Why Lean Training and Development Matter Wavebreakmedia Ltd / Thinkstock

Why Lean Training and Development Matter

If Lean training is treated as just a “one off” type of event, it won’t provide much benefit to the company in the long run.

Employee training and development have always lagged in the United States versus other developed nations. In fact, ASTD’s 2013 State of the Industry report found that U.S. employees averaged 30.3 hours of training in 2012. Employees in “best in class” U.S. organizations used substantially higher amounts of training, averaging 57.7 hours each, which was an all-time high.

While this sounds great, when compared to other developed countries in Europe and Asia, it is downright paltry, as employees in many of those nations average 200 hours per year of training and development.

According to an article in Human Resource IQ entitled, "Hire & Fire vs. Corporate Training: HR Practices in the U.S. and Europe," developing current employees versus the “hire and fire” type of mentality typically found in the U.S. has major consequences, good and bad.

In the U.S. it is common to look for better candidates and to replace staff if necessary, while in Europe, employees tend to stay longer with the same company.

There are advantages to both approaches, of course. “Hire and fire” gives companies more flexibility, for example, but you lose valuable experience and insider information. As the article states, “Constant changes in the team can disrupt team building; the working group has to repetitively define and re-define group roles, establish trust amongst co-workers, resolve conflicts, and develop a daily routine.” It can also increase the talent pool in an organization, and new people may also bring different viewpoints and valuable experience.

On the other hand, while training may be expensive, it can improve productivity, quality and morale. Soft skill training can deal with individual underperformance as employee issues can be traced back to interpersonal conflicts due to a lack of soft skills.

Many states offer “free” training grants. Typically, they are “matching” grants where the training is free but companies have to take employees out of work to attend training while still paying them their normal wages, thus the “match.” There is usually quite a lot of resistance to this, especially in small to mid-size companies that may be struggling to get by. Others tend to look at it as “free” training and take advantage of it but treat it as a “one off” type of event.

However, in Lean as well as other technical and even soft skills training, if treated as “one off” type of training, it really won’t provide much benefit to the company in the long run.

I believe that is a major reason why many Lean initiatives in the U.S. are considered less than successful, as leaders tend to look at short-term results, rather than looking at the “big picture” and the long term. There are some exceptions to this (such as my old employer, General Electric) which understand the value of training and development of employees and, at least partially as a result, have had continuous success over a long period of time.

So, if you’re considering implementing Lean in your supply chain or elsewhere, consider not only the investment but the long-term soft and hard benefits to your company. If you do that, then it should be a “no brainer.”

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