Teamwork Makes the Dream Work! The Implementation of an Immersion Based Group Training Program for New IRB Staff Members


Description of the Research
In 2014, the Human Research Protection Office (HRPO) acquired roughly 36% new hires between July and November. This resulted in the need for a team-based immersion training approach. To facilitate consistency of reviews among six IRB-support teams, standardized checklists/templates were created, a training checklist for each job description was implemented, and all legacy staff were utilized rather than one-on-one training.

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), identified based on their routine tasks, were grouped from various IRB-support teams. Each SME team developed guidance and review templates, which were reviewed by senior staff. The lead SME provided group trainings, and attendees were assigned by direct supervisors according to IRB-support team needs. Trainees tracked their progress via a comprehensive, position-specific checklist. After group sessions, trainees assumed regular assignments with one-on-one feedback from assigned SMEs. Each trainee’s supervisor was responsible for monitoring SME feedback and determining trainee independence.

Analyses included a count of full time employees at each month from January 2013 to December 2014, turnaround time for new protocols, and the number of events submitted each month. Staffing changes and the training program were assessed by comparison of office productivity for two quarters in each year. Data indicate that while assimilating new staff, despite a volume increase, turnaround time did not suffer.

While large group training is not necessary for individual hires, the use of SMEs for training will reduce team burden while integrating new staff throughout the office, encouraging collaboration, and increasing staff pride in their expertise and ownership of training responsibility. Future goals include transitioning new staff to the role of SME and formalizing the process for updating the materials to address revised processes.

This training paradigm is an opportunity to both tap existing office strengths and to improve legacy staff education through the creation of training documents and empowering them to teach. Identifying SMEs provides clear direction for trainees’ questions and encourages consistency between individual IRB-support teams. Preserving the oversight of individual managers, who are encouraged to serve as mentors, addresses some potential drawbacks of group training. Other institutions should consider areas where group training fits their infrastructure so that the benefits of immersion training, in terms of efficiency and consistency, do not overshadow the need for trainees to master specific job requirements. Creating a process for regularly updating materials as processes change, rather than waiting for the hire of new staff, is also integral to sustaining an immersion training approach.