Proactive Technologies Report – December, 2017

Worker Capacity; Malperformance Cause-Effect

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

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


Challenges Presented by the Widening Skills Gap

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


Tips for Workforce Developers – Partnerships That Matter…and Last

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


Read the full December, 2017 newsletter, including linked industry articles and online presentation schedules.

Posted in News

Proactive Technologies Report – November, 2017

Understanding the Resistance to Training: Part 2, Meeting the Challenge

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

In part 1 of this series entitled,”Understanding the Resistance to Training: The Challenge,” I started the discussion of how an organization that is based on systems has difficulty in, and an entrenched aversion to, conceptualizing the need for a systematic approach to worker development. It is a pervasive problem and it lies at the root of the seemingly insurmountable”skills gap” that has flourished over 30 years and seems unique to U.S. employers. Other developed economies, such as those in Europe, seem to have no trouble developing the workers they need. In fact, many of those trained for technically skilled job classifications in Europe wind up working or training others in developing or developed countries around the world.

Training sounds so simple. Put two people together and have one train the other to do what they do…as fast and as good as the trainer. But we all know, from our own experiences, this is a crap shoot. The trainer may not want to share what they have learned for any number of reasons. Even if they do, they have repressed the nuances of learning the proper task procedure and are now operating on “automatic” – what the employer wants. This manifests itself as displaying shortcuts that only they understand and may not be acceptable, demonstrating incomplete procedures and omission of critical safety and engineering specifications. This is true for each subject matter expert on each shift, who might even be training in conflicting ways.

The trainee doesn’t know what they are not learning, and are totally dependent on what the trainer demonstrates, what they think they see and what they hear. They wouldn’t know if anything was left out or taught incorrectly, and may be afraid to ask for fear of being judged. They may not be a “self-starter,” but could be an excellent worker with proper instruction. Especially for employers who have depressed wages for technical skills, a lower offered wage attracts more workers who need extra help in mastering the tasks, or live with the consequences.

Training program development is a technical field that is seldom even touched upon in accounting or engineering or even management studies. Ultimately, the responsibility is pushed to the Human Resources department since, after all, we are talking about human resources here. Yet, even within human resource management college studies, the methodology for training program development and implementation may not be included or included as an overview, not a practice. For companies that opted for “HR Generalists,” there should be no expectation that worker development is an area of competency since it is not emphasized..

While education is traditionally “informative,” true “training,” by definition, is meant to be impactful and should focus primarily on developing and supporting operational capacity, goals and outcomes – one input at a time. In the absence of legitimate, structured on-the-job training, waiting critics are obliged to attack well-intentioned (but predictively off-based) efforts a frustrated and concerned manager might have put together from their discrete point of view, personal biases and limited understanding of training that works. These good employees have no idea of the inadequacies of their strategy, and do not set out to promote confrontation, but that is often the outcome. Read More


The High Cost of Employee Turnover

by Stacey Lett, Regional Manager – Eastern U.S. – Proactive Technologies, Inc.

Most companies are dealing with uncomfortably high levels of turnover. When one separates out those employers that facilitated high turnovers to lower labor costs, there are many reasons for this. However, there is no denying the many costs associated with this that exist and the effects that often compound. These costs are often unknown and unmeasured, but all employers should keep an eye on this challenge and explore its full impact on the organization.

It seems counter-intuitive, but there are some who even recently promoted a business strategy that encouraged employee turnover. In a July 21, 2015 Forbes article entitled “Rethinking Employee Turnover,”  author Edward E. Lawler III, “Indeed, the turnover of some employees may end up saving an organization more money than it would cost to replace that employee. The obvious point is that not all turnover should be avoided-some should be sought.” The question is how to determine which ones to keep and which to encourage to leave. Without accurate measures of costs and values of a worker, good employees may be pushed out along with the “bad” and then the true costs of this action realized by the employer after it is too late.

Last year, Christina Merhar of Zane Benefits wrote in her blog entitled “Employee Retention – The Real Cost of Losing an Employee,”  “Happy employees help businesses thrive. Frequent voluntary turnover has a negative impact on employee morale, productivity, and company revenue. Recruiting and training a new employee requires staff time and money. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, turnover is highest in industries such as trade and utilities, construction, retail, customer service, hospitality, and service.”


“For the costs associated with the loss of 1 or 2 employees, the company can establish a holistic approach to worker selection, development and retention that will significantly lower both turnover rates and turnover costs, AND increase the value of all employees in that job classification.”


“Studies on the cost of employee turnover are all over the board. Some studies (such as SHRM) predict that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs 6 to 9 months’ salary on average. For a manager making $40,000 a year, that’s $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses.

But others predict the cost is even more – that losing a salaried employee can cost as much as 2x their annual salary, especially for a high-earner or executive level employee.

Turnover seems to vary by wage and role of employee. For example, a CAP study found average costs to replace an employee are:

  • 16% of annual salary for high-turnover, low-paying jobs (earning under $30,000 a year). For example, the cost to replace a $10/hour retail employee would be $3,328.
  • 20% of annual salary for mid-range positions (earning $30,000 to $50,000 a year). For example, the cost to replace a $40k manager would be $8,000.
  • Up to 213% of annual salary for highly educated executive positions. For example, the cost to replace a $100k CEO is $213,000.

What makes it so hard to predict the true cost of employee turnover is there are many intangible, and often untracked, costs associated with employee turnover.” Read More


The Employers Have the Most Advanced Equipment Available for Training

by Frank Gibson, Special Projects Coordinator -The Ohio State University – Alber Enterprise Center

Community and technical colleges, career centers and joint vocational schools have always struggled with how to make a positive difference in workforce training. They often bear the brunt of criticism for the “skills gap” employers report when, in reality, employers share equally in the responsibility. Educational institutions have only the resources and capacity to provide core skill training upon which only employers can then provide on-the-job training to drive trainees to the job mastery needed.

Educational institutions are often tempted to assume more of the employer’s role in worker development but run into budget, feasibility and practicality limitations. This distracts them from their very important role of maintaining perpetually relevant core skill and related technical instruction that a high-quality technical education requires. Trying to provide all things to all employers never was the role of educational institutions so they should not take it too personally when well-intention efforts do not reach the expectations for them.

These institutions are often encouraged to use their limited resources to buy equipment or build facilities in order to support “customized, hands-on training.” The employer already has the facility and the latest technology in that community. The hard part has been convincing the employer that the school has a viable strategy that makes the employer want to imbed structured on-the-job training into the onsite natural order of learning the job. It would be even harder to convince them a training program, targeting a specific job of theirs, can be more effective offsite at a training facility than onsite.

Technology shifts so fast these days, and the focus of workforce training is so volatile, that it makes little sense for educational institutions to purchase equipment for training when only a few employers have similar equipment and the equipment may be obsolete before the school gets through the purchasing, installation and instructor training stages let alone before someone completes a 2-year training program. In addition, the company or companies that were targeted for this training might be acquired, closed or moved – leaving before any return on the investment of time, money and facilities are realized.

The Ohio State University – Alber Enterprise Center has partnered with Proactive Technologies, Inc. on job-specific worker training projects since 1996. Over the years, the “hybrid model” at the center of these projects focused resources very efficiently and effectively to provide the proper blend of structured on-the-job training and related technical instruction. Our Center provides a selection of remedial and related technical instruction (through our courses and those provided by our network of training providers) – selected from the thorough job/task analysis data collected and used by Proactive Technologies to set-up the onsite employer-specific structured on-the-job training programs. This helps us to provide the client- employer’s workers with core skill instruction that is “content relevant. Read More


Quality Policies and Process Sheets Do Not Equal Training

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

A very common fallacy in business operations is that a description of what should be done listed in a quality policy, such as a quality control policy or a quality assurance plan, that seems to be sufficient for the training component of ISO/TS/AS certification meets, therefore, the company’s training requirement in general. Perhaps this false equivalency is wrongly supported by the additional fallacy that the existence of standard work instructions is the equivalent of on-the-job training plans. Too often this is used to defend the belief that this replaces formal task-based training.

Sometimes this leads to the rationalization that if the company keeps it simple and barely meets what an ISO/TS/AS auditor might accept for their certification purposes, the training requirement is covered. But an auditor at that stage is just looking at what the company is intending to do, not how they carry it out. That is discovered later.

This false assumption is challenged when product or services turn up defective, and customers expect an explanation and a corrective action. This is when a weak, or no, connection can be drawn between the policy that guides quality standards, work processes and who trained and certified the employee to perform the task independently is discovered. This is when the records that exist, if any, do not support the assumption that mastery of the task ever occurred. This is when the customer loses faith in the producer or supplier – not just in the task(s) isolated in the one incident, but possibly performance of all tasks on which they depend.

From a learning perspective, manufacturing environments present hurdle after hurdle to learning and mastering the work to be performed. Unrelenting production schedules, technology advancements and continuous improvement efforts – all offer little room for deliberate task-based training while changing the task out from under the worker while they are trying to learn and master it.

It is in the employer’s and employee’s interest that the job, and all of its required tasks, are mastered as quickly and completely as possible. But the spoils go to those employees who possess the core skills and necessary abilities to assimilate what they see around them and successfully self-teach themselves. Unfortunately, employers find those people hard to find and are reluctant to pay them accordingly to keep them.

A well-run manufacturing operation is an integration of subsystems that all contribute to the overall objectives and goals of the organization. Many of these are well known and routine to implement. Engineers design products or services, then design the sub-assemblies and sub-components that go into the final product/service. Engineering drawings or flow-charts provide structure and specifications standardize the output at a high level of quality.

Quality Engineers develop policies that frame and define the level of quality for inputs into the production of the product/service and the final output that the customer receives. Manufacturing Engineers, in some cases, write up standard work instructions (i.e. standard operating procedures) for some of the more critical tasks performed along the way. These instructions may vary in style, content, depth and quality by engineer. If these documents are not tested with readability and repeatability studies, these documents may be ticking time bombs, waiting for a misinterpretation or missed steps. Even if these documents are exceptional, a really good work instruction is poor substitute for an on-the-job (task-based) training plan. Not from lack of effort, but these two instruments have very different purposes and audiences, and designed for such. Read More


Read the full November, 2017 newsletter, including linked industry articles and online presentation schedules.

 

Posted in News

Proactive Technologies Report – October, 2017

Understanding the Resistance to Training: Part 1, The Challenge

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

As with any club or organization, a business operation can be a fertile ground for the development of “turfs” and inter-departmental rivalries. We don’t like to admit it, but we all know they exist. Just with individual temperaments alone, we can expect friction between people. When they collect around a discipline, well that is just organizational dynamics.

Traditionally, areas of responsibility are defined among career professionals in typical, traditionally territorial, groups – engineering, quality, operations, production, service, human resources, accounting. The division between these disciplines starts in college, with separate curricula, separate clubs and events, separate social groups. Courses are taught in different buildings, so even casual meetings are difficult unless the effort is made.

Some graduates bring that notion of independence, self-sufficiency and in some cases prideful superiority to the workplace, where they find the tradition has been institutionalized. Quality meetings are held separate from engineering meetings, and accounting and human resources are seldom invited. When a clear mission and strong leadership is lacking to encourage and enforce cooperation and communication, rigid departmental lines can emerge; hampering listening and communication, and leading to entrenched cynicism, misunderstandings of intentions and covert, then overt, conflict.

Some of the best leaders spend time in each discipline to experience what the role is and what cooperation looks like. The informed leader likely walks away with an understanding of potential barriers to communication and the benefits of cooperation.

One of Proactive Technologies’ clients, which started as a family run company and grew into a fortune 500 company, has strict rules for instilling this awareness in its youngest family members who wanted to join the company. First, they must graduate from college. Next, they have to start literally at the bottom of the organization sweeping floors, followed by a stint in each department with successful performance before reaching their final destination; the process taking 2 years minimum. These days, that type of organizational and cultural development is rare.


” The level of accuracy of the worker training/continuous training program at any business operation determines how efficiently the organization can run, how adaptable the organization can be to changes in technology, processes, standards and organizational structure, and how scalable an organization is when new opportunities emerge. Leaders ensure that training isn’t an afterthought, but it is built into every operational objective.”


Without this “cross-department” experience, programmed biases are left unchecked. Each discipline becomes rigid in their view of the world, which can narrow to include only their perspective; concerned only with solutions that affect them directly and originate from them. Legitimizing that single-mindedness by allowing it can fuel misperceptions and misunderstandings that grow to be barriers and meaningless conflict.

