February 17th, 2021
Training – More Important Today Than Ever
Today, I was asking a department head about a certain purchasing agent that I had not heard from in a while. I found out that she was promoted. “Oh, great,” I said, “What is her new position?” I asked. “She was promoted to trainer,” he said. This singular statement made me ponder the importance of training within today’s door and window companies and how companies hold—in such high esteem—the people who excel in the art of training.
By using the word “promoted” in reference to the training position, he revealed that firstly, his company really values the art of employee training and, secondly, that his organization holds in high esteem those who excel in the art of training. And it should be that way! Indeed, with skilled labor being in such short supply these days, it is absolutely critical for manufacturing companies to formulate an effective training strategy in order to maximize the impact of their manufacturing teams. Training affects three critical factors that can make or break the company’s success.
The first factor is: productivity.
To enhance the productivity of a new employee, one must first do an assessment of his or her skillsets. Next, determine the gaps between the unique skillset that each employee holds versus the demands of the job. The trainer can help to maximize on-the-job productivity by leveraging each employee’s unique set of skills while sharpening the those that are lacking. Treating each employee’s training in an identical fashion can be deleterious. No one wants to be shown how to do something that they are clearly already good at doing. At the same time, most people will embrace a program that helps them improve in areas where they know they need a boost. So, a canned training approach is not always the best. This is where the skills of the trainer come into play. The ability to adapt a program to each employee is key to optimizing the productivity of each associate and therefore the entire team. One thing that should be constant, however, is to instill in each employee the overall goals of the organization as well as the company’s value proposition and culture. Indeed, all employees must share the same big picture.
The second factor is: quality.
Adherence to standards is critical. Reaching daily production goals is also crucial. However, achieving output at the expense of quality is moving in the wrong direction. Each employee should understand how the whole door or window is put together. For example, if the person running the saw also understands how the window is welded, he or she will better appreciate how his or her job impacts the next operation in the sequence. If the production team produces 500 windows in a day and 20 of them are rejected due to poor quality, then 480 windows were just produced at the cost of 500. This means that cost per window just went up by 4%.
The third factor is: employee morale.
Spending time and money on training programs tells your employees that you are willing to invest in them and their futures. Ask a human resources person what reasons they most often hear during exit interviews from people who have chosen to leave the company. You may very well hear “lack of training” as one of the frequent factors listed. On the flip side, training makes people feel valued. It is a huge morale boost. The result is less turnover. Greater employee retention translates to longer tenure, and longer tenure in turn translates to better trainers in the future!
A good rule of thumb is that organizations should spend between 1 to 5% of their total salary expense on training. Given the challenges of staffing a highly motivated manufacturing team these days, I would recommend leaning toward the high end in this regard. The result will be a more productive workforce, improved quality and a significant boost in employee morale!