Worker Capacity; Malperformance Cause-Effect
How often do we stop and ask ourselves why a worker is malperforming, under-performing or over-achieving? My guess is far too infrequently. Perhaps it is because of the hectic world we live in, with little time to study things deeper or explore an event closer. Perhaps because some of us feel helpless to do anything to correct it or exploit it (in the case of the over-performer) so we leave it alone. Perhaps the internal experts we rely on for answers lack the proper training themselves (in training program development, implementation, performance measurement) to be helpful.
However, so much of what separates a high performing company from a mediocre or failing company depends on the collective effectiveness of the workforce. And the underlying desire to correct bad task performance, and proactively develop and maintain good task performance to replicate star performers, seems common, logical and ubiquitous.
Generally speaking, when we troubleshoot an error in performance, we would like to get to the cause, such as “operator error,” “equipment malfunction,” or “flawed material.” But this is more like isolating the area in which the error happened. We can troubleshoot a machine or send material to the lab for testing, but often the analytical “tools” to dive deeper into the human factor are lacking or inadequate, and the will of management to devote the time soft. The notion of worker “capacity” is a very useful tool that can help a company be proactive in preventing most of the common employee-related errors.
According to the Business Dictionary, “capacity” (in a manufacturing sense) is defined as, “Highest sustainable output rate (maximum number of units per month, quarter, or year) that can be achieved with current resources, maintenance strategies, product specifications, etc.” This is fairly easy to relate to a piece of machinery, a department, or a company. But when applied to a single worker, some loose variables that apply broadly need to be tightened to be useful.
There are several ways a worker can learn to perform. The operator can go through general motions that they saw someone else perform. They can take in the raw information they discover, or are presented, and formulate their own process. These are the most common. Deliberate task-based training is often spotty or non-existent, and is easy to explain away if the infrastructure and tools aren’t in place. On the other hand, structured on-the-job training deliberately trains each worker to perform each task as the resident experts conceived it, repeating the same level of quantity and quality once the task is mastered.
It is the basis of apprenticeships and has survived for centuries. Today, it is considered more of an inconvenience to be avoided and an investment whose value is grossly misunderstood. In today’s world deliberate one-on-one training is marginalized to the status of a guilty pleasure rather than part of a business strategy as it should be. A simplistic, but good, analogy from the IT world is appropriate when “programming” masterful work performance in a worker; “junk in, junk out.” Read More
by Stacey Lett, Regional Manager – Eastern U.S., Proactive Technologies, Inc.
There are at least five growing, major challenges to maintaining a skilled national labor force. These forces are causing those organizations who could help to, instead, spend tremendous sums of money on “whack-a-mole” type efforts. Sure, this approach sustains all of the profit and non-profit organizations that sprung up to take advantage of the chaos, but if we are serious about solving this issue that has undermined economic recoveries and stifled economic growth for over 30 years, we need to get serious.
It starts by critically evaluating the challenges that have plagued the U.S. labor force and have been barriers to an employer’s commitment to American labor. Like nearly all challenges, one can choose to target the underlying cause, treat the symptoms, mask the symptoms, define an alternative – but not necessarily relevant – cause and focus on that, or ignore symptoms and cause and hope for divine intervention.
Choice of action matters. Take, for example, the choice to take a prescribed “cholesterol lowering” statin that inhibits the body’s production of lipids – fats and fatty substances, producing a cholesterol number within an acceptable range but at a cost of blocking or impairing other vital body functions and often producing “side-effects.” Your doctor may have good news about your cholesterol level during this visit but soon he might be discussing other, more serious issues with you such as, according to the Mayo Clinic, your muscle pain and damage, liver damage, increased blood sugar and type 2 diabetes, neurological side effects… Choosing to treat a symptom without determining why your body is producing excess lipids in the first place may leave the underlying cause unaffected.
Similarly, focusing resources on symptoms and ignoring the underlying cause of a non-systems approach to worker development may lead (and one could say may have already lead) to depleted resources and lost opportunity. Continuing to turn out graduates, some with outdated or non-essential skills which are bolstered by marginally relevant credentials, may lead to a feeling of action but yet the skill gap widens. Unless each of the following five major challenges are addressed, it is unlikely that the skill gap will move towards closing, and any effort to bring back the generations of lost workers into meaningful employment prohibitively difficult.