When it comes to worker development, this phenomenon manifests itself as “Monday Morning Quarterbacking,” “Back-Seat Driving,” obstruction, blatant neglect and denial. But this assumes an effort is being made at worker development that can be subject to criticism. While worker training is reduced to “step-child” status, it is vulnerable from all directions. If no effort is made, then this takes care of that nuisance…right? Sadly, I have been told on many occasions by managers who should know better, “We do not want to be too structured in our training, because that can attract more opportunities for an auditor to find something wrong.” Wow, really? That is like saying we shouldn’t make an effort to maintain accurate accounting because the auditor might find an error.


“Training sounds so simple. Put two people together and have one train the other to do what they do…as fast and as good as the trainer. But we all know, from our own experiences, this is a crap shoot. The trainer may not want to share what they have learned for any number of reasons. Even if they do, they have repressed the nuances of learning the proper task procedure…The trainee doesn’t know what they are not learning, and are totally dependent on what the trainer demonstrates, what they think they see and what they hear. They wouldn’t know if anything was left out or taught incorrectly, and may be afraid to ask for fear of being judged…Especially for employers who have depressed wages for technical skills, a lower offered wage attracts more workers who need extra help in mastering the tasks, or live with the consequences.” 


Manufacturing is not an operation that runs well in an insular mode. A company is series of connected systems that succeed or fail collectively based on how well they cooperate. Read More


Put Yourself in a Trainee’s Shoes

by Stacey Lett, Regional Manager – Eastern U.S. – Proactive Technologies, Inc.

It is fun to watch a popular TV show on CBS called “Undercover Boss.” Watching a CEO or executive of a major corporation slip into disguise and enter the world of their workers is interesting and entertaining. Sometimes they find the organization needs a little “tweaking,” and sometimes it needs major rethinking.

The entertainment value, I suppose, comes from watching these individuals being tossed into a job classification – alien to most of them – and, while cameras are rolling, receiving a crash coarse in performing various job tasks. Some are performed close to the customer. Not only do leaders get a rare look at what it is like at the lower rungs of the organization, in some cases they get a look at the sub-par performance most of their customers experience and how tenuous the corporation’s existence is – sustained only by the initiative a few loyal, but mostly self-interested, employees who try to make up for the corporation’s short-comings as if their job and future depend on it…which they do. If the company fails, they lose their job, plain and simple. Some put up with the company’s shortcomings in pursuit of the next opportunity.

It is interesting to see CEO’s marvel at how difficult it is to learn the job tasks they previously thought were inconsequential and not worthy of attention. Previously known only as a word on a report, the fact that how the tasks are performed by these neglected employees are the reason the corporation exists goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Some look like episodes of the popular television shows of the 50’s and 60’s, “I Love Lucy.”

A typical Undercover Boss episode might display:

  • Unstructured, inconsistent and incomplete training;
  • Uneven and uncertain motivation;
  • Conflicting operating orders;
  • Unexpectedly outdated or inoperable equipment;
  • Unclear standard practices;
  • Unexpected lack of leadership at the local level spawned by unexpected lack of leadership at the upper levels;
  • Unvarnished displays of workers rising above these organizational inadequacies and their own personal challenges to ensure product gets out the door and services are performed with pride.

Focusing on one aspect, in each case the resident expert was selected to train the covert executive. These attempts at unstructured, task-based training give a vivid picture of the limitations, risks, and failures of foregoing a deliberate training strategy. CEOs, who previously were told that the corporate training programs proliferated to each facility were “state of the art” and “working quite well” are now exposed to the end-users perspective. In a typical episode, if you look past the entertainment factor, one can easily detect: Read More


Some Community Colleges Moving Back Toward 70’s Approach to Vocational Programs; Why Did it Take So Long?

Dr. Dave Just, formally Dean of Corporate and Continuing Education at Community Colleges in MA, OH, PA, SC. Currently President of K&D Consulting

In a recent article in the Community College Daily News entitled, “A Shift Back to Trades,” , which is an excerpt from an article by Matt Krupnick entitled, “After Decades of Pushing Bachelor’s Degrees, U.S. Needs Mores Trades People,” it appears that many in institutions of higher learning are accepting the realization that not everyone is suited for college or a career requiring 4-year, or more, college degrees. Some people learn better, faster and become more productive from a program focused on training rather than the conveyance of knowledge.

Societies have always had a natural division of labor, represented at one end of the spectrum by those who predominantly work with their hands (e.g. craftsman, builders, fixers) and those who primarily work with their accumulated knowledge (e.g. managers, lawyers, teachers). Closer to the center of the spectrum, some of these types of labor overlap, requiring the application of knowledge in practical uses, such as doctors, accountants, software programmers. Traditionally, careers in the latter required a 4 -year education or more and experience in the field since the positions were heavy on knowledge requirements and industry-general standardized practices.

At the other end of the spectrum, training is focused on tasks routinely required of the worker – this becomes the focus of mastery of specific tasks of the job area. This is what an employer values and which make workers valuable. Knowledge conveyed at the point of utilizing it in the task, coupled with the convergence of core skills and core abilities, followed by repetitive practice of precise procedural steps develops trade-specific, higher-order skills. These skills yield a meaningful unit of work that is marketable to an employer in the industry. While one can say that occupations at the other end of the spectrum perform units of work as well, the type of work performed is more “situational” and less repetitive the higher up the organizational chart.

Leading up to the 1970’s, this was understood. In fact, many high schools around the country had very effective “vocational” programs, in many cases as good and relevant as the local community colleges. Competitions for students to show off their trade skills were held in each state and nationally by the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, which was replaced in the 1990’s by SkillsUSA. But as the movement that “everyone needs to go to college” grew, schools cut these vocational programs from the budgets and education systems pushed more of the responsibility for these programs on the community college that served high school graduates, the transition lasting from the 1980’s through the early 2000’s. In some states, “Regional Career Centers” were established in an attempt to provide a bridge of access for high schoolers to vocational education for “paying” member school districts.

The 1990’s emphasis on “college education for all,” lead to a K-12 education focus on coursework to prepare students for college entry. The “No Child Left Behind of 2001” and similar measures emphasized standardized testing in K-12 as preparation for college entrance examinations. Community colleges tried to fill the void in vocational instruction with their packaged programs that had not changed all that much since the 1970s. The repeated criticisms during this time of radical technological advancement (e.g. computers and microprocessors changing all aspects of work, trade agreements changing the availability of jobs for which these programs were training workers, Wall Street’s insistence on increasing shareholder value – driving constant cost-cutting leading to perpetual changes to job requirements) was that “continuing education,” “adult education” and “customized training” programs were out-of-date, instructors were ill-prepared, and community colleges were ill-staffed and under-funded to meet the constantly changing needs of employers. Most institutions turned inward and back to what they new; “credit courses” for college preparation and relied more on marketing their vocational programs than the quality and effectiveness of the content.

Trades have long been associated with apprenticeships but need not be, and apprenticeships that train workers generally for the industry but not enough for the employer paying the wages fell out of favor. While institutions were trying to find their role in workforce development, employers – often not clear themselves on what they needed in skilled workers and that have cited the “skills gap” as a major concern since the early warnings in the 1980’s – cut their internal budgets for the task training that only they can provide. The hope is that the educational system will find their way in time to provide them the workers they need, ready on day one to be 100% productive.

So, it makes sense that some semblance of a movement is appearing to take us back to a clear dichotomy between vocational training and traditional education. But it is important to re-institutionalize the difference, allowing for overlaps only to the degree they are relevant. It doesn’t mean institutions, employers and agencies shouldn’t cooperate; they should. But cooperation should never lose sight of each player’s strengths and honestly weed out the weaknesses.

We should Read More


Appreciating the Value of Labor

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

For expanding and improving businesses that have the capital for the investment in new equipment or processes, attempting to become or remain competitive, the level of investment is not as important as the return on that investment. This consistent practice of determining where to best place capital for the highest return should apply to labor. What is “paid” for labor is not as relevant as the value it adds to the operation and, ultimately, profit; the return on worker investment.

The lack of appreciation for the difference in “training cost” and “training investment”  is understandable because it is rarely contrasted. The college textbook entitled Financial Accounting: An Introduction to Concepts, Methods and Uses, defines “direct labor cost” as the “Cost of labor (material) applied and assigned directly to a product; contrast this with indirect labor cost.” Indirect labor cost” is defined as, “An indirect cost of labor (material) such as supervisors (supplies).” There is no mention of an expected return on investment. Generations of cost accountants have been taught that there is no good that comes for higher labor costs, which to them is determined by the level of staffing and wage levels. There is no differentiation between strategic labor costs and uncontrolled labor costs.


“The profit from, and value of, most worker’s labor comes from task-based work, so all inputs that drive workers to high-performance, high-capacity output are investments.”


As discussed in many articles in past issues of the Proactive Technologies Report, although labor costs are considered direct costs from an accounting standpoint, they should be more importantly considered as an investment in the operation’s overall level of competitiveness. Operations may vary as to the level of return on investment from labor, but each worker’s cumulative expertise gained while employed becomes an asset to the operation akin to intellectual property and, therefore, wages and compensation paid to develop a worker are an investment.

As many operation managers have found out, drastic moves like reducing the wage rates by 20%, 30% or more, while expecting to maintain the same output quantity and quality, chases off the workers with the gained technical expertise…because they can leave. The investment is lost and so are any returns. Furthermore, it is difficult to find new candidates who are willing and able to “hit the ground running” for an unreasonably low wage rate. And if a good candidate for employment is found and selected, bringing their productive capacity up may be delayed or hindered by the fact that the remaining “subject matter experts” are not as capable of transferring expertise as the technical experts that were driven away.

Scores of competitively run global corporations in the past few decades have withered away chasing short-term numbers to appease shareholders and activist investors, which in the longer run undermined their capacity, purpose, level of service and brand. Read More


Read the full October, 2017 newsletter, including linked industry articles and online presentation schedules.

Posted in News

Proactive Technologies Report – September, 2017

Confusion Over What Constitutes “Training” is  Stumbling Block to Effective Strategies

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

For the anyone searching for information to help them choose a worker development strategy, a web search of “on-the-job training methods” might produce thirty or forty informative, but confusing, charts. The search result is a mixture of domains, methods, philosophies – one seemingly in conflict with the other. A non-practitioner of workforce development strategies can gather from this search result alone why there is a perpetual state of confusion between even “experts,” marked by decades of employer and trainee disappointment in the lack of recognizable strategies and outcomes, which are often devoid of meaningful results.

 

Over the years, approaches and methods have evolved out of their ineffectiveness, many diverging from the basic principals of workforce development. Markets for products to address these approaches grew and well-funded marketing began to find unaware customers. The notion of “training” morphed into branded versions of “learning,” selected not so much on their basis in logic, but more on the lack of “smart” choices and how well the marketing effort worked.


“A great first step is to clearly differentiate between “learning” and “training.” The strategies, methods of delivery and outcomes for each are very different. Without such clarity, one might mistakenly invest heavily in a strategy to accomplish worker development objectives that, instead, uses up vital resources and scare opportunity, and sours the organization’s attitude toward training for years to come.”


The acceleration started around 40 years ago. Prior to that, job classifications did not change much and were relatively simple in structure. Then panic set in over the approaching “skills gaps,” as computers were introduced into every aspect of our lives. Fear of baby boomers nearing retirement, taking their technical expertise with them, added to the challenge. Solutions started to appear out of academia, based on the world they knew and not as much on the world they were trying to improve, as they would have liked to think.

Did these methods address the workforce development challenges of their time? In 2017, employers are still concerned with the “skills gap” phenomenon. Retirees, many who put off, or came out of, retirement for economic reasons as the cost of living continued to rise and their pensions evaporated, are still in the workforce and their inevitable departure, with all of their technical expertise and job wisdom, still on its way out the door.

Sure, a student can learn in the classroom or online to use a particular tool, or a particular software, and through practice develop higher order core skills. But these may not matter, or be forgotten altogether, unless the student applies those higher order skills (and the other foundation skills they developed) in the mastery of a task required by an employer. Successful repetition of the task produces consistent performance and mastery – the “value” that employer’s recognize.

