Inconsistent Training Outcomes

There are dramatic differences in leadership perception around new hire training. Newer employees report feel well trained and well supported, though many admit that their first days and weeks are often chaotic and confusing from a logistics perspective. Their positive outlook was based heavily in the way that they were treated in one-on-one interactions; feeling seen and heard; feeling welcomed; and feeling their trainers’ genuine desire for them to succeed. It was not based on actual competence. But why then did executives disagree on whether the training was effective?

Assessment Insights

A significant cause of the differences in training appeared to be the differences in goals, philosophies, and opinions across different team leaders. However, we discovered that the general theme was as follows: In generations of any educational system, there is a natural erosion of knowledge that takes place in each passage. No educator can pass 100% of their knowledge on a topic over to a pupil. In this firm’s production environment, a trainer could only pass on a majority of their knowledge to their trainees, but not all. If that trainee then later became a trainer themselves, they experienced the same phenomenon. It is assumed that the once-trainee-turned-trainer will have the added benefit of their own experience and observations in between being a trainee and becoming a trainer. But it is unlikely that they will have reached the level of knowledge and skill of their own original, seasoned “master trainer” by the time they become one themselves. Because this manufacturer was experiencing shorter and shorter periods between being a trainee and becoming a trainer, their trainers were passing on significantly lower volumes of knowledge.

Applied Methods

The first step of our action plan was to address the inconsistencies. Training goals and philosophy were not clearly defined by leadership or formally, openly communicated to the organization. We established with leadership a set of goals that were tightly aligned with the long-term business strategy of the plant. Department leaders contributed to this and were well versed in those expectations through open dialogue with leadership. The most seasoned employees in relevant roles were invited to give input into the building and regular auditing of the training program. Those employees were sought out for buy-in on the selection criteria of trainers going forward.

Then, starting with a handful of pilot departments in this large organization, we process-mapped the new hire training process along two parallel paths: one based on what executives understood to be occurring; and a second shadowing actual new-hires for their first weeks using daily mini-check-ins and journaling.

We discovered that the training process leadership thought was occurring was rarely surviving intact on the production floor. Trainers were pulled away on a daily basis to address backlog or expedites – leaving brand new trainees routinely unsure of what to do with their working time. Also, once a trainee was competent with the most basic of functions, production supervisors would end their training. This left most new hires totally unprepared to troubleshoot any issues or deviations in process from the most basic production activities. At this point, the new hires were often transferred to 2nd and 3rd shifts, where running into essentially any issue could mean that they may be forced to conclude that the work is unable to continue until the following shift when an experienced employee was present to troubleshoot.

To solve these issues – we identified the best trainers from several production functions throughout the organization and obtained their input on the formal training structure that had been assumed by the executive team. We made changes to it based on their feedback on what was most effective. We then walked production supervision through what we had observed from our assessment and its impact on their overall production and performance. In conjunction with a small team of supervisors and trainers, we established practical safeguards around training time. Recognizing that there would remain high priority issues that would require them to be pulled occasionally, we identified protocols for new hires to pursue self-guided training (not just sticking them in front of a video, we promise) during those time periods. We also developed transparent progress documents and checklists that new hires could use to allow their peers to be more active in their training during such disruptions – as well as for all team members to keep a lookout for uncommon situations that new hires needed exposure to. This also served as a source of confidence and growth as new hires had a better understanding of their own progress.

We had production supervisors within the client organization conduct quick field measurements [using a simple likert scale] before beginning these action items. It measured the confidence levels of both current trainees and their peers with regard to their ability to perform their roles. At the conclusion of the pilot round, the client saw a 30% increase in confidence levels of the trainees, and a 65% increase in the confidence level of their peers.