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Written by: Justyna Potocki

Numerous studies conclude applicable training coupled with individualized career progression not only increases employee retention and engagement but also nurtures a learning environment where information sharing leads to continuous process improvement as well as significant decrease in injuries and operational costs.

Lucky for me, I belong to a learning focused organization where training and development are intrinsically linked with the company’s culture, strategic plan and core values.

Since the company was established in Calgary, Alberta in 1999, Calfrac Well Services has always focused its efforts on training.   Now that the organization has grown into a global enterprise – operating in five countries and employing over 3500 individuals, our learning programs have grown with us – expanding into each corner of the company’s operations.

Our Learning Programs 

Calfrac’s training programs include the company’s entire workforce. Each program demonstrates a commitment to quality employee development and the standardization of training and position progression across our locations.  At the start of one’s service, each employee must attend OaTS (Orientation and Training School).  The initial training is catered to office and field staff respectively with Calfrac’s field employees attending a two week program focused on safety, regulatory compliance, as well as company policies and procedures.  In addition to compliance training, Calfrac partners with local learning organizations to deliver two key programs: Supervisor Skills Program with SAIT Polytechnic and Leadership Development Program with the University of Calgary.    Calfrac’s comprehensive TSIT (Technical Specialist in Training) program was designed to ensure our engineers have a broad base of knowledge and experience that is consistent across our company. In 2014, Calfrac created a Supervisor Essentials program which promotes a baseline of best practice, especially for our Field Supervisors who are undergoing a tremendous learning curve – both technically and as new leaders within crews. 

Why Mobile?

With the understanding that Calfrac’s Operators make up the majority of the company’s workforce and perform their duties within a non-office environment in remote areas, it was imperative that the company establish a standardized training program and clear position progression for this key employee base.

Challenges in delivering this type of training included standardizing processes and procedures across our organization, minimizing downtime in the field, keep costs to a minimum and consider the company’s mobile workforce.

To address these challenges head on, Calfrac understood that the training needed to be consistent, not only in delivery, but also in context.  To build on what already existed within Operator training, our team found that peer-to-peer coaching was frequently used as a training model.   In addition to building standardized equipment training, the team included an internally created coaching and core values module at each level of the program to standardize not only what to coach according to Calfrac’s Guiding Principles but also how to coach peer Operators.

Minimizing downtime for employees and equipment was also a challenge that Calfrac needed to address.  Removing equipment from the field for training purposes was not an option.  Traditional classroom based training would take employees out of the field and would not prove effective for many learners. Calfrac equipment specific learning coupled with on-the-job training allows our employees to use several learning styles.

The largest challenge associated with this training was to consider its mobile workforce.   While on location in remote areas, Operators do not have steady access to computers and many employees prefer to actually work with the equipment instead of watching an instructional video.

Based on those requirements it became clear that a blended approach using mobile technology would be most effective.  Calfrac’s approach to this blended program includes an e-course focused on equipment safety and components as well as on-the-job training with a peer coach, gaining Calfrac specific experience through practical application and supervisor assessment which ensures proper operation of equipment. By combining these areas of training and assessment, Calfrac can quickly determine an Operator’s competence with the operation of particular equipment.  All components of the program are performed using an inexpensive tablet given to each Operator for the purpose of training.  Operators have the opportunity to complete training during downtime in the shop and the on-the-job training on location..

Benefits of Calfrac Employee Responsibility Training (CERT)’s blended approach exceed the company’s expectations.   Through standardized training and development, Calfrac’s Operators understand their own training roadmap and steps required to progress within the organization.  Employees are responsible for their own training and when surveyed, close to 80% felt empowered and confident with the standardized system of position progression across the company.   Over 80% of employees reported an increase in the safety and use of equipment and an increase in standardization of processes.  90% of CERT survey respondents reported that the program improved their own coaching abilities and the abilities of other peer coaches.

When designing mobile training for the company’s largest workforce group, Calfrac identified gaps and looked towards its five Guiding Principles when designing its learning strategy and program implementation.  Given the service orientation perspective, blended learning leads to knowledge sharing and agility.  The program increases the company’s technical strength as it promotes best practice.  CERT is technology driven while safety and standardization remain key components.  Paperless in nature, CERT reduced the company’s environmental footprint and offers an economical alternative to traditional training methods of printing manuals and binders. 

Most importantly, the program offers its end users the flexibility to learn at their pace and according to their style, knowing that the training will be current, meaningful and consistent with their peers throughout the organization.  

Justyna Potocki, Learning and Development Advisor has been with Calfrac Well Services since July 2013. Her diverse background ranges from international human resources to corporate social responsibility.  At Calfrac her focus is the creation, development, implementation and management of global training programs that are learner focused and competency driven.  In addition to her training role, Justyna managed all facets of Calfrac’s quarterly magazine – the Chronicle.  Justyna holds a degree in International Relations from the University of Calgary,  is an active member of local and international learning groups and sits on the Aboriginal Opportunities Committee with Calgary’s Chamber of Commerce.