This is where the problem exists. There are an abundance of learning strategies marketed, but employers rarely are deliberate about creating and maintaining an on-the-job training infrastructure to ensure each student transitions quickly, effectively, consistently and completely to mastery of the tasks the employer needs performed. Often the net result is significant underdeveloped worker capacity that leads to higher than necessary labor costs, inconsistent work quantity and quality, and non-compliance with internal processes and standards directed by ISO/AS/TS quality programs, labor law and safety mandates. All of these negative outcomes – which spawns rising cynicism – can be easily avoided if the right strategy is selected. The good news is it is never too late to correct a mistake. Read More


Cross-Training Workers After Lean Efforts Builds Capacity Using Existing Staff

by Stacey Lett, Regional Manager – Eastern U.S. – Proactive Technologies, Inc.

Lean activities to redesign processes for better efficiency in a department, or between departments, sometimes result in “surplus” workers – partially or in whole units. It is the subjective priority of Lean practitioners since it is a tangible illustration of a successful Lean improvement.

Processes that previously needed 3 people to complete may now only need two, if the efficiency were discovered. So what happens to that one person that has valuable acquired expertise, representing a significant investment by the employer? Would the wise outcome of Lean efforts be to just cut that person from the lineup?

The short answer is most likely not. Any efficiency and cost savings brought about by the Lean redesign would be offset by the loss of the expertise for which the investment has already been made. Most likely the reason for the Lean was not in reaction to no return on worker investment, but rather a desire to increase the return on worker investment.

If the worker is reassigned to another department, and no task-based training infrastructure is in place, that reassignment may lower the efficiency there which, again, reduces the gains made by the Lean effort. So part of the Lean effort must be the deliberate cross-training of workers in temporary assignments or longer-term reassignments to other departments that seem to have the need for increased staffing, perhaps as a result of the increased throughput achieved from the Lean effort in the upstream department in the chain.

Another outcome of a lean effort may not include moving personnel, but either equipment or processes out of the Leaned department into another department up or downstream, often without structured training to absorb the new activities and maintain efficiency. Here the loss of gains made are similar if no training on how to perform the processes or run the equipment is provided.Read More


The Right Assessment is a Good Predictor if Candidate is Able to Learn and Master The Job Classification – Job Relevance is Critical to Legal Compliance and Success – Part 2

by Jim Poole, President of Lifetime Learning, LLC

The need to validate a pre or post-hire assessment to the employer’s job classification is not that difficult to grasp. If one ignores the logic of that linkage, the direct economic reason alone should be obvious. That is why it so surprising that many employers – perhaps in an effort to limit costs – skip this important step, unwittingly placing the employer at risk of litigation in the event of a legal challenge, which can result in significant awards.

Recently, use of a popular “employability” assessment has been questioned, leading to lawsuits in many states, re-enforcing the fact that just because an assessment has been commercialized and claims to have “industry acceptance,” job relevance still has to be proven in order to be Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state law compliant.

Employee selection has become so competitive today (from both the job-seeker’s and the employer’s perspective) it would seem desirable that if for a little effort a lot of peace of mind can be gained. Knowing that everything has been done to mitigate risk with a simple confirmation before use of proven and documented “job relevance.” Still employees may be turned away from a dish washing job because they lack proficiency in math, or a NC machine operator is denied employment because they tested low in verbal skills when their job is performed in relative isolation form others. Or someone is denied a promotion to management because they scored low on a commercial test that did not seem to have anything in common with the management job at that company.

In Part 1 of my article of the same name,  I discussed the importance of “content validation” of any instrument that is meant to assess, test, qualify or preclude candidates from hiring, participation in a program, promotion, a raise in pay and/or career expansion has to be based on objective fact, not elaborate branding or herd acceptance. Many employers select or create, and then implement tests for such activities – often without realizing the significance of what they do and the vulnerabilities and risks to business it presents. One embittered victim and/or one opportunistic human resources attorney can clarify the risk in a hurry. And, when one practice is found to violate EEOC requirements, all similar practices become suspect.

I and my company, Lifetime Learning LLC,  have partnered with Proactive Technologies, Inc.  on several projects. The data I receive from the Proactive Technologies Job Profile Summary and Job Profile Analysis Reports, among others, provides a wealth of information from which to legitimize for use (or de-legitimize for removal) criteria in assessments and customized tests I suggest and use for clients. Content validation is established with an undeniable link between the test item and the Duty-Task-Subtask-Procedural step where the item is relevant. It is hard to create a stronger case for content validation. Read More


Replicating Your Best Performers

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of  Proactive Technologies, Inc.

One project I was involved with sought to establish a structured on-the-job training program for a “CNC Operator” position and establish an apprenticeship. It consisted of around 40 different machines; manual and NC-operated of several brands, controller types and purposes. When I analyze a job – task by task – I first contact the resident “subject matter expert.” It is my experience that in lieu of accurate standard process documents that everyone can use when assigned a machine, each operator keeps their own setup and operation notes. They are usually reluctant to share them.

As analysts, we assume that if the subject matter expert is assigned to us, it is a reflection of management’s confidence in the operator’s consistently high level of performance. We also learn a lot about the sub-culture that has arisen at the organization, bordering on “work performance anarchy.” Despite the connotations, this is a useful revelation. This lack of vital information sharing that has been going on can be eliminated. The collective wealth of task-specific information can be screened, validated, standardized and revision-controlled to be shared with all who are asked to perform the tasks.

This highlights several other preexisting issues in addition to the obvious. First, if the company is ISO/AS/TS certified, an auditor would be appalled and likely “gig” the company for the use of uncontrolled “process documents.” Notes in toolboxes and lunchboxes are not revision controlled. If the company has even questionable process documents that they claim drive their “high level of quality performance” the existence of operator notes are a strong contradiction. A client visiting the site may have serious doubts about the practices, as well.

The next issue is, “what role do these notes play in the training of new-hires and cross-training incumbents?” Does the trainee even know these are available? My experience has been that each trainee is on their own to create their own notes…if they even think it is necessary. So now we have multiple sets of notes for each machine, seldom compared and standardized, AND the company’s process documents if they exist. This is a recipe for incidents of scrap, rework and equipment damage at a minimum.

It also appears that each trainee is on their own to learn the safe performance of each task. It is not enough to provide general safety knowledge learning. When a trainee is taught a task for the first time, that is when they should be shown how to apply the general safety knowledge to the safe performance of that task.  Read More


Worker “Prior Learning Assessment” – Documenting Cumulative Work Skills and Knowledge Acquisition

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

Older workers, boomers, generation X’ers and Millennials, have either encountered or seen the point on the horizon when they may be separated from their job and need to sum up the training, education, skills and experiences of the last years, or lifetime to date, in a one or two page resume as they hunt for the next open position. How does one accurately and adequately summarize 5, 10, or 40 years of experience so the next potential employer can recognize the value and determine the fit to their organization’s needs? Can a person profile their life experiences and skill acquisition in a way that is complete and compelling?

For the last 20 years, many employers have used a “key-word” search filter to scan resumes, disqualifying millions of potential workers for not knowing the right words to match the key-word to explain their experience. Now that a vast majority of employers have realized the deficiencies of resume scanning programs – disqualifying well-qualified candidates for one – they are back to looking for substance in the resume to be substantiated at the interview. Being able to succinctly and completely summarize one’s education, training and work experience is more important than ever as more qualified people compete for fewer quality jobs.

The new generation of high school graduates will encounter the same challenge, but unfortunately have less content to draw upon. But from the moment they enter the workforce they are adding value to their personal portfolio for every seminar they attend and every job for which they obtain and apply new skills and master new tasks. For every type of worker this “accounting” represents their value to their current and future employer and vital to maintaining their place in the economy.

For many, they have yet to take an inventory of their personal worth and “intellectual capital,” and have failed to clearly detail it for anyone else to accurately sense the same value. Many have never even thought about it until pushed to take an inventory or explain their worth through job loss? Read More


Read the full September, 2017 newsletter, including linked industry articles and online presentation schedules.

Posted in News

Proactive Technologies Report – August, 2017

Supervisors and First Line Management Need Structured On-The-Job Training, Too

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

It seems every organization is scrambling to “lean” the operation these days. This implies producing the same amount of output, or more, with decreased amount of inputs by fine-tuning logistics, internal work flows and processes. Workers get moved around or out, and processes get reorganized and relocated.

Changes to the operation signal that the workers responsible to implement changes will need to know the new way of doing things. All affected workers, all shifts. Yet, often very little thought is given to the effectiveness of improvements if not everyone is one the same page.

What should be an obvious “must,” the notion that increasing worker capacity at all levels through task-based, deliberate, documented, measurable and verifiable structured on-the-job training is often usurped. It is replaced by a policy of hopefulness that workers will learn to perform the tasks of their job on their own or by osmosis or, even less effective and disappointing, attending a class here and there in expectation of closing the “skills gap.” I often discuss this in the context of production or service workers, but this extends to all levels of most organizations. The impact doesn’t go unnoticed by controllers and CEO’s under pressure to increase revenue or lower costs, but measures to correct this imbalance are seldom explored let alone utilized.

Invariably, the most target-rich environment for harvesting huge savings and significantly increasing capacity is bypassed – either from a lack of understanding of what it takes to be a “subject matter expert” or entrenched neglect. Ignoring the need for structured on-the-job training is like investing in a state-of-the-art machine, then waiting for it to set-up and program itself. Even artificial intelligence needs someone to train it the first time to do the things expected in the proper way.

When one considers the serious collateral damage caused by underdeveloped or underutilized worker capacity (e.g. scrap, rework, loss of “tribal knowledge” when someone retires or moves on, loss of customer confidence, loss of employee confidence), red flags and alarms should be going off continuously, since all of these are present on a daily basis. But distractions and diversions seem to get in the way. Several articles have appeared in the Proactive Technologies Report newsletter that discuss these costs in more detail, including: Estimating the Costs Associated With Skipping Employer-Based Structured On-The-Job Training  and The High Cost of Employee Turnover.

I have come across many examples since 1986 while providing technical consultation to business operations (and even before while working in manufacturing), as I am sure have you. One project that sticks in my mind involved job/task analyzing several supervisory positions at a division of a major automobile manufacturer – using the current “star performers”(subject matter experts) to define each task’s best practice and circulating the collected data for validation. We then developed a top-to-bottom structured on-the-job program; updated job descriptions, training manuals, task-based trainee checklists (for incumbents and new-hires), job/employee-specific performance appraisals and more. Read More


“Realistic Job Previews” Can be a Useful Tool for Measuring a Prospective Employee’s Transferable Task-based Skills

by Stacey Lett, Regional Manager – Eastern U.S. – Proactive Technologies, Inc.

The hiring process can be difficult for both the employer and the prospective employee. A wrong decision can cost each party a lot of time, money and opportunity. An unwanted outcome based on the employer not providing an accurate picture of the job, work environment and work expected to be performed can be avoided with a “Realistic Job Preview.” (“RJP”).
Wikipedia points out that “Empirical research suggests a fairly small effect size, even for properly designed RJPs (d = .12), with estimates that they can improve job survival rates ranging from 3-10%. For large organizations in retail or transportation that do mass hiring and experience new hire turnover above 200% in a large population, a 3-10% difference can translate to significant monetary savings. Some experts (e.g., Roth; Martin, 1996) estimate that RJPs screen out between 15% and 36% of applicants.
When RJPs are less effective, “According to researchers there are four issues that challenge RJP:
  1. Recruiters do not share RJPs during interviews. (Rynes, 1991)
  2. The nature of “realistic” information shared (in lab research or in the field) is unclear (Breaugh & Billings, 1988)
  3. Not asking the right questions.
  4. Applicants consistently report desiring more specific, job-relevant information than they commonly receive (Barber & Roehling, 1993; Maurer, Howe, & Lee,1992)
 In addition to this there is a chance for realistic job preview to become more effective in order to eliminate turnovers. The presentation format and timing of the RJP can be improved whether the real information is provided early on or later in the recruitment factor. Consequently, more specific topic should be addressed and information sources used (e.g. job incumbent versus human resource staff person).”

