Here are one F/A's answers to your questions--
1) Out of seven weeks of live-in training at United's Chicago headquarters (5 days per week of classroom training, 1 day per week of on-the-airplane work), only ONE week was purely devoted to safety training. While that one week was very intensive, high-stress (we all wanted to pass, and were expected to test with 100% accuracy), and taught by absolutely outstanding Flight Attendant-Instructors, it was still only one week. Our job is usually -- hopefully always -- focused on service, yet our safety-related skills must kick-in immediately if called upon. I felt that far more of my training time should have been devoted to perfecting our "safety sense," especially when it came to dealing with emergency first aid response and what to listen/watch/even smell for when one expects an in-flight "abnormality," be it mechanical or human. ...In short order, all United Flight Attendants will receive self-defense and additional "hostage" training. This is much-anticipated, and I hope it lives up to the billing! Finally, I had also wished that more of our safety training could have been learned and practiced in coordination with our flight crews. We never once had the chance to meet with our pilots during our safety training! Interesting, huh?
2) After successful completion of the seven-week initial training, we are considered probationary Flight Attendants by both our company and our union for our first six months of flying experience. During that time we are scrutinized by management's Onboard Service Department supervisory staff by means of "check-rides" where a supervisor will join us for a flight and grade us on everything from posture and composure to, well, posture and composure. (At least, this is where I feel their emphasis is placed... wrongly placed!) Monthly meetings with a supervisor include little "tests" of our knowledge of the all-important Flight Attendant Manual of rules and regs and general "measurings of our attitutudes." If you should happen to be late for a flight or even ...heaven forbid!... come down with a case of the sniffles, just remember this: while on probation at United, TWO STRIKES and you'rrrrrre OUT! It can be a stressful half-year... if you let it be!
3) Short answer to this one: as you can imagine, in large part through FEAR. Longer answer: one quickly learns that United's initial Flight Attendant training program is run a bit like a military boot camp... it just happens to include mandatory "grooming and make-up application" classes! ...The fear factor notwithstanding, the desire to perform at one's best is also -far more effectively- learned through meeting and working with many Flight Attendants already out on the line who can serve as wonderful, caring, supportive role-models. When I started flying, I would observe and critique all those I worked alongside. I remembered the little techniques, the "tricks of the trade, so-to-speak, and I copied the ones that got the best results out in the aisle, and in the galley. That was the best way for me (for all, I think!) to learn the hows and whys of good service. In my opinion, results are never good when fear is the overriding motivation. (On a quick side note, I think this helps explain the attitude and "tenor" of our union's communications with our company's management. It helps in an explanation... it's not THE explanation!)