

Whether you’re driving off a tee or lifting a heavy box, good technique is essential. Repeat either of these activities incorrectly enough times and you’ll likely wind up with pain, injury, ineffectiveness and inefficiency. And in the case of golf – anguish and misery!!!

Both golfing and lifting are physical activities that need to be honed with practice, using correct technique. Yet we approach golf and the workplace quite differently. Golfers willingly practice small adjustments in stance and grip to optimize their performance and avoid strain or sprain. When it comes to the workplace, however, making essential improvements to technique is all too often viewed as awkward or time consuming and not worth pursuing.

University College of London has discovered that it takes 66 days of daily practice on a specific habit or skill to reach a point they call automaticity.  Automaticity means that you reach a point where it is easier to do the new habit than not to do it.

Physical learning principles apply whether you’re Lydia Ko aiming to develop her game or a factory engineer trying to use pliers more effectively and eliminate arm strain.

The ‘Conscious Competence’ model is a well-recognized and researched learning model.  Often referred to as the 4 stages of Learning it relates to the mental states involved in the process of progressing from incompetence to competence in a particular skill.   

 A skill may be as broad as:

  • Learning a new computer programme

  • Learning to drive a car

  • Improving your time management skills

  • Improving your sporting technique

  • Using a knife in a meat processing plant without strain or injury

  • Using a concrete grinder on a worksite

A growing body of research shows that in order to maintain a skill we need to pass through four stages before we change habits long term and the new skill becomes our normal behaviour

Together, these stages make up what’s called the Competency Pathway.

One of the major limitations of many current ‘Manual Handling’ Programmes is that they do not address all stages of learning necessary for sustained and long-term benefits.

To often a programme brings about an initial reduction in injuries following training implementation with a disappointing gradual rise of injuries again over time.   Sound familiar?

Soft tissue injuries from manual handling continue to be one of the major injury statistics for many workplaces – yet we rarely invest the time in our people to bring about a change in habits and the way we habitually perform our day-to-day tasks.

 You wouldn’t expect Lydia Ko to improve her golfing technique by going to a one of training seminar – the same applies to your workers.  Improving a technique takes practice and persistence.

As an employer, you cannot expect long-term change in your workers’ habits unless the training process you engage follows learning principles that enable sustainable change to take place.

Injuries from manual handling continue to be one of the biggest Health and Safety costs in NZ.  Don’t treat the controls to this problem lightly.

 Avoid physical training programmes throwing information at people and then expecting change to happen spontaneously. Even worse, avoid blaming workers, rather than the program.  If the improvement programme has limitations, those limitations will manifest in the workers.

Remember, quick fixes do not give you sustained results!

Conscious Competence

Conscious Competence