RJPs come in many forms; from the very simple for less-complex job classifications and areas and responsibilities to sophisticated RJPs for the highly technical job classifications with high levels of responsibility. An RJP consists of both positive and negative information regarding the position in order to give individuals a realistic view of employment with the company. Companies that employ realistic job previews provide information so that job candidates can make an informed decision about a position. If it is structured to do so, the RJP can help provide the employer with a wealth of information about whether the candidate is suitable for the work environment, work culture, and has the core skills as well as any transferable task-based skills that would expedite bringing a new-hire “up to speed.” Read More


Developing the Maintenance and Other Technically Skilled Workers That You Need; To Specification, With Minimal Investment

by Dr. Dave Just, former Dean of Corporate and Continuing Education at Community Colleges in MA, OH, PA, SC. Currently President of L&D Consulting  

In the March, 2016 Proactive Technologies Report article, “Grow Your Own Multi-Craft Maintenance Technicians – Using a ˜Systems Approach” to Training” I described how Proactive Technologies, Inc. has often joined forces with universities, community colleges (many were schools for which I lead the customized training and workforce development departments) and other related technical instruction providers to setup and implement the “hybrid model” of worker development.  This approach has proven itself highly effective for technical job classifications such as Maintenance, Chemical Operators, Press Operator, Tool & Die, NC Machine Operator, Quality Control, Supervisor and others.

This “systems approach” to worker development is simple in its structure but includes metrics and quality control points to ensure that worker development outcomes are clearly defined, progress measured and reported monthly, and goals reached – no matter if the job changes or people change jobs. Although this approach can be used for any job classification in any setting, together we have applied this approach effectively for Maintenance and many other critical technical positions, as well as often neglected supervisor and first-line management positions, for many clients over the last 2 decades.

The approach is unique in that it sets-up for its clients the task-based structured on-the-job training programs. There is no “cut and paste;” each job/task analysis is specific to that job classification, for that company, and incorporates already established process documents and specifications to ensure compliance with quality programs such as ISO/TS/AS and safety requirements.  Proactive Technologies provides the technical implementation support and accurately reports progress for each trainee’s individual pursuit of “job mastery” – allowing the business client to focus on its business while we ensure the employer gets the skilled staff they need, when they need them. As a bonus, incumbent workers are base-lined to the structured on-the-job training program requirements and a customized path is established to drive them, along with the new-hires, to full job mastery.

Like most community college or university executives, I felt compelled to promote products and services we already had on the shelf – even if I new from industry experience that the product only resembled the client’s targeted job by name. I began to worry about the cost to my reputation for recommending a solution that wasted everyone’s time and resources, and left the trainee and employer short.

Some schools think that “industry” has the answers. But some of their own organizational development courses teach that “the farther away from the actual work, the less that person knows about the job.” For the last 30 years we collectively built strategies based on “industry input” and yet the skills gap grew larger.

Although uncomfortable for most educators, we listened to each manufacturer that would open up. Even if they seemed to not know precisely what they needed, we listened for what they expected to accomplish, what resources they had that could be used in training workers for their needs, and if they were committed to a different approach if it brought them what they said they were looking for. For example: Read More


Can’t Find The Right Workers? Why Not Train Workers To Your Own To Specification?

Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

According to a recent report by Career Builder.com, more than half of the employers surveyed could not find qualified candidates: 71% – Information-Technology specialists, 70% – Engineers, 66% – Managers, 56% – Healthcare and other specialists, 52% – Financial Operations personnel. According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, nearly half of small and mid-size employers said they can find few or no “qualified applicants” for recent openings. And anecdotal evidence from manufacturing firms echoes the same challenge with specialty manufacturing jobs such as maintenance, NC machining and technical support positions. This, in large part, can be attributed to the upheaval caused by the Great Crash of 2008 and the following disruption of several million careers. Sidelined workers saw the erosion of their skill bases while waiting years for an economic recovery that, for many, has not reached them yet.

However, many or most of these workers can be “reskilled” or “upskilled” for the current workforce. The solution lies not in waiting for the labor market to magically produce the needed qualified candidates, but rather in each company investing a little to build their own internal system of structured on-the job training. With such an infrastructure, any candidate with strong core skills can be trained quickly and accurately to any employer’s specifications. Furthermore, a strong training infrastructure has factored into it methods of acceptable basic core skill remediation when the benefit outweighs the cost.

No matter how you examine it, an employer is responsible for training workers to perform the essential and unique tasks of the job for which they were hired. It is not economically feasible or practical for education systems to focus this sharply. Waiting for them to do so or allowing it to happen by osmosis is risky and costly for the employer, since every hour that passes is one more hour of wage for unproductive output. Add to that the hourly wage rate of the informal on-the-job training mentor/trainer efforts multiplied by the number of trainees and this becomes a substantial cost that should attract any manager’s attention.

An investment in a formal, deliberate structured on-the-job training system will cut internal costs of training substantially, raise each person’s worker capacity to where it is expected to be, improve output quality and quantity, and raise worker compliance – to processes, to quality standards and safety mandates. It simply makes business sense. Read More


Some Common, But Unfortunate, Reasons Used to Avoid Structured On-The-Job Training

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

The term “structured on-the-job training” shouldn’t scare anyone. Since the term “on-the-job training” has been hijacked and used to label any learning that occurs in a place of employment or offsite while employed, the term “structured” had to be added to clearly differentiate the deliberate training of job-tasks from the conveyance of knowledge.

“Knowing how to” and “being skilled at” are very different. A general medical practitioner can attend a seminar on rhinoplasty (e.g.nose jobs), but it is doubtful if anyone would let them practice on them without supervised training and practice to master the procedure.

The term “job-tasks” isn’t that mysterious either. Everyone knows what a job, or job classification, is. A job is made up of tasks – meaningful units of work, each having a beginning point and an ending point and a specific series of steps between. Every job is made up of these tasks, and someone is hired to perform them. But questions arise such as:

  1. Who, and if anyone, trains the new-hire on the “best practice” for every task?
  2. Is someone is assigned to train the person, does that person know the accepted best practice (i.e. are they “subject matter experts”)?
  3. Is training on tasks consistent between shifts, between trainers?
  4. Do the supervisors know which tasks each employee has mastered, and which they have yet to learn?
  5. And even if the supervisor knows, what happens if that supervisor is promoted and the new supervisor hired from outside the department or company?

Employer’s do not consciously hire someone because they are “good at math,” or “can read at a 12 grade level,” or even “they seem to be able to get along well with others” alone. Yes, those skills and traits may be useful, but the employer expects the person to someday, with some training, be able to perform required tasks quickly, consistently and in compliance with engineering specifications, safety requirements and quality program guidelines. But what if the training assumed to be available is not structured, task-based on-the-job training? What if it was instead informal, inconsistent, ad hoc and, even worse, unavailable? What would an employee exposed to this type environment be able to demonstrate and add to their value? And what are the possibilities more harm than good might be done in the form of scrap, rework, non-conforming output or loss of customers?

Most employers believe they already have structured on-the-job training covered. This can be out of misinformation, misunderstanding or misdirection. The common belief is that if one just pairs the new-hire with someone believed, from memory, to have done a good job so far, something magical will happen. Sometimes it does, but often the “expert” who has been encouraged to perform tasks to a tight production schedule, in a hectic environment (new to the new-hire). They have repressed the nuances they themselves needed to learn and master tasks years ago, and are now asked to be a thoughtful, sensitive trainer…but do not slow down production to do it. The new-hire does not know what they don’t know and are fearful of asking too many questions even if they knew what to ask. They are totally reliant on the training transaction for a basis to determine what is expected. In any other area of a business operation, this non-systems approach would not be tolerated; no work standard, not metrics, no reporting and no way to improve.

So imagine the surprise when an employer tries everything else before they try the obvious. But resistance has to be backed by a reason. Here are some common ones we have seen:

1) We don’t have time for training – training goes on every day, with every employee, and on every shift. If the process cannot be identified, explained, documented, measured or improved, it is nothing more than an expensive form of “training roulette.” Read More


Read the full August, 2017 newsletter, including linked industry articles and online presentation schedules.

Posted in News

Proactive Technologies Report – July, 2017

Economic Development Opportunities – An Important Incentive in Attracting Companies to Your Region

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

When organizations try to create new jobs in their area – working with companies that are considering moving to, expanding to or expanding within their areas – skilled labor availability for many regional economic development strategies may include an offering that consists of one part skills assessment, one part general skill classes and a sprinkling of worker tax credits or grants. That seems to be what most incentive packages include, but is that because: A) that is what the other offers look like; b) it has been like that for decades; C) it is assumed that is all that is available; or D) all of the above?

For over thirty years headlines sounded the alarm that those institutions that were training the workforce of tomorrow were not succeeding in their effort (see Proactive Technologies Report article, “An Anniversary That You Won’t Want to Celebrate: 30 Years Later and The Skill Gap Grows – Is it Finally Time to Rethink The Nations Approach?”). Many skilled workers that are available to work do not have the skills that employers need today. Not completely satisfied with their answer to the inevitable question regarding the region’s skilled labor availability and how workers with specific skill needs will be found or developed, some economic development organizations are exploring other options and opportunities.

It is important to understand that the types of skills that employers are most concerned with – especially employer-specific task-based skills – most likely have not been in the local workforce, nor have any programs been available in local institutions to develop them, simply because these new jobs, with new skill requirements, have never been in the area. The types of skills needed for most modern manufacturing and advanced manufacturing have never been developed because the need was not present nor the data on these jobs available. Even if the need was present, by the time the skill is recognized, a program developed and a worker completed the learning manufacturers either moved on or moved out.

Let’s face it, most organizations that promote their region for economic development do so on the current low cost of labor, right-to-work status, low business and employment tax rates, economic incentives, availability of infrastructure and quality of life. They probably never needed a system in place to develop the skills necessary to attract modern and advanced manufacturing. Companies interested only in geographical, financial and aesthetic incentives have already moved. Other employers understand that if they want higher skilled workers, they expect to pay higher wages now or later when those skill levels are reached and competition for skilled labor kicks in.

If we were honest with one another, community colleges and adult training centers are, at best, 10 -15 years behind the types of skills a prospective employee needs in order to learn and master the tasks required in modern facilities. It has always been like that, from time to time the gap surging deeper. The reason isn’t complicated; these institutions are designed as academic institutions first and have tried to fill a void in worker training with core skill development. However, they have never been embedded enough in today’s job environment to collect the job data necessary to be relevant nor have they applied the massive amount of government funding correctly to be that engaged.


“Whether attracting new companies and helping them thrive and expand, or helping existing business to do the same, this approach is an important component of any economic development strategy.”

I have written about another option for economic development strategies in past issues of the Proactive Technologies Report newsletter. For example, ”  Regional Workforce Development Partnerships That Enhance Economic Development Efforts . In another, “Apprenticeships That Make Money? Not As Impossible as it Seems Part 1 and “The European Difference and Part 2 of 2 – Setting Up an Apprenticeship Center”  I described one project that demonstrated a perfectly effective and inexpensive approach. For this project, Proactive Technologies was asked by a regional economic development office to attend a presentation in Germany for an employer that was considering a joint manufacturing venture in one of the state’s counties. Read More


Increasing Worker Capacity – An Alternative to Cutting Workers for Short-term Cost Savings

by Stacey Lett, Regional Manager – Eastern U.S. – Proactive Technologies, Inc.

In business, if you encounter market “softness” and believe that the business level that you were previously operating at is now unattainable for a limited period, you might first find cost cuts that do not erode the business capacity once held in case your, or the pundit’s, forecast was wrong or the recovery is swifter than anticipated. Sometimes investments are made in machinery and technology during the lulls to get ready for the economic up-turn, but too rarely is any effort made to determine the level of each worker’s current capacity (i.e. what percent of the tasks they were hired to “expertly” perform) relative to the job they are currently in and what could be done to increase it to handle not only existing technology and processes, but the new technology and processes as well. One might even think about cross-training workers to build “reserve capacity.”

Too often, in this age where every quarterly report has to be as good or better than the one before – actually earnings per share – even if the economy currently doesn’t allow it, well-run businesses are pressured to cut into the bone; driving down wages, cutting benefits and ultimately eliminating workers. Investment in new technology isn’t permitted. It doesn’t take an accounting genius to make sweeping, ill-informed cuts, but it does take a pretty savvy leader to pick up the pieces after this mistakes have been made. When the economy recovers and the company stumbles in regaining


“That is the one point missed in all of the cuts to wages, benefits and staff; the first wave affects those who have no choice, the second wave affects the company as those with choice exercise it.”


its capacity, heads roll, more cuts are made and finally the investors pull out – leaving the previously well-run company impaired or near collapse. No good has come from this, and why it is allowed to continue makes no sense – except that it takes little thought to order, gives Wall Street the appearance of something good happening and something to report. That is why stocks rise when layoffs are announced – even in the face of predictable long-term effects of what the cost cutting means. That and the media’s cheering section that naively extols a short-term bump that may turn into a long-term fumble.

