The Beginning, Training Program

Got a new job?

Don’t waste time learning the “tricks of the trade.” Instead, learn the trade. ~James Charlton

Different times in my life, for various reasons; I decided to embark on a new job.  For years,  I worked for the top three competitors of the same food category.  The transition between them was fairly easy because although different companies, being the same business segment they also had a lot of similarities.  But then one day, I decided to shake up things a bit and went out of my comfort accepting a job offer in a new industry.

How you set up yourself to be successful on a new job?  During the interview process you advertise all your skills and experience and now is time to show it.  As manager, I recruited many people during my career and my objective is to help them to be successful.  With that in mind, I guide them through a couple of steps, which are the same I followed.

First thing is to make sure that you fully understand your role.  Get that job description and read it, highlight those items that are not very clear, ask what they mean.  If you did your assignment, during the interview process you ask most of the questions but ensure you know all the expectations; performance appraisal goals, work hours, travel  and others.

My second step it to meet the key people.  Start with your own department and continue with all the others.  If you are in a new industry, like I was; you will have to learn the process and those things that are different and unique to this new one. A good way to do this is to ask the department managers for an overview of their processes and if it is possible to spend some hours with the people who perform those processes. There is no better way to learn than going to the gemba and see.

This step is very important because can set the tone of how your relationship with all these people will be.  Be respectful with their time. listen carefully, learn from their experiences.  Let them explain you those things they are proud of, make questions, engage on the conversation and ask for advice.  How you can you help them?  What they think should be your top priorities? Identify the people who is willing and able to help you, those with more experience who can me like a mentor for you.

How much time you spend to go thorough those steps depend on you, the company and of course your boss.  I think this process can be anywhere from a month to three months.  Knowing how your department and your role relates with the whole is very helpful to create your work plan.  If everything went as expected, also you build the foundation for a successful work relationship with your peers.  You don’t need any tricks, just to work letting your experience be an asset but not a road block to your learning process.

 

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Lean Trainings

Are you still thinking that training is not important?

Not much time ago, I visited a packaging plant that used to be the best of all their company facilities.  The plant performance, from quality to on-time delivery, from safety to operating costs was excellent.  This was possible thanks to their work force stability.  Most of the employees had more than 15 years of experience, very committed with the company and very knowledgeable of their procedures and policies.

One day for reasons out of their control, they lost almost 50% of their hourly team and was necessary to replace them with temporary employees.  The people coming, apparently with no reasons or desire to stay; walk out the door almost as fast as they come in.  The turnover rate grow exponentially from less that 1% to way more than 100%.  Why they leave?

Have you tried to assemble a piece of furniture? You start putting the thing together with great difficulty.  You scream, you curse, you are really aggravated, frustrated.  The instructions provided may help or not; most probably every time you read them you become more frustrated.  Out of frustration, you want to quit and most probably you will and let somebody else to deal with the problem.  Most probably, that is what happened on the plant I mentioned before.  There is no formal training program, new people come in and start working with some training, after several supervisors intervention for defects or downtime, frustrated employees walk out.

Everything starts with the hiring process, identifying the right candidates, people with values and beliefs that match those of the company.  If the candidate is not a match with these or the company culture, it will not stay long.  But even if the candidate is a match, no training, proper instructions and follow-up can frustrate the person up to a point where if feels neglected.

Training is highly important, especially during the first ninety days.  If things go wrong during the probation period, most probably it will not be any better later.  During this time, companies are also on probation, employees are also checking on how they are treated, how well they like the environment, how they feel being part of it.  Are we giving them any reason to stay or commit with the company?  What are we doing to attract and retain the best employees?  Are we doing anything to understand their needs?  If not, we better start soon, companies can gain or lose World Class Employees during that time.

Work Standards

Why do we have standards?

“Where there is no Standard there can be no Kaizen” – Taiichi Ohno

Not long time ago I was talking with a college about the reasons for unsuccessful lean implementations.  I shared with him this time on which after a very successful launch, suddenly everything stop working.  I had no idea of the reason until one day when talking with one of our managers with previous experience on a lean manufacturing environment he said, “you know what is our problem?  That we are using standards to make people accountable and take disciplinary actions if they do not”.

Standards are mean to be a guidance to ensure effective consistent work.  We cannot penalize our employees for making mistakes, that is how we learn.  Just like in our private lives we used symbols to mark our milestones and set our path to happiness, standards are tools to show us the current right way to complete a task in a such a way that we will satisfy our customer needs.

Standards are not written on stone, they are not static but dynamic, change over time.  They shall change because they are the baseline for continuous improvement.  Kaizen or continuous improvement is a lot about experimenting with new things, try something new and see how the outcome changes.  As managers we need to be aware that experiments are not always successful.  The real value is that we try something different, we did not accept something just because we always do it that way!

We need to use standards to set the right path to customer satisfaction and to inspire our employees to improve their process.  An employee who is owner of the process and actively participate from the continuous improvement process, is an employee who cares and therefore feels greater levels of job satisfaction.  With the right mentorship, our employees will be problem solvers, better professionals; and of course if they feel better by the time they get back home they will be better people as well.