Good training is something that we know is necessary. In light of Industry’s aging demographics and retiring experience, we need good training to carry us successfully into the future. As technology evolves more quickly and changes almost daily, we need good training to help us to wring the last dollar out of our constant upgrades and investments. And as reliability improves and minimizes our employees’ opportunities to observe “a blip”, we need good training to substitute for on-the-job learning.
But the best-designed training program in the world will fail miserably in its delivery if conditions at your site are not supportive of the effort. If a seed is planted, receives no sunshine, no water, and is allowed to be choked off by weeds – do you REALLY think it has a chance to root and bear fruit? You’re right – training isn’t farming – but let’s look at the five things most likely to cause your training program to fail:
- It is not supported from the top down It’s training. Add it to the list of initiatives that we’re already worrying about. If management isn’t convinced – and solidly and obviously behind the training effort, then why should the workforce care about it? “My day is full; the folks upstairs haven’t really thrown their support against this one: this ‘flavor of the month’ will pass, too.”
- It is not supported from the bottom up It’s training. “Why do we need it? Our plant is running okay; we haven’t had any major incidents in quite awhile. It’s just one more thing to take my attention away from all of the things I have to get done on my shift. And with me retiring in five years, maybe I can just wait them out.”
- It is not consistent with the culture of your site
“Learning on the computer? Sitting in classrooms? I’ve learned what I need to know by talking and by shadowing. Taking tests? The last test I took was in high school – why do we need to start that again?” If the training can be designed to work within the existing social framework, that’s great. But there will be a “best” way to teach each topic – and it may not be a discussion over lunch. Some changes will likely be introduced – and the better they are understood, the greater the chance of their acceptance.
- It is not thought of in “the long term” So the schedules are posted and we should be done with this new training program by the end of the year. “Then we can get back to doing things the way we’ve ALWAYS done them. We’ll just have to get through this new stuff.”
- It is not put together with the specifics of YOUR PEOPLE in mind Canned programs; material created and used effectively elsewhere. It’s tempting to cut corners, minimize cost, and just use what others have already benefited from. But if it’s not “my unit” or “my equipment”, your workforce may have a tough time making the mental leap to what THEY do and how THEIRS works. In the best case, they’ll lose time learning the new material because it’s just “not right”. In the worst case, they may build faulty logic – or may not get it at all.
It’ll definitely cost more at the end of the day: building downward and upward buy-in, taking the time to explain and discuss how, and why, and where this fits in – and, perhaps most importantly of all – making it custom to your staff and your site.
But if it’s worth planting the seed – isn’t it worth making sure that it can grow at your site?
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