I have long been an advocate of training in manufacturing companies. I do a lot of training in various organizations and have seen some of its benefits first-hand. Yet training requires planning and commitment in order to be effective. In fact, to get the most out of any training effort and not fall into the trap of “training for training’s sake,” companies should consider the following steps:
1. Select training that can provide an immediate impact. When planning a training program, start with something that will provide immediate results. For example, hands-on training on machine tools and equipment can deliver results quickly. Likewise, training on workplace organization techniques can lead to a more organized workplace, which makes everyone’s job easier. One of these organization techniques includes the 5S system: sort out unneeded items; set in order the needed items; shine everything for cleanliness and proper operation; standardize to assure clear workplace organization; and sustain the organization effort through auditing and corrective action.
Training on problem-solving techniques also can provide employees with the skills needed to solve problems they encounter in their workplaces. I recently worked with a group of employees on problem-solving techniques, including cause and effect diagramming, which is commonly referred to as “fishbone diagramming.” The training incorporated actual problems that employees faced on a regular basis. In this case, the employees were able to immediately see the benefits of the techniques that they learned by generating solutions to their own “real” problems. To maintain momentum after completing the training, teams were created to apply the learned techniques to other areas in the organization.
2. Determine who is best suited to receive the training. It’s easy to say that everyone needs to be trained. However, not everyone needs to be trained in the same things. Those who are most closely involved in a process are the ones best suited for training specific to that process. Although there are benefits to including “outsiders” in certain types of training, the bulk of the benefits will be realized by those who can apply it to what they do. Targeting training to the right individuals will increase the likelihood that the new skills will be applied most effectively.
3. Understand what will be required for effective training. When planning any type of training, it is essential to understand how much time will be required and how many people will need to participate. Some types of training are better delivered over a short duration to maintain continuity. The example of hands-on training on machine tools or equipment fits into this category. It would be difficult to become proficient in operating a machine by training one hour per week for 10 weeks. Yet, other types of training can be spread out over a longer period of time without losing the continuity for a successful outcome.
4. Commit to the training you have planned. In just about any business, it’s safe to say that the unexpected becomes the norm. There will be times when emergencies occur and sparing resources is difficult. In fact, probably anyone can come up with a valid reason to postpone a scheduled training session. However, if these sessions are constantly set aside in favor of more pressing needs, the anticipated benefits that motivated you to plan the training in the first place will not be fully realized. If the commitment to completing all of the planned training cannot be met, it is better to wait until such a time that it can be.
5. Monitor the training’s effectiveness. Once finished, there needs to be a means of determining the improvements realized as a direct result of the training. Such a metric is an essential, yet often overlooked component of the overall training process. Measuring results will assist in evaluating whether the training fully met expectations. Improvements in quality, service levels, productivity, safety or any other critical aspects of the business serve as the best justification for continued training in any organization. On the other hand, an honest appraisal of what did not go well with the training is just as important because this will play a role in planning effective training in the future.
Although training really is just the first step in an organization-wide improvement effort, it is a step that needs to be planned and managed effectively. Incorporating the above steps into your training plan will help you get the most out of your training dollar.