Training must be looked at like all other processes on the shop floor. It must be viewed as something that can be continuously improved and streamlined. That means identifying and overcoming constraints. I’d like to describe three common training process constraints and how to address them.
Training does cost money. It’s recommended that companies spend 2 percent of a veteran employee’s annual compensation on formal training every year. (In a new employee’s first year or two, expect a 5-percent investment.) Investing 2 percent of an employee’s wages into maintaining and improving attitudes, knowledge and skills is a small price when it’s consider alongside the long-term costs of employees stagnating—which realistically means going backwards. Training is not just a new employee thing, but part of a continuous-improvement strategy involving every employee. If your company has not committed to any annual budget for developing each employee, consider doing so. If it’s the full 2 percent, start with 1/2 or 1 percent—and watch the effects of this investment.
It is easy to push training off as the thing you’ll do when you “absolutely have to.” The negative effects of lack of training may not be visible until something goes wrong, so we tend to approach training in a reactive way. And reactive training does have its place. However, when it comes to both new employee training and veteran employee development, taking the time to train can avoid significant time lost to problem and reaction later.
A veteran employee ought to understand that learning is part of his or her responsibility as a member of your team—though this responsibility might involve no more than 10 minutes per day devoted a structured and measured development exercise. The message of even this much training will be clear. That is, employees should learn something every day.
As for new employees, the time constraint can be a double-edged sword. If you allow an unlimited amount of time for new employees to learn their jobs, then the message is too laid-back. Motivation will suffer. But if you don’t give them enough time, they won’t learn the information well. A balance is achieved by using a structured program that spells out clear and objective achievement expectations attached to a fairly stern timeline.
In my experience, the culture of the company can be the biggest constraint of all against training initiative success. The culture comes from the company’s leadership and management. If an employee thinks his or her manager does not support the training initiative, it will fail. Workers will generally try to please and impress their immediate supervisor, and if they see their supervisor scoff at the idea of training, the effectiveness of the program declines greatly. Top managers must hold the entire leadership team accountable for the proper attitudes required of a shop with a training and education culture. Work to establish one voice as a leadership team to develop this culture.