Worker capacity will be needed once the economy resumes, and the prudent businessman would not want to miss the recovery while spending too much time rebuilding the organizational capacity, part of which is finding “talent” to the replace the ones encouraged to leave and part trying to encourage the ones currently employed to stay. Additionally overlooked, employee and management morale suffers during wholesale cuts and irrational cost-cutting acts. The workers needed to sustain a recovery and regain market share are affected by what they see happening around them, and those most talented keep one eye on the door because they have the skills other employers might appreciate and always have the option to leave. That is the one point missed in all of the cuts to wages, benefits and staff; the first wave affects those who have no choice, the second wave affects the company as those with choice exercise it.

An alternative to knee-jerk cuts to workers is to assess each worker’s capacity (i.e. what percentage of the tasks of the job they have had a chance to learn and master), then use business “lulls” to raise it to full job mastery. Read More


Is an Apprenticeship Without Structured On-The-Job Training an Apprenticeship?

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

Career and vocation-focused training is a pivotal point in every current and future worker’s life. This world is overwhelmed by forces that make the effort more difficult for the education and training providers, more urgent and critical for the learner, more scrutinized by the employer and constantly measured against time; how long the training takes (which determines costs) and the relevance of the skills acquired to the targeted job which is always moving to the next level of technology. If the training is not “continuously improved” and maintained to be predominantly current and accurate, the graduate may find that jobs for which the new-found skills were targeted now marginally or, even worse, no longer exist.

In theory, apprenticeships offer a promising approach for traditional trades and crafts. As of 2008, more jobs can be registered as apprenticeships with new models accepted by the U.S. Department of Labor. If the program is based on a sound structure and methodology (one that can work for any type of job classification), an apprenticeship capstone – the job-related, employer-based training – would be maintained current and accurate for at least the employer apprenticeship host. Without this component, an apprenticeship experience may be as hollow as some of the for-profit educational chains which are often criticized for high costs and low placement rates.


“No one would ride in a plane flown by a pilot with only classes and simulator time, have surgery by a surgeon that hasn’t yet operated on a live human, or receive a root canal from a dentist with no “live-patient” time. Certified mastery of the tasks that define each of these jobs is what makes the ‘license to practice’ credible. And there is a difference between ‘a pilot” and ‘the pilot.’ Having a pilot license certifies you to fly planes, not a specific plane; you still have to have training and be certified to apply your craft to flying that plane. With the hybrid approach to apprenticeships, both are accomplished at the same time.”


The term “apprenticeship” has taken on many new meanings in the rush to increase the number of apprentices in the United States. Some 2-year community college programs that have been around a while have been re-branded in an effort to give new life to the same programs of worker development. Some have been thrown together to position an organization for the anticipated flood of grant dollars to find apprentices. Many of these are less “employer-centric” and more “industry-friendly” in spirit. Yet, it is important to remember that the ultimate beneficiaries of an apprenticeship should be the apprentice, the employer, the community, the industry and then the workforce development community, in that order. This should always be the focus and priority.

The process of gaining a “certificate of apprenticeship completion” level status can be an important milestone in an apprentice’s life. Achieving it can be accelerated by the focus and relevancy of related technical instruction and implementing employer-based structured on-the-job training, the latter for which mastery is also the measure of accomplishment for the apprentice and employer. Both components are critical to the quality of the program. Shortening the time without focusing these two components can weaken the program’s credibility and legitimacy. That is why many states require the employer to perform a job/task analysis on the job targeted for registration to ensure the structure, content and process is in place to document and explain what job-tasks have been mastered. That is what is most important to the current employer and any future employers.

These two requisite components were established in the middle-ages, albeit modernized for today’s needs, and have served us well when implemented properly. The United States Department of Labor – Bureau of Apprenticeships describes an apprenticeship as this: “It is a unique, flexible training system that combines job related technical instruction with structured on-the-job learning experiences.” The Bureau of Apprenticeships offers 3 models it accepts; the traditional Time-Based, the Competency and the Hybrid models. Read More


Changes in ISO 9001: 2015 and Any Effects on Worker Training 

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

There are many excellent business reasons for employers to capture the best practices, knowledge and expertise of their star performers before they leave the organization through separation or retirement. In a recent Proactive Technologies Report article entitled, “Retiring Workers and the Tragic Loss of Intellectual Property and Value,” explains the high cost of this missed opportunity, leading to the subsequent inability to more quickly and completely train new workers to replace them. Also explained is how so few employers are taking the challenge seriously.

Collecting detailed, best practice task procedures is vitally important for the accelerated transfer of expertise™. A company can lose substantial sums through unused or underdeveloped worker capacity. This impacts quality yield and may lead to costly scrap and rework decisions. Having consolidated “tribal knowledge” and expertise into deliberately delivered structured on-the-job training programs – which drive new-hires and incumbent workers to “full job mastery” – captures this unrecognized worker value that accounting systems have, sadly, been unable to document or measure. The April, 2017 Proactive Technologies Report article entitled, “Estimating the Costs Associated With Skipping Employer-Based Structured On-The-Job Training” discusses approaches to quantifying this unrealized worker value.
 
Now, there is another reason for capturing best practice task performance and all of its related knowledge and compliance specifications. The new standard ISO 9001: 2015 took effect September 15th, 2015. A transition period of three years will allow affected departments to make the necessary adjustments, but Quality Management Certificates issued under the old standard, ISO 9001: 2008, will have to include the new date.

Re-certification audit planning for the new standard must be performed at least 90 days prior to expiration, in other words by September 14, 2018, and the last audit day cannot exceed the deadline or a full, initial audit must be performed. The new standard includes a couple of changes that make the new standard easier to implement with other management systems, and focuses more on management commitment and performance and less on prescriptive measures.

The new standard includes a couple of changes that make the new standard easier to implement with other management systems, and focuses more on management commitment and performance and less on prescriptive measures. The standard has a new structure called a “High Level Structure” and introduces the concept of “risk-based thinking.” The emphasis is on organizations identifying risks to standardize quality performance and taking measures to “ensure their management system can achieve its intended outcomes, prevent or reduce undesired effects and achieve continual improvement.” The revised standard also puts increased emphasis on achieving value for the organization and its customers; in other words “output matters.”

The process approach introduced in 2000 as the desired model for quality management systems will become an explicit requirement of ISO 9001: 2015. The standard requires understanding the needs of the clients or customers, end users, suppliers and regulators and the words “document” and “record” were replaced by “documented information,” acknowledging the need to broaden the concept in recognition of the advancement in information handling technology.

The new standard has more emphasis on requirements for competent performance of personnel, competence meaning “being able to apply knowledge and skill to achieve intended results.” The important role that structured on-the-job training has played so far in ISO/AS/TS compliance now becomes even more critical.

Those companies that already have the Proactive Technologies PROTECH© system of managed human resource development  in place already in place already meet the requirements structurally with regard to personnel competency, but management may need to show more commitment and understanding of the important role this plays in quality control. Those who have not addressed the earlier requirements for process-driven training in all the major models of quality management – ISO/TS/AS – should begin now to build the infrastructure if they want to meet that requirement under the new standard. Read More


What Makes Proactive Technologies’s Accelerated Transfer of Expertise™ So Effective

by Proactive Technologies, Inc. Staff

There are a lot of buzzwards thrown around these days. “Skills Gap,” Education-Based Apprenticeships,”STEM” – many confusing to those in management whose primary function is to ensure products and services are delivered in the most cost-effective and profitable way.

For anyone unfamiliar with Proactive Technologies, Inc.’s Accelerated Transfer of Expertise™program, it might help to clarify what makes this approach to worker development and continuous improvement so effective.  This unique approach, in practice since 1986 and always improving, was designed by someone who endured the pressures of maintaining the highest quality staff in a world of constant change and pressures to do more with less. 

We start by collecting a lot of data about each job classification that is all around anyway (e.g. people’s heads, operator’s notes, engineering processes, quality standards, EHS specifications). This spread of information, that isn’t readily available, makes learning and mastering the tasks – for new hires and incumbents – unpredictable, ineffective, open to conflicts (including legal), costly and not conducive of standardization of high performance. And the continual revision of all of these bits of information adds to the challenge and makes process improvement and implementation efforts difficult, at best.

Many times we find that tasks are not proceduralized for best practice performance; either not defined at all or defined vaguely as “Perform _____,” leaving it up to each new trainee to guess what was intended. We job/task analyze the missing bits and work with engineering, quality and management to make sure we have the best, best practice before we develop any training or certification tool from it. 

Our proprietary software allows us to quickly gather and consolidate the many sources of data for use only when and where needed. Our technical support, 12 months (renewable) included in every project, allows your organization to focus on business while we set the programs up and manage them for you. Our software automatically generates all of the tools of the human resource development process to allow for big-scale projects at a small-scale investment; from today’s job description and entry level tests, to structured on-the-job training materials and checklists, to technical procedures and performance appraisals. One revision updates all of the tools! The system keeps track of each trainee’s training progress and provides detailed reports.

We build structured on-the-job training programs to ensure each new-hire and incumbent worker has an accelerated path to job mastery through mastery of each best-practice task – with content-valid assessments for more accurate and compliant selection and legally-defensible assessments to measure progress toward, and achievement of, job mastery. Each structured on-the-job training program we set-up can, and has been, easily registered as an apprenticeship (an option for your firm) that adds little-to-no cost.

We have projects, some lasting as long as 17 years, for clients that include an engine component manufacturer with 40 unique job classifications, 300 employees at 2 plants that spanned 10 years without the need, as with all of our projects, to expand their HR staff or add a training department. Whenever your organization feels it is ready to bring management of this project inside, we would be happy to license your firm with our latest version PROTECH© system of managed human resource development™ software, install it with your firm’s data, teach your designated staff to administrate it and still be available for technical support. 

This approach is proven to lower the internal costs of training (e.g. the cost declines per each added trainee) while increasing worker capacity, work quantity and quality, compliance (ISO/AS/TS, EEOC and safety) and worker return on investment. This approach supports “legacy knowledge capture” required of ISO 9001:2015. 

Many state worker training grant funds can be used to implement the structured on-the-job training we set up and we anticipate you would be eligible to recover most, if not all, of your investment to set-up the structured on-the-job training programs and technical support, which documents and reports each task mastered for reimbursement. So the funding is probably there, and we will help you with the application and to present the project for approval. 

We understand that you may have been driven to cynicism by the buzzwords and ineffective attempts at worker development you might have already tried, and Proactive Technologies is confident that once you realize the power of this workforce development approach you will be a believer. That is why we offer a “pilot project approach” so you can try the approach out on one of your job classifications first before scaling it up. Minimize the risk so the case can be made internally to scale-up based on successful results. And you will be surprised how little an investment is needed to get started! 

It would be worth your time to consider this approach. Please feel free to contact us  for more information or attend one of our free, live online presentations. Proactive Technologies would enjoy an opportunity to work with you and your firm and would do everything we can to help you make your project a success. Read More


Read the full July, 2017 newsletter, including linked industry articles and online presentation schedules.

Posted in News

Proactive Technologies Report – June, 2017

“Full Job Mastery” means “Maximum Worker Capacity” –
A Verifiable Model for Measuring and Improving Worker
Value While Transferring Valuable Expertise
By Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

It is no secret that with the traditional model of “vocational” education, the burden of the job/task-specific skill development falls on the employer. It is not economically feasible nor practical for educational institutions to focus content on every job area for every employer. So they, instead, focus rightly on core skills and competencies – relying on the employer to deliver the rest. This is where the best efforts of local educational institutions and training providers begin to break down even if highly relevant to the industry sector.

Employers rarely have an internal structure for task-based training of their workers. Even the most aggressive related technical instruction efforts erode against technological advances as every month passes. If core skills and competencies mastered prior to work are not transformed quickly into tasks the worker is expected to perform, the foundation for learning task performance may crumble through loss of memory, loss of relevance or loss of opportunity to apply them.

New workers routinely encounter a non-structured, rarely focused, on-the-job training experience. Typically, the employer’s subject-matter-expert (SME) is asked to “show the new employee around.” While highly regarded by management, the SME (not trained as a task trainer and having no prepared materials) has difficulty remembering the nuances of the tasks when explaining the process to the new employee, since that level of detail was buried in memory long ago. Each SME, on each shift, might have a different version of the “best practice” for processes, confusing the trainee even more – rendering the notion of “standardization” to “buzzword” status.

New employees have difficulty assembling, understanding and translating the disjointed bits of recollection into a coherent process to be replicated. Each comes with their own set and levels of core skills and competencies, and learning styles vary from the self-learner/starter to the slow-learner worker who, with structure to make sure they learn the right best practice, may become loyal, high-quality workers.

