Eight Scenarios That Would Make You Wish You Had a Structured OJT System
I think one can confidently say that most employer’s focus on training the workers they need – to perform the tasks they were meant to perform – has become detrimentally blurry, counterproductive and often non-existent. There are many reasons for that – some legitimate. But without a deliberate, measurable strategy for quickly driving each worker to mastery of the entire job classification, an employer’s labor costs (not just wages, but opportunity costs and undermined return on worker investment as well) can be substantial and act as a drag on an organization’s performance.
Many employers are still waiting for the educational institutions to solve the problem. After all, look at all of the money spent on education directed at “training the workers of tomorrow.” Yet a lot of the institutional strategies appear to include repackaged tools from the past…and not the ones far enough past that seemed to work. For example, the recent comments made by education insiders saying we should have kept the high school vocational programs that were relatively effective until the late 1970’s in place. These were phased out when the push to prepare students for college took priority. Now, there is a push for community colleges to “pump out” more apprentices which, if done only to meet numbers but not emphasizing quality of the general training, could be another waste of scarce resources of time, money and opportunity for the trainee, the employer and communities. Another decade lost.
Still, no matter how well or how poorly institutions prepare the workforce for employers, the employer cannot deny their responsibility to continue the training process and train the worker for the organization’s specific use. The degree to which they take this responsibility seriously will determine the success of the institution’s efforts to prepare workers, how much value the worker adds to the operation, and how well the operation performs in the market. Any apprenticeship that lacks an aggressive structured on-the-job training program cannot be the robust experience it is meant to be. By definition, an apprenticeship without structured on-the-job training really isn’t an apprenticeship.
But the success/failure doesn’t stop there. A successfully and fully trained (to the tasks required) staff prepares, and keeps, the organization prepared to seize opportunities, adjust to disrupters and weather unforeseen forces. Failure at preparing and maintaining each worker’s job mastery, as part of system, can exacerbate an organization’s challenges and, potentially, lead to failure or irrelevance of the organization.
Having a structured on-the-job training infrastructure in place not only allows the organization to adapt and evolve, if built correctly it can align the training of workers with the other systems of the organization and facilitate a higher level of compliance. Without it, there is nothing to ensure a worker’s mastery performance of a process to engineering, quality and safety specifications.
Increased work quality and quantity, compliance, adaptability, worker capacity and return on worker investment…while decreasing the internal costs of training, scrap, rework and operator error. It sounds like a robust solution to me.
Eight, of the many, scenarios should make any employer wish they had structured on-the-job training for each of their critical job classifications. Several are intertwined, which explains why the lack of structured on-the-job training hobbles an organization more than realized if training is viewed as an isolated process:
1. Opportunities to Expand Market – opportunities rarely announce themselves way in advance, and if an organization is incapable of scaling fast enough the opportunity might pass, or pass to a competitor. A staff trained to full capacity usually can quickly adapt, increase capacity and utilize unused capacity by accommodating additional task training for new products and services. Read More
by Stacey Lett, Regional Manager – Eastern U.S., Proactive Technologies, Inc.
A mystery for many employers – those who are allowed to consider the wage-value relationship in their business strategy – is “what is the right pay rate for work performed.” An often used strategy is to establish a competitive wage range for a job classification based on area surveys of similar job classification in the industry, adjusted for the uniqueness of work requirements for the employer’s job classification. Once hired, an employee progresses through the wage range measured by time in the job classification, in some cases with wage adjustments based on merit. While consistent, this approach may limit the employer to paying, in many cases, more for labor than the value derived. And here is why.
If an employer purchases a new, technologically advanced, piece of machinery that is advertised to increase the output of a process from 100 units per hour to 300 units per hour, the employer would be disappointed if it only received 150 units per hour. That employer would, most likely, challenge the manufacturer and perhaps request a refund if not satisfied.
“How would one determine the proper wage rate for the value derived if there is no effort to hire workers accurately to today’s job needs, train workers to all of the required tasks and measure workers for the work they were hired and trained to perform?”
Why doesn’t that same sentiment apply to hiring workers? In a hypothetical, but typical, example an employer has an opening for a job classification that consists of 50 critical tasks that the employer expects the person filling that job classification to perform. Why shouldn’t the employer expect that person to master all 50 tasks? What might happen instead, after what is considered to be the “training period” is completed, the employer notices through anecdotal evidence and whispers that the output from that hired individual is below expectation. As time goes by and dissatisfaction grows, the decision to terminate the employee is made, often not measured against the investment in the employee thus far. If retained, the employee progresses through the wage range with no guarantee that the employee’s output increases. Where is the concern to correct this? Read More
Who is Responsible for Decisions Regarding Training?
by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.
We sometimes run into a conundrum when promoting the concept of structured on-the-job training: finding who is responsible and accountable for the decision to provide training within an organization. It doesn’t seem like negligence, but it often feels like every decision-maker is saying it is someone else’s responsibility, sincerely believing the other has this important area covered. But it is also surprising when no one inside the organization asks who is responsible when any of the many symptoms of lack of training show up.
In this environment that seems like “training anarchy,” it is easy for loud voices and strong personalities to step outside their zone of expertise to tackle, what may appear to be, a simple challenge – only to come up short. Sadly, although the proposed solution wouldn’t rise to that provided by an experienced professional or recognized as “training,” others may not know this. They might vent their disappointment by denigrating the notion of training or seek blame of the trainee saying things like “these workers just don’t want to be trained.” The legitimate role and purpose of training is tarnished, but never the solution’s architect.
Enormous amounts of money in direct expenditures, workers and management time, opportunity costs, etc. could be expended, only to wind up at a under-whelming end. At the same time a seasoned expert in worker development would have predicted the failure if someone could coherently explain to them what the plan was. Far too often the strategy boils down to putting two people together and hoping for the best, a class here and a class there, a job/safety analysis that is never used, illustrated work processes that quickly grow obsolete and unusable, color-coded pie charts that really don’t say much and/or a policy saying workers will be trained that is ignored. Granted, a few of these strategies combined might provide recognizable progress if aligned and implemented correctly. But often each of these has a different brain behind them, residing in a different department with a different directive and budget – each unaware of the other’s activities.
In the past, worker development resided in a Training Department of the Human Resources Department (if the organization could afford a formal worker training department). But as technology advanced from the 1980’s on (with the proliferation of microprocessors that changed the nature of work) and the need for more focused and effective training approaches became more vital for both retaining (“up-skilling”) incumbent workers and training new-hires, mysteriously training departments were disbanded and the responsibility passed to anyone who had a plan, had a budget and were allowed time to experiment. While at the time this “laisse faire” approach to training might have been justified since no one at the time had an adequate solution, it was unfortunate that the training profession continued to apply outdated solutions to evolving needs and a perpetual lag grew only greater as time and technology advanced. Read More
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