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
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
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.