The more time the SME spends with the new employee in this unstructured, uncontrolled and undocumented experience, which is the prevailing method of on-the-job training, the more the employer is paying two people to be non or minimally-productive. Adding employees can actually lower short-term productivity and add little to long-term productivity for an organization, but the costs will attract notice internally and may lead management falsely believe the problem is cost related.

Unfortunately, this only describes the costs of inadequate new-hire training. What about the incumbents who made it through the process and are part of the staff? Does anyone know which tasks have been mastered or not? No structured on-the-job training system in place implies no records of task mastery or metrics of worker capacity, therefore no methods for improving worker performance.  Read More 


Retiring Workers and the Tragic Loss of Intellectual Property and Value         by Stacey Lett, Regional Manager – Eastern U.S. – Proactive Technologies, Inc.

The warnings went out over two decades ago. Baby Boomers were soon to retire, taking their accumulated expertise – locked in their brains – with them. But very little was done to address this problem. Call it complacency, lack of awareness of the emerging problem, preoccupation with quarterly performance, disinterest or disbelief, very few companies took action and the Crash of 2008 disrupted any meager efforts that were underway.

According to Steve Minter in an IndustryWeek Magazine article on April 10, 2012, “Only 17% of organizations said they had developed processes to capture institutional memory/organizational knowledge from employees close to retirement.” Who is going to train their replacements once they are gone? Would the learning curve of replacement workers be as long and costly, repeating the same learning mistakes, as the retiree’s learning curve? Would operations be disrupted and, if so, to what level?


“In our new “outsourcing nation,” a widely held belief is that employees are simply costs to be cut and not assets to be valued.” …. “Manufacturing faces a two-sided problem: it not only has thousands of people retiring, but it does not have the training programs to train skilled workers to replace them.”
A Strategy to Capture Tribal Knowledge
IndustryWeek- Michael Collins 5-23-16

In the last few years, it seems an alternative to the concentration of expertise in a few subject matter experts has become to use lower-wage temporary or contract workers who specialize in smaller quantities of processes, and who can be “traded-out” with a minimum amount of disruption. History will tell us just how costly that approach was and if anything was learned.
Many in corporate America have come to view all labor as expendable; easy to swap with a cheaper alternative – disregarding the cumulative asset value of the investment made in each. In the June, 2016 Proactive Technologies Report, in an article entitled “A Strategy to Capture Tribal Knowledge,” author Michael Collins notes, “In our new “outsourcing nation,” a widely held belief is that employees are simply costs to be cut and not assets to be valued.” He goes on to say, “Manufacturing faces a two-sided problem: it not only has thousands of people retiring, but it does not have the training programs to train skilled workers to replace them.” Read More 

The Right Assessment is a Good Predictor if Candidate is
Able to Learn and Master The Job Classification – Job
Relevance is Critical to Legal Compliance and Success
by Jim Poole, President of Lifetime Learning, LLC

There are many types of job assessment instruments. Some are industry-specific, some job-specific and some are skill, competency or behavior preference specific. Job-specific tests are limited to assessing for core skills and abilities required to learn and master the tasks required of a job classification.There are numerous other commercial tests that employers use. For example, cognitive tests assess reasoning, knowledge, memory and perceptual speed, while physical ability tests measure the ability to perform physical activities to a required level. Medical and mental tests examine health and wellness, and DISC assessments identify behavioral preferences of an individual. Many more controversial tests have come into use since 9-11 under the justification or a “safe work place” such as credit checks, English language tests and criminal background tests.

The use of any test can violate federal anti-discrimination laws as enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if the employer intentionally uses a testing instrument that discriminates based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability or age (40 years old or older). They can also violate these laws if the test’s use has a “disparate” impact on a protected class – unless the employer can justify the use within the EEOC guidelines and in compliance with statutory and case laws.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII, The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 laid much of the legal foundation for these laws. Years of case law further defined the application of these laws for employers. If one test used by an employer is challenged and loses, all other testing activities of that employer are considered suspect.

Employers sometimes do not realize they may be currently using “tests” that, while not labeled a test, fall under federal anti-discrimination laws. Many times these tests were created internally by non-professionals, and without any thought given to the need for compliance. Or these tests may be selected solely based on claims of a “national industry group’s” acceptance or that a prestigious institution developed them. It could be these tests are not being used for the audience for which it was designed.  Read More


The Credibility of “Future of Technology” Predictions and What They Hold for Workforce Development Strategies                                                                                   by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

We are bombarded by predictions of the impact of technological innovation on the workers of today and tomorrow. We should all take a deep breath, gather all of the information and facts, and process our own conclusions. Many of these predictions have been re-branded and recycled from past predictions, and have yet to materialize to the degree promised. Those rushing to position themselves at the front of these waves, developing long-term strategies to take advantage of the chaos of change, often find they have wasted a lot of their own, and other people’s, time and resources while unwittingly serving those who had a vested interest in promoting predictions.


According to a recent CBS 60 Minutes piece entitled “Brain Hacking,” “This is Silicon Valley’s strategy to expand sales and brand loyalty. They are busy designing products to grab and hold our attention, similar to strategies used in casino gaming. They design coding for software applications that impact neurological behavior, with regularly scheduled rewards to want you want more. You cannot put down your phone without a cortisol “fight or flight” reaction that makes you want to peek at your phone for relief.” Imagine their predictions for the future. Do you think their predictions might be a little skewed toward the products they have planned for us?


Evolutionary forces (e.g. the movement from an agrarian society to an industrial society) that tend to materialize to the benefit the many who adapt over the few that did not, or could not, are legitimate. This type of evolution is characterized by its slow, steady manifestation, not by starts, stops and completely opposite turns as seen in the many predictions of today.

Many money-driven trends of today are more meant to benefit the few who can afford to adapt or who invest in the “wave” and make a return, over the many who cannot. These movements come and go, leaving the “overly optimistic but not well connected” devotees discredited and demoralized as these waves disappear or continue to morph into the next (what used to be called) “fad.”

Wealth and credit is so concentrated in the hands of a few today. They, and the few who have the resources to benefit from following their agendas, are always looking for new ways to drive movements toward their goals to amass more wealth. When these interests move on as they reach the rewards they seek, or change direction when it looks like investor or consumer interest is running out, they tend to leave behind a disrupted society and economy.

A true “futurist” has no vested interest in his or her predictions. Their predictions are based not on popular themes, but on converging trends – trends that might cancel other themes and trends, might preempt fads from gaining illegitimate strength and might change conclusions of where this all leads.

Modern media outlets, concentrated in dense urban areas, have cut back on reporters and the more costly investigative journalism. They tend to exercise “group think,” and race to be the first to report on their new discovery that originated as a press release from some paid organization. They often add hype and flamboyance to entice a reader to read or listen to the story. It is easy for a well-networked, well-financed organization to fund their own “trend”…or at least create the illusion of one. A good example of this technique is investors who “short” a commodity and, more insidiously, a start-up venture and then “leak news” to naïve or participating network outlets to move the markets in a direction to their benefit, leaving the company’s share value and shareholder’s wealth destroyed.

There are many examples of how popular media has been wrong in their coverage and wrong in their predictions that find themselves in circulation. Anyone basing a long-term policy or strategy, which will have a lasting legacy and impact the many, on today’s predictions should do so only after deep, sound analysis and re-analysis. Anyone can make a prediction, but it is those who plan for others around a prediction that have to live with the repercussions and hold accountability.

I have listed 23 of these predictions that failed to develop, or failed to develop to the level predicted, that illustrate my point: Read More


Classes Alone Will Not Close the “Skills Gap,” But Structured On-the-Job Training Can…Every Time!
by Proactive Technologies, Inc. Staff

Proactive Technologies. Inc. works with many employers, a large number of them manufacturers, to set up structured on-the-job training programs designed to their exact job classification(s), built to train incumbent and new-hire workers to “full job mastery” – still the most elusive goal most employers face and the key to” closing the “skills gap.Under-capacity of workers is an enormous source of untapped value and unrealized return on worker investment.

The accelerated transfer of expertise™ approach can help any employer quickly and completely train the skilled workers they need AND realize an increase in worker capacity, work quantity/quality and compliance (ISO/TS/AS, engineering specifications and safety) while reducing the internal costs of training. New-hires and incumbent workers are driven to full job mastery and higher levels of return on worker investment (“ROWI”). The task-based, structured on-the-job training infrastructure is perfect for apprenticeships; instead of marking the calendar for “time-in-job,” job-relevant tasks are mastered and documented. AND, unlike classroom or online training, the cost per trainee decreases with each added trainee once set up.

This approach makes a worker’s mastery of the job the focus, integrating into the company’s existing systems and standards by building structure around the loosely arranged worker development activities already in place. By structuring the unstructured worker training to make it work effectively and efficiently, this approach maximizes the use of resources already in place.

Proactive Technologies is confident that, once your firm experiences the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development, you will recognize its capabilities to maximize your workforce and cut your training costs. That is why PTI is willing to let your firm find this out at the pace and investment level that you are comfortable first, then work with you to scale up within your budget to reach your goals.

Once a pilot project is underway and if the client is interested, Proactive Technologies will research worker development state grant sources, help prepare an application and submit it. If successful Proactive Technologies  will help you make sure you receive the maximum grant amount. Proactive Technologies has, for decades, successfully helped many clients to defray part or all of their initial investment and/or project expansion.  

Contact Proactive Technologies, Inc. for more information about this program and a representative will be in touch.


Read the full June, 2017 newsletter, including linked industry articles and online presentation schedules.

Posted in News

Proactive Technologies Report – May, 2017

A Simple, Low-Investment Solution to Closing Skill Gaps; New-hires and Incumbents

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

Proactive Technologies, Inc. has worked with many employers over the years, establishing and technically supporting cost-effective, task-based structured on-the-job training programs. For each employer, every effort is made to tailor the worker training system to accommodate the employer’s budget, job classifications (even unique training programs for each job classification in each department), business goals and manage the system through all types of change. Unlike some products or services that require the employer to change practices that work in order to utilize them, the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development  is built around what is working for the employer, incorporating established information such as work processes and specifications, safety standards, quality standards, etc. This approach minimizes the need for the employer’s culture to drastically change what works for them, focusing instead on improvements in an area of weakness.

The main steps used to build an employer-based structured workforce development system starts with understanding the desired outcome first:

______________________________________________________________

“There is no doubt this approach is effective. After all, what is better: unstructured and haphazard worker training that cannot be explained, measured, improved or understood, or structured on-the-job training for all workers that is easily measured, implemented, improved and explained to auditors?”

______________________________________________________________

  1. Determine the Employer’s Need and Agree on Strategy: How has the client been (or not been) training workers until now; what are the current and projected staffing levels for incumbents and new-hires along with attrition rate and reassignments; is the culture supportive of training workers and see it as vital to competitiveness; are any task-based documents available and are they in use (e.g. work processes, quality standards, safety standards); which jobs are targeted and why; is the company following any quality mandates, such as ISO/TS/AS and do they have any quality programs underway such as LEAN, Six Sigma; what is the budget for setting up the structured on-the-job training program and implementation. A strategy encompassing all of these points is prepared for the employer before an agreement and timetable is confirmed.
  2. Job/Task Analyze the Target Job Classifications: The analysis is always performed using the employer’s subject matter experts to develop task lists of each targeted job classification, then each task is analyzed further for the best practice; also identified are relevant components that lead a trainee to reach “task mastery;” a review of data by subject matter experts is held to reach a concurrence on data; materials to structure the on-the-job training are created (the PROTECH© software system accelerates the data collection process and automatically generates all of the tools of the human resource development process from the data – materials are ready in minutes not years…at a fraction of the cost of manual development. One revision updates all reports.). Read More

Reacting to the Proposed Reversal of Regulations Affecting Human Resources and Safety Can Be Tricky

by Stacey Lett, Regional Manager – Eastern United States, Proactive Technologies, Inc.

Political winds frequently change direction, sometimes leading to calls to create or unwind existing labor and safety regulations. Enacting and implementing changes to company policies, and disseminating changes to the troops, in response takes more thoughtfulness and planning. Regulations and laws that have evolved over time as the result of events that set them in motion usually have some fundamental rationale that everyone can agree with, or they would have been badly battered during public hearings and public review. The disagreement usually revolves around scope, impact of the law on the non-offenders, and ideological divides.

