Training with a purpose

Eight steps to cash positive education.

By Shon E. Isenhour, CMRP

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Training is a crucial investment, which, unfortunately, has been shelved by many because of the recent economic downturn. As a result, many employees are ill-equipped to support the facility when production levels start rising. As training budgets slowly become available again, it will be imperative to make sure you see immediate value from training investments.

According to Harold Stolovitch in “Telling Ain’t Training”, American industry spent more than $100 billion on training annually pre-downturn, but no more than 10% of that trainings actually transferred to the job. Many of the reasons are addressed in the eight steps below that, if followed, will drive maximum performance and squeeze the most benefit from every dollar of training, internship or apprenticeship budget. The eight steps to cash positive education are:

  • Complete a job task analysis (JTA)
  • Understand the current knowledge
  • Plan you training
  • Communicate with supervisors
  • Develop and deliver training
  • Coach in trainee’s environment
  • Follow up audit of training application
  • Build a process to sustain

Let’s step through each of these and see a bit more of the detail that each step holds.

Job Task Analysis (JTA)

This explains what one needs to know to perform the job. First, define each of the jobs and positions within your organization by performing a job task analysis. This is a listing of the common activities an individual is expected to perform.

American industry spent more than $100 billion on training annually pre-downturn, but no more than 10% of that trainings actually transferred to the job.

– Shon E. Isenhour, CMRP

There are multiple ways to obtain the information, such as purchasing a standard list that you can build from or use as is; or using previously completed business process flow maps that have responsibilities identified. Another option is to observe an employee and note tasks completed day after day, asking questions, and building a task list from these observations and conversations.

This can be an expensive way to collect the data and, thus, isn’t the preferred method. The best way I’ve found is to combine a bit of each of these approaches with the wisdom of a focus team comprised of carefully selected members. The success of JTA is based on these subject matter experts’ ability to generate the list from past experience or pick the task from a task database and determine its frequency, difficulty and effect on reliability. These types of team-driven processes help to identify the facets of the job as well as build more buy-in for the entire training process. People enjoy talking about what they do and some of the intricacies of their job might be unknown to management. As the skills for each position become more defined, we can begin to understand who needs what, according to this JTA. Then, use this as the input for the next step of the process.

Understand the current knowledge

This explains what one knows now. Assess the skills of the trainee; this can be done with job performance appraisals if detailed, direct, consistent and unbiased information is available. However, this information usually isn’t the most effective or accurate way to populate the training matrix because the performance appraisal generally doesn’t meet the quality levels you want.

Three options are the hands-on, written or computer-based tests. These can be developed in-house for your specific processes and equipment, which can provide the most accurate measure of applicable skills. In some cases, the tests can be purchased through various training and testing vendors, depending on the discipline of the trainee and the task.

Populate the training matrix with the test results (Table 1). If the trainee is in maintenance organization, store the training matrix in your enterprise asset management system to help maintenance supervisors and planners make work assignments. With this information readily available, planners and supervisors can pair a highly-skilled technician with one at a lesser skill level for cross training purposes. This will, of course, build depth in your maintenance organization.

Name Task 1 Task 2 Task 3
Task 4
Craftsman 1   Apprentice Master  
Craftsman 2 Master
Master   Apprentice
Table 1. Example of a section of a training matrix


Plan your training

This explains how and when one gets what training, what could prevent training success and what can be done to increase likelihood of success. When you develop your training plan, keep one thing in mind: don’t train everyone on everything. This is a common mistake. Over-training costs money and reduces overall training effectiveness. Unless the overlap is about 85%, don’t offer “standard training courses.” Use your JTAs to provide only the skills a person’s job requires. For example, if you were providing SAP Plant Maintenance training to maintenance planners, proper training might take days to complete. SAP training for the operations supervisors, however, might involve only a few process steps. Therefore, only a short two-hour training session is required.

Once you know what content you are going to teach, take the time to identify and mitigate training program risk. When identifying risk, think about factors that could reduce training effectiveness or overall return on investment. You might choose to use a simple tool like the proactive training plan chart (Table 2) to identify and mitigate high risks.

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