In my conference talks, I often say one of the ultimate goals of corporate learning is that employees will never make a mistake on the job. And, when I say it, I always get a big mix of laughs, snorts, and head-shaking. “Never happen,” people say.

Well, go tell that to UPS.

The Wall Street Journal ran two articles about the UPS Circle of Honor, which is an award given to their drivers who remain accident-free* for 25 years. In 2013 alone, they inducted 1,500 drivers into that circle!

(*Accident-free is defined as not having any avoidable accidents, so, for example, if a driver is rammed from behind by someone texting, the driver isn’t penalized.)

It’s hard enough for an individual driver to go that long without an accident, but a driver who is out in traffic every single day? All day? On a time-sensitive delivery schedule? For 25 years?

It’s almost impossible to imagine. And yet… 1500 drivers in 2013.

How Do They Do It?

With the right kind of training.

The WSJ article doesn’t mention Lean for Training, but the training that it describes by UPS is packed with Lean for Training value. Here are a few examples:

  • Alignment – UPS chose the right method for learning. The article says, “Originally, 30% of UPS drivers failed the tests and quizzes given after traditional training methods. Training…switches out books and lectures for more hands-on learning.”
  • Emotional Connection – Newbie drivers spend 20 minutes climbing on and off a truck, learning how to use the handrail. They experiment with using and not using the handrail, while a machine measures the pressure on their knees, demonstrating that the handrail makes it safer and better ergonomically. This creates emotional connection and personalizes (another Lean for Training value) the training in a visceral way that is far more powerful than just telling the learners “this practice is good for your knees” ever could.
  • Instant Gratification – UPS set up a simulated neighborhood where newbies practice driving the trucks and making deliveries. In this learning environment, they can ask questions in the moment of confusion and receive immediate correction for mistakes.

In all, UPS drivers are required to learn and apply 600 practices that create safety and efficiency. That’s a huge training objective! Yet… I’ll say it again…1500 drivers with a 25-year perfect record in one year. And you can bet the rest of their drivers are doing pretty well, too.

What Can You Learn From This?

  1. First and foremost, mistake-free performance IS possible. Set your expectations high!
  2. Second, get creative with your learning solutions (and measure the results). Do you automatically default to classroom, elearning, or video out of habit? Are there ways you can add Lean for Training value to get better results?
  3. Third, create emotional connection and personalization by appealing viscerally to your learners whenever possible.

The Lean for Training Bottom Line

Mistake-free performance IS an achievable goal for training. Don’t be afraid to stretch for it, especially when you’re dealing with Environmental, Health and Safety and patient) safety topics. Lean for Training and Lean for Safety Training can help get you there. Check out our certification programs.


~ Todd Hudson, Head Maverick