Awareness vs. Education. It may sound like a Supreme Court case, but when we consider Courts generally look at a set of facts, laws and precedents to determine a legal outcome for a set of actions, the title does make sense. So let’s talk about what makes sense about these two words and their actions.
We often use the terms “awareness” and “education” in an interchangeable manner. Our intention may not be to confuse the two, but often that is the case. We may be providing our employees with “awareness” on an issue, without the education on how to correct the problem. Conversely, we may provide education, but then neglect to maintain the level of awareness necessary to keep the issue top of mind.
Consider driving a car. To get a driver’s license we studied the material, and presumably passed the test. We can say we received adequate education on how to properly operate a motor vehicle (although I bet there are some people we think need to be retrained). Awareness however, is something different. I can assume we all remember reading about the proper procedure on how to use a car’s turn signal and when to properly cross a traffic lane. But for some, the awareness of actually using a turn signal or properly crossing into a new lane of traffic may only be relative when a police car is in viewing distance.
On our website, there is a best practice article titled, “Real Loss Prevention Requires Real Help.” In the article we speak of the necessity of having associates assist with your loss prevention initiatives and the content required to receive their help. This process is a two-step, ever evolving process to get the most from your associates.
The first step in the process is to educate employees on loss prevention issues. Explain the “what” the “how” the “impact” and “their role” in reducing or deterring loss. As things change in our organization, we need to ensure every employee is educated on the specifics of these changes and the required changes to their behavior in order to achieve goals.
The second step is awareness. Once an employee “knows” the details, provide gentle reminders to keep the issue top of mind. The average attention span of an adult is about 8 to 11 minutes, so our messaging must be short, interesting, and effective and on-going.
So what about awareness v. education? It is fine to say or use “Awareness & Education” in the same sentence, provided the “&” is actually true. Otherwise you may be doing one without the other. Here are a couple of examples:
Establishing a Business Abuse or Whistleblower Hotline along with creating and hanging a poster in every store. The poster may create “awareness” to the hotline, however without any education (meetings, discussions, understanding) regarding its value to employees it will often receive very few calls.
An exhaustive training program for new hires; providing an in-depth understanding and education on loss prevention, covers the education of new employees. However the lack of a continued loss prevention awareness program would lead to employees “forgetting” what they learned and becoming candidates of the dreaded, “policy myth.”
You see, one without the other really doesn’t help your employees help you. In the matter of Awareness v. Education, the best solution is that both parties win.
Written by Raymond Esposito, Executive Vice President