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Why do business training?
As an auditor, consultant, employee, and trainer, I have been in many dozens of different facilities. With that background I have been able to identify a common trait among companies that have strong business management systems, strong quality systems, a high customer satisfaction, and high employee morale. “What is it you ask?” Companies with these positive attributes and, oh yes, profitability, have very good employee training programs.
It should be understood that highly trained, competent employees are among a company’s greatest assets. These employees grow and change as the business changes. They are a tangible part of the company. However, many of you are going to say, “But, we can’t afford to train right now. Our direct labor costs are too high and our productivity is too low!”
That brings to mind a plant tour I was on at Wainwright Industries in St. Peters, Missouri about 10 years ago. When the company was well in the “red” and losing money, the ownership instituted a dramatic employee training program to supplement the changes being made to the way the business was being run. Three or four years later Wainwright won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Guess what happened to their profitability!
Last year I was conducting a Second Party Audit at an aerospace parts machining company in Central Illinois. This was a privately owned company with about 125 employees. I had the following Objective Evidence to support a training finding (QMS nonconformance):
A. Not all managers have a training file. For example the Engineering Projects Manager that was hired seven months prior to this audit does not have a training file.
B. Training records for Internal Auditors, both management and hourly could not be produced. (Note that this training was limited to two hours for each Internal Auditor)
- A training needs assessment, or identified training needs for management personnel does not exist. For example the Quality Manager does not have any future training needs identified, even though he has been the Quality Manager for less than two years and has less than 10 years in the field. None of the management personnel or other personnel have completed ISO 9000 Lead Auditor training.
- New hire orientation training records are incomplete. Those new hire orientation records that do exist do not reflect a review of the Quality System.
This is just one of several Findings identified during this Audit. The On-The-Job training performance was also weak. Typically, a new employee at this company was given minimal direction for their OJT; “Here, just do this and when you get that figured out come and see me.” Were there serious problems;absolutely! There is a reason the customer sent me to this company. Late shipments, damaged shipments, incorrect packaging, defective parts, incorrectly labeled parts were some of the problems that the customer had been experiencing from this supplier in the previous several months. A typical indication of the absence of well-defined processes.
Contrast this audit with another aerospace parts supplier the customer sent me to, also located in Central Illinois, which I Audited the next day. I found out later that this company was being considered for additional business. They were also privately owned and had about 75 employees. The following is a portion of my Audit Report:
XYZ demonstrates a determined effort to invest in the business. Recent investments are a 10,000 sq. ft. building addition and recent major machining equipment purchases. Housekeeping was very good considering the nature of the operation. Even though this is a small operation, each manager has a fully trained back-up, and a total of 5 managers have gone through QS 9000 Lead Auditor training.
There were not any issues or concerns as a result of this audit.
This company had an incredible training program; both formal and OJT. They clearly had the desire to invest in their business, including their employees. There is a reason this company was being considered for additional business. In addition, they had low employee turn-over and apparently high morale – all integral ingredients for continuous improvement.
Some business training program strengths that I’ve observed:
- Managers are involved in the training needs identification and program development.
- There is an understanding that the purpose of training is to change behavior.
- Expectations are created prior to the training.
- Training is Simple, Relevant, and Factual
- Juran’s thinking is followed in that the vital few concepts are taught and not the trivial many.
- There is an understanding that training is not an expense, rather it is an investment.
- Effective training programs in general follow a Deming Cycle: Training needs are identified;Training is developed;Training is delivered;Training feedback and effectiveness are obtained.
- In-House trainers are well trained, enthusiastic and passionate ‘experts’.
- Training is made as enjoyable as possible for both the trainer and trainees.
- Training is considered part of one’s job. When a person goes back to their normal activities the work is not piled up waiting for them to catch up, rather it has been distributed to others as much as possible.
Why companies don’t do training?
I’ve discovered two primary reasons. One, managers, including top management, don’t understand the benefits and need for thoroughly training employees at all levels. Two, managers don’t understand that employee training is an investment and not an expense. Note that both of the reasons rest with management.
Managers, who are often not trained past their education or OJT, do not understand the need for and benefit of a well-trained workforce. The key element here is the need for enlightenment. Different people learn differently and, a company needs to invest in their entire workforce, with relevant and appropriate training. As management becomes more enlightened (trained), they will see the need and benefit for a well trained hourly and professional workforce.
Too often companies are run by cost and tax returns (the accounting department). While the discussion of this will have to wait for another article, companies operating in this mode typically have problems. Companies in this mode will state that they cannot afford to have direct labor employees taken away from their normal work and put into training sessions. This activity is measured as a loss of productivity and is considered an expense.
However, an interesting thing I notice about these companies is that they can always find the time and means to rework bad product or to accept high scrap rates. Both of these items are direct expenses—in other words, wastes. In addition, managers at these companies are typically left on their own for training and career enhancement. Enlightenment is needed here to. These companies need to understand the concept of training as an investment and not an expense.
To learn more about implementing continuous process improvement within your organization, attend the next improvement class How to Align a System of People and Processes for Results . Or, Learn How to Create Well-Defined Processes and to document processes.