When it comes to training, "what I often see happen is that people will invest in some training and then hope that the results will shine through," says Ryan Hale, lead consultant with Stroud Consulting. Instead, he says, manufacturers must first understand what results they want to achieve and then pick the training and tools to achieve those results.

In some instances, the link between a required skill and business goals may be very obvious. For example, if a business goal for a pipe company is to be able to offer six different types of welding options, the training for welders should assure that they can perform the six types of welds in question.

The rigorous link can be harder to draw when it comes to softer skills, says Hale, who provides this example: "Say the question is, 'How effective am I at giving feedback, as a manager? And If I were more effective at giving feedback, could we make 5% more profit this quarter?'"

The question still should begin with: What results do I want to achieve?

In another example, Hale presents several continuous improvement goals related to reducing costs at the plant level. With those goals in mind, the questions for leadership may then be: Will training on motivating employees help achieve those goals? Will my being a more effective communicator help achieve those goals? Or is training on providing feedback or challenging the mindsets of employees required to meet those goals?

"We should be able to very easily tie back the skills and the capabilities of our leadership team and also our hourly staff to the business goal they are trying to achieve," Hales says. "If it takes two or three leaps, people should start to question whether or not [they] should make a big investment in that training."


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