Congressional changes to labor laws or presidential executive orders usually do not take effect overnight. It may take years for a bill to clear the House and Senate for the president’s signature and/or for the affected agency to make the transition. There will be many impacted groups waiting to litigate the change and the court process can take years with appeals to higher courts. If shot down in whole or in part, then it will be remanded to the lower court to find a legal solution, before potentially starting another series of legislative activities.

While all this is going on, political tides that brought in the change may begin to turn back. Often one political party or the other overreaches, or misreads their constituents and acts against their voter’s interests. The make-up of Congress and or the presidency in the next election may push the pendulum back.

A good strategy for employers during days like this is to try to learn as much as possible about the proposed changes. No matter if industry groups are behind the successful push for changes in laws and regulations, this does not mean the changes will survive. So, it is a good idea to remain pragmatic and realistic during these times. Try to project how the change will be received by your customers and by employees in your organization. Then weigh the benefits of making policy revisions to incorporate the regulatory changes versus the costs of the policy changes – including financial costs, costs to morale (if any) and the costs if these government changes are later reversed and the company has to reverse its policies to match.

Some other considerations are: Read More

The Employers Have the Most Advanced Equipment Available for Training

by Frank Gibson, Special Projects Coordinator -The Ohio State University – Alber Enterprise Center

Community and technical colleges, career centers and joint vocational schools have always struggled with how to make a positive difference in workforce training. They often bear the brunt of criticism for the “skills gap” employers report when, in reality, employers share equally in the responsibility. Educational institutions have only the resources and capacity to provide core skill training upon which only employers can then provide on-the-job training to drive trainees to the job mastery needed.

Educational institutions are often tempted to assume more of the employer’s role in worker development but run into budget, feasibility and practicality limitations. This distracts them from their very important role of maintaining perpetually relevant core skill and related technical instruction that a high-quality technical education requires. Trying to provide all things to all employers never was the role of educational institutions so they should not take it too personally when good-intentioned efforts do not reach the expectations for them.

These institutions are often encouraged to use their limited resources to buy equipment or build facilities in order to support “customized, hands-on training.” The employer already has the facility and the latest technology in that community. The hard part has been convincing the employer that the school has a viable strategy that makes the employer want to imbed structured on-the-job training into the onsite natural order of learning the job. It would be even harder to convince them a training program, targeting a specific job of theirs, can be more effective offsite at a training facility than onsite.

Technology shifts so fast these days, and the focus of workforce training is so volatile, that it makes little sense for educational institutions to purchase equipment for training when only a few employers have similar equipment and the equipment may be obsolete before the school gets through the purchasing, installation and instructor training stages let alone before someone completes a 2-year training program. In addition, the company or companies that were targeted for this training might be acquired, closed or moved – leaving before any return on the investment of time, money and facilities are realized.

The Ohio State University – Alber Enterprise Center has partnered with Proactive Technologies, Inc. on job-specific worker training projects since 1996. Over the years, the “hybrid model” at the center of these projects focused resources very efficiently and effectively to provide the proper blend of structured on-the-job training and related technical instruction. Our Center provides a selection of remedial and related technical instruction (through our courses and those provided by our network of training providers) – selected from the thorough job/task analysis data collected and used by Proactive Technologies to set-up the onsite employer-specific structured on-the-job training programs. This helps us to provide the client- employer’s workers with core skill instruction that is “content relevant. Read More

Proactive Technologies Discount Program Ends, But…“Low-Risk” Pilot Approach Option Remains in Effect 

by Proactive Technologies, Inc. Staff

The Proactive Technologies, Inc.’s Discount Offer expired April 30th. However, discounts are still offered for “economies of scale” (the larger the project, the larger the savings due to coordinated travel, production costs and labor).  PLUS, Proactive Technologies has continued the “low-risk” project pilot approach offer for those employers who need to make the case to management before rolling out a larger project.

This accelerated transfer of expertise™ approach is a tremendous offer without the discount. This approach can help any employer quickly and completely train the skilled workers they need AND realize an increase in worker capacity, work quantity/quality and compliance (ISO/TS/AS, engineering specifications and safety) while reducing the internal costs of training. New-hires and incumbent workers are driven to full job mastery and higher levels of return on worker investment (ROWI). The task-based, structured on-the-job training infrastructure is perfect for apprenticeships; instead of marking the calendar for “time-in-job,” job-relevant tasks are mastered and documented.AND, unlike classroom or online training, the cost per trainee decreases with each added trainee once set up.

This approach makes a worker’s mastery of the job the focus, integrating into the company’s existing systems and standards by building structure around the loosely arranged worker development activities already in place. Structuring the unstructured worker training to make it work effectively and efficiently.

Once Proactive  Technologies, Inc. understands the clients needs, a proposal will be created that outlines the activities in 2-phases:

  • Phase 1 – One Job Classification Structured On-The-Job Training Program Creation and Implementation to prove the concept and approach to the client before the client expands the project to other areas;
  • Phase 2 –  Expand Project to Include Other Job Classifications.  Making the case to management for expansion is easier when an in-house pilot project eliminated the risk. The larger the scale-up the larger the discounts for “economies of scale.”

Proactive Technologies is confident that, once your firm experiences the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development, you will recognize its capabilities to maximize your workforce and cut your training costs. That is why PTI is willing to let your firm find this out at the pace and investment level that you are comfortable first, then work with you to scale up within your budget to reach your goals.

Once a pilot project is underway and if the client is interested, Proactive Technologies will research worker development state grant sources, help prepare an application and submit it. If successful Proactive Technologies  will help you make sure you receive the maximum grant amount. Proactive Technologies has, for decades, successfully helped many clients to defray part or all of their initial investment and/or project expansion.

Contact Proactive Technologies, Inc. for more information about this program and a representative will be in touch.


Read the full May, 2017 newsletter, including linked industry articles and online presentation schedules.

Posted in News

Proactive Technologies Report – April, 2017

Proactive Technologies Announces Significant Discount Program – March 10th to April 30th, 2017!

Free “No-Risk” Consultation Session – Witness Approach for One of Your Specific Job Classifications Before You Decide

by Proactive Technologies, Inc. Staff

Due to the success of our last discount offer, and many requests from companies that could not act before the end of the last discount offer in 2016, Proactive Technologies Inc. is once again extending a generous discount offer of up to 50% to employers from March 10th to April 3oth, 2017!

This accelerated transfer of expertise™ approach is a tremendous offer without the discount, but with it can help any employer quickly and completely train the skilled workers they need AND realize an increase in worker capacity, work quantity/quality and compliance (ISO/TS/AS, engineering specifications and safety) while reducing the internal costs of training. New-hires and incumbent workers are driven to full job mastery and higher levels of return on worker investment (ROWI). The task-based, structured on-the-job training infrastructure is perfect for the apprenticeships; instead of marking the calendar for “time-in-job,” job-relevant tasks are mastered and documented.

“For companies eligible for a worker training grant or not, this discount program can significantly stretch a training budget in a impactful way. This approach makes a worker’s mastery of the job the focus and incorporates, building structure around, loosely arranged worker development activities.”

In the event that anyone needs one more way (i.e. in addition to live online presentations, onsite presentations) to gather enough information to decide whether to move forward with structured on-the-job training to boost their training strategy, we thought of an idea that might help them decide. Read Details

Estimating the Costs Associated With Skipping Employer-Based Structured On-The-Job Training  

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

It should go without saying that if there is no deliberate strategy to train workers for the things they were hired to perform, the employer will probably never realize the maximum output realizable from a worker. Multiple workers operating under-capacity can create exorbitant, and unnecessary, costs to the employer – bleeding from profits and often leading to sweeping and irreparable reactions from management as they try to “fix” all but the obvious.

The effect of worker capacity on any business strategy is the least misunderstood of factors, but one as important as innovation, process improvement and zero defect strategies. After all, fundamental to each of these strategies is the worker’s ability to competently carry the intended actions to maximize those efforts efficiently.

Employers need to seriously consider the human factors, not ignore them and focus on everything but this. After decades of neglect, supported by workforce development institutions that have no tools to address this stage of worker development and often unknowingly promulgate distractions in their efforts to claim they do, management has come to simplify the human factor into a cost that can be easily eliminated or replaced by a lower cost alternative in another location. Lacking in this reaction is the underlying fact that moving operations to lower-wage labor markets with even more need for training (e.g. new challenges such as language, culture) only appears to be adding to profits short-term; the same problems exist, but the lower cost of labor makes it more tolerable even if greater challenges to worker performance now exist. As wages rise, these challenges become more pronounced and management becomes more critical.

Total Cost of Ownership formulas, such as the one used by the Reshoring Iniative, try to capture the hidden and overlooked costs of off-shoring operations, with labor challenges being one factor considered. But even so, the factor’s significance is understated.

Here is a simple formula for estimating the cost/benefit of a worker’s contribution to the organization for consideration: Read More


Employers Say They Struggle With a “Skills Shortage,” Yet They Cut the Training Budget. What Gives?

by Stacey Lett, Regional Manager – Eastern U.S., Proactive Technologies, Inc.

Everywhere you read these days, you find commentary on the “skills gap” that employers seem to face when trying to find the workers they need for their critical job classifications. Either there is a skills gap or there isn’t, and more and more economists are challenging that premise. Some, like Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman, say that if there is such a skills gap creating a shortage of skilled labor, then wages should be skyrocketing for those positions in a capitalistic, free market model.

Some point to the exploitation of loop-holes in the U.S. H-1B visa program, recently highlighted in a  CBS 60 Minutes episode entitled “You’re Fired” that allows employers to replace long-time, experienced employees with lower-wage temporary workers (with no benefits) from countries such as India – even requiring the laid off worker to train their replacement or forego severance pay.

Yet other companies, genuinely experiencing a shortage of skilled workers in their region, seem to either accept the skills gap theory as the norm or have made assumptions that the right skilled workers already came through the front door. Some surprise everyone by redirecting training dollars that should be used to make sure each employee can perform the tasks for which they were hired to programs that are meant to improve performance – skipping the obvious. Trying to improve the performance of employees before being certain they can perform each task exactly seems incredibly counter-intuitive. Focusing dollars on LEAN, Kaisan, Six Sigma, etc. before being certain that employees have mastered each required task may be not only be a waste of money but probably will need to be repeated if the employees finally do master each task, since by then they will have forgotten any improvement techniques or how to apply them to the processes they are performing.

Some wonder why companies have not added to, or are even cutting, their training budgets in response to the challenge. Many of these companies seem to be forgoing structured on-the-job training that only they can deliver, hoping the local educational system, with all they federal funding they have received, will somehow wave a wand and all the skilled labor needed will appear. In a January, 2017 issue of the Proactive Technologies Report entitled “An Anniversary That You Won’t Want to Celebrate: 30 Years Later and The Skill Gap Grows – Is it Finally Time to Rethink The Nation’s Approach?” the point was made that employers having been waiting on solutions from other than their own operation for decades, but to no avail. It is also significant to note that the U.S. is currently in a new presidential administration that seems to be set on cutting the funding for many of the Departments of Education and Labor workforce training programs these employers have come to rely upon. Read More


Twelve Good Reasons Why Structured On-The-Job Training Should be Part of You Business Strategy

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

Many articles have appeared in the Proactive Technologies Report covering how Proactive Technologies’ PROTECH© System of managed human resource development can address many of the workforce development scenarios; from individualized, customized structured on-the-job training for a specific employer for specific job classification(s), to regional partnerships servicing multiple employers while partnering with regional educational institutions, private training providers, workforce development and economic development agencies to provide the related technical instruction. There are many winners with this approach, but none so important as the employer and the employee.

Several articles have appeared in the newsletter explaining how Proactive Technologies sets up for each client a unique, structured on-the-job training program, provides implementation support to ensure it is running effectively and provides documentation and monthly reporting to drive each employee’s progress toward full job mastery. The most recent article appearing in the February, 2017 issue entitled “Tips for Establishing Your Company’s Training Strategy – Practical, Measurable, Extremely Economical and Scalable”. While the article hints on some of the benefits to the employer-employee stakeholders, it might be more advantageous to focus on the benefits themselves rather than leave them nuanced. More can be found in other articles at the News and Publications page of the Proactive Technologies, Inc. website.

There are many significant reasons that structured on-the-job training will help any employer really maximize the value of each worker employed with the company, improve operational efficiency and lower the risk of non-compliance (ISO/TS/AS, Safety Mandates, EEOC Mandates). These are not just buzzwords. Here are twelve reasons (not in any order of importance, since some may be more important to different stakeholders) to consider.