Jobs have become a moving target. Accuracy of on-the-job training has to be sharper. It should be supplied by the employer (on equipment equipment and to employer processes), and is more urgent and accuracy-dependent than existing employers have prepared themselves. Educational institutions can have any meaningful impact if focused and relevant. Workforce development efforts and resources need to be applied in a way to facilitate these adjustments, not distract from them.
Threat 1: Workforce development efforts stuck in the past – Read More
by Dr. Dave Just, formally Dean of Corporate & Continuing Education at Community Colleges in MA, OH, PA and SC. Currently President of K&D Consulting
Having partnered with Proactive Technologies, Inc. on workforce development projects for the past 20 years, it gave me a chance to innovate and learn what works, what efforts are most appreciated by the employer, trainee and employee, and which projects utilized resources most efficiently and effectively. There are numerous resources available from many sources that can impact a trainee with varying effectiveness, but the secret is selecting those that are appropriate for the project outcome the employer expects.
As Dean of Corporate and Continuing Education at community and technical colleges in Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, at the start of each assignment I had to first learn what resources our school had available for the sectors we were targeting, and how current and relevant the courses, materials and instructors were for the specific skills employers were seeking. To be honest, in some areas our products and services were weaker than expected, so the determination needed to be made whether we had the resources and will to upgrade what we had or develop what we needed. We also had to consider if it would be more economical to strategically partner with outside providers who always had the current technical expertise and already created solutions we could incorporate into our offerings.
Too often there was internal resistance and a lack of understanding of how important being relevant was to workforce development. Many institutions grew complacent to change or were discouraged by shrinking budgets or misaligned priorities from innovation. Always feeling a sense of urgency to overcome the ubiquitous “skills gap” that cast a shadow on all education and workforce development efforts, there are some important steps that I developed for myself to help me better assess each employer’s need and provide solutions client employers appreciated. This is the reason most employers we worked with kept us engaged year after year. We earned, and maintained, their respect and gave them confidence in our solutions, which ensured our continued role in their business model. This provided a continued revenue stream for the school to continue, improve and expand those efforts.
1) Listen carefully to the employer’s description of the need – not every employer has a clear grasp of their need, but if you listen to their frustration in the context of your experience gained from concerns of other employers facing similar symptoms, you can help the employer discover the root cause. Then a solution that makes sense can be developed; Read More
10 Reasons Structured On-The-Job Training is a Vital and Necessary System for Any Organization
by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.
There are many reasons a deliberate, structured on-the-job training system should be a priority consideration for any employer. For decades employers have felt that having an employee take a few classes here and a few online modules there translates directly to improved worker output and performance. But for decades, as well, employers have continued to talk about a continually increasing “skills gap.” Connection? Obviously yes.
“Employers expend enormous resources – time, effort, dollars – on efforts to improve efficiencies…in some cases without making an appreciable difference or reaching the intended goals.”
A deliberate and documented system to develop workers and maximize the return on worker investment should be a “no-brainer.” Employers expend enormous resources – time, effort, dollars – on efforts to improve efficiencies in some cases without making an appreciable difference or reaching the intended goals. But rather than a philosophical discussion comparing approaches to training, I thought it might be beneficial to just offer symptoms of failed approaches and reasons why any employer should think more seriously about the state of their internal training infrastructure.
According to a Training Magazine article entitled, “Bridging the Skills Gap” by Lorri Freifeld, these revealing points were extracted:
· 49 percent of U.S. employers are experiencing difficulty filling mission-critical positions within their organizations. (ManpowerGroup’s seventh annual Talent Shortage Survey; 1,300 U.S. employers surveyed; positions most difficult to fill: skilled trades, engineers, and IT staff).
· Only 1 in 10 organizations has the skills needed to utilize advanced technologies such as cloud and mobile computing, social business, and business analytics. (2012 IBM Tech Trends Report; 1,200 professionals who make technology decisions for their organizations, 250 academics, and 450 students). Read More