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Six Hints for Effective (and Meaningful) Drug-Free Workplace Employee Education

(Fall 2018) How likely are you to remember and integrate details of important information you’ve only heard once into your psyche? Sure, you might remember the highlights for a few days, but what about a few months or even a year later – especially if you don’t use that information on a regular basis?

Your company’s drug-free workplace program is a big deal. It’s important information. Your employees need to know what your drug-free policy says so they can follow the rules. But if they only hear about the program once, likely when they first get hired (along with all the other new hire information), they are not likely to internalize the information, let alone retain it. That is why, when it comes to drug-free workplace employee education, it is best practice to do it, at a minimum, on an annual basis.

And ensuring your employees understand your drug-free policy isn’t the only objective of providing annual employee education. It can also demonstrate that your company took steps to inform employees of your policy if something goes wrong and/or you are confronted by a policy violation. And, done well, it’s also an employee benefit as most employees could use some of the information to enhance their personal lives.

Since employee education is a cornerstone of your drug-free workplace program, it is important that the time spent on it is effective, beneficial, and quite frankly, worth the investment of pulling people off their normal job tasks. Besides making the commitment to provide education on an annual basis, here are six hints to be sure you get a return on your investment:

    1. Check-Out Mandatory Requirements
      Depending on your industry and the authorities your company is subject to, you may have to follow specific mandates regarding drug-free workplace employee education. Make sure you know what those requirements are. For example, if you are in Ohio’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s Drug-Free Safety Program at the basic or advanced level, you must do a minimum of one hour each year, but the specific topic is up to you.


    1. Get Flexible
      Employees are more likely to follow rules they understand, so make sure the information is delivered in a way that is likely to achieve this goal. Having everyone come to one office for a classroom-style presentation may not work for your company or employees. Find something that does. Some companies break up the information into pieces similar to toolbox talks. Others send employees to webinars or purchase online classes that can be taken when it is convenient for the employee. These sessions can also be supplemented throughout the year with additional resources and information that support your program. One note of caution. Some regulating authorities dictate how the material is to be delivered, e.g., must be on done in person. So again, make sure to check out any mandatory requirements you need to fulfill.


    1. Invite Everyone
      Your drug-free workplace program applies to everyone, so everyone should know about it. This includes the company’s CEO, upper-level management and the person who answers the phone. Your company implemented a drug-free workplace program for a reason. Having everyone attend employee education not only ensures everyone is receiving the same information but also helps convey the level of importance the company places on your program and that it applies to everyone in the company.


    1. Review Your Policy
      At least a portion of the time spent on employee education should involve making sure your employees know what your policy/program says and what happens if they violate a rule, when they’ll be tested, their rights and responsibilities, and the resources available to them if they or one of their family members needs help.


    1. Mix It Up (and Keep Everyone Awake)
      It can be boring for your employees to hear the same content year after year – not to mention a waste of their time and your money. While it’s vital they hear about the specifications of your policy each year, there is endless information about alcohol and other drugs that can be shared (and numerous misconceptions that can be changed). Employees can benefit from hearing specific information about such things as marijuana, safe medicine practices, how to make low- risk drinking choices, influencing kids to be drug-free or how to help a family member struggling with an alcohol or other drug issue. Providing this information is an effective strategy to prevent problems from occurring. This is also a great way to arm your employees, who are parents and caregivers, with information they can share with their loved ones – helping to educate the workforce of tomorrow.


    1. Ask an Expert
      Almost everyone has been touched personally by an issue related to alcohol or other drugs, so it’s important to have someone involved in your employee education who knows the subject and how to present the information in an engaging manner. Not only will experts know how to speak on this subject in a relevant and meaningful way, but they can also facilitate behavioral changes and help with information retention. Consider bringing in a professional drug-free workplace trainer to conduct your sessions or be sure your internal trainer receives specialized training and materials, developed by a drug-free workplace expert, to conduct the education. You may also be required to use a qualified, credentialed trainer depending on your industry and the programs your company is enrolled in.

When it comes to employee education, doing something isn’t always better than doing nothing. Again, your company implemented a drug-free workplace program for a reason. Following these six hints for conducting effective, quality education on a regular basis is key to a successful drug-free workplace program.

DISCLAIMER: This publication is designed to provide accurate information regarding the subject matter covered. It is provided with the understanding that those involved in the publication are not engaged in rendering legal counsel. If legal advice is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.