1. ISO 9001-2015 and TS16949 compliance with regard to worker competence to perform task processes, the provision of support documentation and records, and the facilitation of retraining when processes change.
• The data infrastructure will help facilitate quality improvements and incorporates the results of LEAN, continuous improvement, etc.;
• Existing company process documents are incorporated into the job/task analysis data collection so all worker development materials generated from the data are in sync with engineering and quality standards;

2. Risk mitigation with regard to potential legal challenges to methods and assessments used by the company for determining pay increases and promotion.
• The infrastructure and documentation will support the company’s side in the event of a safety incident investigation;

3. The initial job/task analysis will capture the technical expertise and wisdom in the heads of Company’s skilled workers before they get a chance to leave through retirement, attrition, promotion, etc.; Read More


Tips for Workforce Developers – Partnerships That Matter…and Last

by Dr. Dave Just, Mpact Maintenance and Reliability Solutions

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 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;

2) Formulate your proposed solution based on facts – there is always the temptation to propose a solution that markets a product or service the school already has in place, even when its relationship to the problem or challenge is suspect. Resist that temptation. A single sale of a weak product or service will not lead to follow-up sales. Once the initial opportunity to prove one’s value is squandered, everything else you propose might be dismissed – even if appropriate.

3) Recognize that most solutions are not complicated, but we often make them so – There is no shortage of schools that think the solution to everything is a multi-million dollar technology center. “If you build it, they will come” only worked in movies. Read More

Read the full April, 2017 newsletter, including linked industry articles and online presentation schedules.

Posted in News

Proactive Technologies Report – March, 2017

Proactive Technologies Announces Significant Discount Program – March 10th to April 31st, 2017!

Free “No-Risk” Consultation Session – Witness Approach for One of Your Specific Job Classifications Before You Decide

by Proactive Technologies, Inc. Staff

Due to the success of our last discount offer, and many requests from companies that could not act before the end of the last discount offer in 2016, Proactive Technologies Inc. is once again extending a generous discount offer of up to 50% to employers from March 10th to April 31st, 2017!

This accelerated transfer of expertise™ approach is a tremendous offer without the discount, but with it can help any employer quickly and completely train the skilled workers they need AND realize an increase in worker capacity, work quantity/quality and compliance (ISO/TS/AS, engineering specifications and safety) while reducing the internal costs of training. New-hires and incumbent workers are driven to full job mastery and higher levels of return on worker investment (ROWI). The task-based, structured on-the-job training infrastructure is perfect for the apprenticeships; instead of marking the calendar for “time-in-job,” job-relevant tasks are mastered and documented.

“For companies eligible for a worker training grant or not, this discount program can significantly stretch a training budget in a impactful way. This approach makes a worker’s mastery of the job the focus and incorporates, building structure around, loosely arranged worker development activities.”

In the event that anyone needs one more way (i.e. in addition to live online presentations, onsite presentations) to gather enough information to decide whether to move forward with structured on-the-job training to boost their training strategy, we thought of an idea that might help them decide. Read Details

Apprenticeships – An Alternative to the “400 Hours For Drill Press” On-the-Job Training Model

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc
.
“Time-in-Job” Does Not Equal ”Tasks Mastered.” It does not reveal much about the level, quality, relevancy and transferability of the “on-the-job experience.” It is akin to students tests being graded on how long they sat in the classroom. But yet this approach endures. Don’ get me wrong, it is better than no on-the-job training effort. However, I think we all agree that it leaves a lot of opportunity on the table.

An unfortunate hold-over from the traditional U.S. apprenticeship is the standard practice of defining the on-the-job training requirement in terms of “number of hours.” General work areas that are thought of as representative of the job are selected, a number of total hours prescribed for each area totaling the on-the-job training requirement, and this – with the required related technical instruction – are registered.

We all know that we have worked, or are now working, next to co-workers who have been in the job classification for many years but for one reason or another seemed to not be able to perform all of the required tasks of the job. Some are called “area specialists,” but may have specialized in only the tasks they like to perform. Some might not have had an opportunity to learn and master certain tasks. When they are asked to train the next worker, their scope is limited to the tasks for which they specialized, and the pattern continues when that new person becomes a trainer later on. When Proactive Technologies sets-up a structured, task-based on-the-job training program and assesses incumbent workers to discover any gaps that might exist so the training can close them, it is common to find some long-time workers in the job classification that may have only mastered 20 or 30% of the total tasks that make up the job classification.

So what does the number of hours spent in a job area tell a person about the skills attained by the apprentice? How is this seemingly subjective metric measured and how is it tracked? Does it matter? Read More


Challenges Presented by the Widening Skill Gap

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 both 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 leaves 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. Read More


Developing the Multi-Craft and Specialty Maintenance Technicians You Need; To Specification, With Minimal Investment

Dr. Dave Just, MPACT Maintenance and Reliability Solutions
In the March, 2016 Proactive Technologies Report article, “Grow Your Own Multi-Craft Maintenance Technicians – Using a ˜Systems Approach™ to Training” I described how Proactive Technologies, Inc. and Mpact Maintenance and Reliability Solutions has joined forces to setup and implement the hybrid model of worker development for maintenance and technical support positions for their clients. The ‘systems approach” to worker development, as described, is simple in its structure but, also, includes the quality control points to ensure the worker development outcomes are reached. Although this approach can be used for any job classification in any setting, together we have applied this approach effectively for maintenance and technical support positions for many manufacturers over the last 2 decades.
We listened to our manufacturing clients. We heard the frustration they expressed in looking for highly qualified new-hire maintenance candidates when too few technical colleges offer a solid maintenance or maintenance technician program. The ones that either do not have content that is relevant enough or if they do, cannot graduate enough students to meet the demand. Employers realize they are, by necessity, a major part of the solution.

“The effects of ineffective training for 1 person can cost your firm more than the training budget for 10 employees for 10 years. Why take the chance with speculative training approaches that may not deliver anything more than cost and disappointment?”

The secret to success is in the “turn-key” approach. We understand that most small and medium-sized manufacturers have a very limited human resources staff, not to mention a non-existing training department. But they do have the subject matter experts who have mastered the training content, just lacking the training technique, materials and support. By applying the Proactive Technologies and Mpact expertise to set-up, implement, support, keep records and report training activity, the time the subject matter expert needs to make available for training new-hires and incumbents is minimized and the effects maximized. The investment needed is low, but the impact and return on worker investment is substantial. Read More

Education-Employer Partnerships That Work

By Frank Gibson, Special Projects Coordinator -The Ohio State University – Alber Enterprise Center
I have always been committed to helping employers improve their business processes and strategies. One challenge that remains front and center is making sure a steady supply of workers with the necessary core skills to learn the tasks of the job are available in the community, and that employers have the tools to address any skill gaps to ensure any employee can be trained to completely and competently perform the work for which they were hired. That is why I came out of retirement to continue my work in helping employers meet both challenges directly and successfully.
A lot is being said these days about “employer-responsive” worker training programs. I think all educational institutions want to believe they have all the answers to all of the challenges employers face. Although I have found that we have many of the answers for many disciplines, it is important to realize our limitations and either find other resources to fill the gap or be truthful with the client so that they might look elsewhere for those answers and solutions.

The Ohio State University – Alber  Enterprise Center  has been around since 1996 and was founded on the premise that we provide educational and technical consulting services to business enterprises throughout our region to help them grow and prosper. Whether to help them train their workers to the latest in technical skills or train their management on the latest management theories and best practices, the Alber Center has assembled an extensive network of institutional and private training providers to meet their needs and have continued to expand our network to help our employer-clients maintain their competitive best. Read More

Read the full March, 2017 newsletter, including linked industry articles and online presentation schedules.
Posted in News

Upcoming Live Presentations

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  • 7:00 am-7:45 am
    2017-12-06
    (Mountain Time) The philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; how any employer can benefit from the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development in more that just the training area; building related technical instruction/structured on-the-job training partnerships for employers in across all industries. When partnering with economic development agencies, public and private career and technical colleges and universities, this provides the most productive use of available grant funds and gives employers-employees/trainees and the project partners the biggest win for all. This model provides the lacking support needed to employers who want to easily and cost-effectively host an apprenticeship.  Approx 45 minutes.
  • 9:00 am-9:45 am
    2017-12-06
    (Mountain Time) This briefing explains the philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; how any employer can benefit from the PROTECH© system of human resource development in more that just the training area. This model provides the lacking support employers, who want to be able to easily and cost-effectively create the workers they require right now, need.  Approx 45 minutes.
  • 1:00 pm-1:45 pm
    2017-12-06
    (Mountain Time) The philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; how any employer can benefit from the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development in more that just the training area; building related technical instruction/structured on-the-job training partnerships for employers across all industries and how it can become an cost-effective, cost-efficient and highly credible apprenticeship. When partnering with economic development agencies, public and private career and technical colleges and universities, this provides the most productive use of available grant funds and gives employers-employees/trainees and the project partners the biggest win for all. This model provides the lacking support needed to employers who want to easily and cost-effectively host an apprenticeship.  Approx. 45 minutes
7
  • 7:00 am-7:45 am
    2017-12-07
    (Mountain Time) The philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; the many benefits the employer can realize from the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development in more that just the training area; examples of projects across all industries, including manufacturing and manufacturing support companies. When combined with related technical instruction, this approach has been easily registered as an apprenticeship-focusing the structured on-the-job training on exactly what are the required tasks of the job. Registered or not, this approach is the most effective way to train workers to full capacity in the shortest amount of time –cutting internal costs of training while increasing worker capacity, productivity, work quality and quantity, and compliance.  Approx 45 minutes.
  • 9:00 am-9:45 am
    2017-12-07
    (Mountain Time) The philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; how any employer can benefit from the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development in more that just the training area; building related technical instruction/structured on-the-job training partnerships for employers across all industries and how it can become an cost-effective, cost-efficient and highly credible apprenticeship. When partnering with economic development agencies, public and private career and technical colleges and universities, this provides the most productive use of available grant funds and gives employers-employees/trainees and the project partners the biggest win for all. This model provides the lacking support needed to employers who want to easily and cost-effectively host an apprenticeship.  Approx. 45 minutes
  • 1:00 pm-1:45 pm
    2017-12-07
    (Mountain Time) The philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; how any employer can benefit from the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development in more that just the training area; building related technical instruction/structured on-the-job training partnerships for employers across all industries one-by-one. How this can become a cost-effective, cost-efficient and highly credible workforce development strategy – easy scale up by just plugging each new employer into the system. When partnering with economic development agencies, and public and private career and technical colleges and universities for the related technical instruction, this provides the most productive use of available grant funds and gives employers-employees/trainees and the project partners the biggest win for all. This model provides the support sorely needed by employers who want to partner in the development of the workforce but too often feel the efforts will not improve the workforce they need. Approx. 45 minutes
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  • 7:00 am-7:45 am
    2017-12-18
    (Mountain Time) This briefing explains the philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; how any employer can benefit from the PROTECH© system of human resource development in more that just the training area. This model provides the lacking support employers, who want to be able to easily and cost-effectively create the workers they require right now, need.  Approx 45 minutes.
  • 9:00 am-9:45 am
    2017-12-18
    (Mountain Time) The philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; how any employer can benefit from the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development in more that just the training area; building related technical instruction/structured on-the-job training partnerships for employers across all industries one-by-one. How this can become a cost-effective, cost-efficient and highly credible workforce development strategy – easy scale up by just plugging each new employer into the system. When partnering with economic development agencies, and public and private career and technical colleges and universities for the related technical instruction, this provides the most productive use of available grant funds and gives employers-employees/trainees and the project partners the biggest win for all. This model provides the support sorely needed by employers who want to partner in the development of the workforce but too often feel the efforts will not improve the workforce they need. Approx. 45 minutes
  • 1:00 pm-1:45 pm
    2017-12-18
    (Mountain Time) The philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; how any employer can benefit from the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development in more that just the training area; building related technical instruction/structured on-the-job training partnerships for employers across all industries and how it can become an cost-effective, cost-efficient and highly credible apprenticeship. When partnering with economic development agencies, public and private career and technical colleges and universities, this provides the most productive use of available grant funds and gives employers-employees/trainees and the project partners the biggest win for all. This model provides the lacking support needed to employers who want to easily and cost-effectively host an apprenticeship.  Approx. 45 minutes
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