A few years ago, during my time as a manufacturing manager, a supervisor asked in a meeting what I would like for Christmas. I told him that I would like to meet our goals sooner than promised. As you can imagine, that got a big laugh, but it also sparked a great discussion about training and development as a gift. While training may not be a gift in the traditional sense, it can help employees increase their knowledge, become more efficient, and ultimately grow as a person.
During my lean training, one of the instructors made a statement about training that has stuck with me all these years. He explained that there are two kinds of training—one directly improves an employee's skills for the job or task they do, and the other is development training that increases their overall skills, teamwork, leadership, and such.
At that time, I worked for a multinational company, and the CEO was a strong believer in providing more than on-the-job training. He felt it was important to help each employee grow as a person and said that world-class companies provide at least 40 hours of annual training that is not directly related to the task the employee performs.
As a result, we developed a training manifesto for the department. The training included OTJ, OEMs, technical colleges, and even university training. We performed job analyses, developed checklists, and implemented schedules for each skill and task. Next, we developed cross-training lists to ensure the department had at least three people on each shift who could do the same task.
During this process, we realized we had good training and procedures, but no one was consistently monitoring or managing the training. We ended up developing an in-department training position and proposed it to the Operations Director. He didn’t think twice about approving this position. One of our employees fit this position well and did a fantastic job in the role.
The results positively impacted the department. We saw great gains in quality, a reduction in downtime, and a major decrease in turnover.
The personal growth training was more difficult to implement. We ended up creating an employee development plan (EDP) that included a list of tasks and soft skills. Once more, I went to my Operations Director. It took a while to convince him to approve the training. He required that the training had to help the employee become more well-rounded and better prepared for a higher-level position.
The initial test started with my supervisory staff selecting 40 hours of external training for the year. It took 18 months for all of us to complete the training. However, the results were quickly apparent. The supervisors started to take on additional responsibilities and involve themselves more with employee development and encouraging their teams.
After seeing the impact of the EDP on our department, the Operations Director rolled it out companywide. However, it took a little pushing and encouragement to get the rest of the leadership team on board. Some had concerns that people would leave after we trained them—but what if we didn't train them and they stayed?
After 12 months, the data from our department showed the following improvements:
These are tangible results. In addition, safety improved and employee morale went up. We also promoted from within for many positions after we allowed every employee to take 40 hours of outside training.
Training is the gift that keeps on giving!