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
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
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
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.