How much do you really care about the training your employees receive? After all, training is expensive and it takes important supervisors and workers out of the plant site, reducing the overall productivity of the work force. Training is rarely important (except for safety), and rarely contributes a significant return on your investment in time, money, and people. In some cases you may even have to "un-teach" some of those new skills just so you can keep things moving the way they always have. After all, training is not one of those production and maintenance problems that keeps plant managers awake at night.
If you believe all that, you are living in the dark ages.
What you don't know can hurt you!
HSB Reliability Technologies has analyzed hundreds of manufacturing facilities over the years. One of our findings is that 40 to 60 percent of all maintenance work, whether in cement plants, steel mills, or oil refineries, did not need to happen (Focusing on Preventable Maintenance, MT 10/95, p 23). Of those "preventable maintenance" actions within the purview of the production and maintenance department, 30 to 60 percent could be attributed to human performance deficiencies, meaning a lack of, or improper, training, insufficient training, or inadequate human factors engineering (job aids, incentives, and environment). Further analysis discovered that when expressed in terms of hours worked or cost, the work that should not or need not have been done exceeds necessary work in some cases by a margin of 3 to 1. This is a significant expense, all for the lack of a few hours of instruction.
No matter how you slice the pie, unnecessary or preventable maintenance caused by training deficiencies is expensive, both in terms of labor and material and, even more significantly, in the lost opportunity cost of employees not given the knowledge and skills they need to fully function to the best of their ability. So now that we know how important training is to improved equipment and process reliability, how do we know what training to do? How do we set up our training to provide the outcomes we want? How do we determine if training is even the right expenditure of time and funds to insure we get the results we want?
Human performance enhancement
Performance enhancement or technology is a systems engineering approach using behavioral science techniques to analyze, design, and deliver activities which promote human performance in achieving the business goals of an organization. Performance enhancement is not just training, or organizational development, or human resources management. It is a synergistic process that seeks to optimize human reliability using a wide variety of tools. Human reliability is the total of all the effort that each individual contributes to decrease the variability of a process.
For example, using a job aid or standard operating procedure reduces the chances that a pump will be started wrong, or a seal installed backwards. The job aid also helps to reduce the experience gap between master and apprentice craftspeople. Training operators and craftspeople to use those procedures further decreases human variability, thus helping to eliminate preventable maintenance. By keying reward and incentive systems to procedure usage, you further heighten the desired performance. At each step you are defining and assisting the "people part" of the process. The bottom line is that equipment reliability and overall productivity are improved by leveraging your employees' knowledge, skill, and behavior.
In the accompanying "Performance Enhancement Model," various solution systems are shown. This type of analysis is also called "gap" analysis because you start by determining the "gap" between the actual performance being demonstrated and the optimal performance that you desire. Once you know where you are and where you want to go you can determine what it will take to close that performance gap.
Next ask why that gap exists. Has there been a change in technology? Has there been an organization or motivational change that has affected how people perform? If it is not a knowledge or skill problem, then training is not the answer. Don't waste time or money trying to drive a screw with a hammer.
Once you know what has caused the gap then you can select the appropriate training or non-training strategies to correct the problem.
But don't stop there. In every process or engineering system there is a feedback loop that allows you to measure if the step you took was effective. A human performance system is no different. You must measure whether the performance intervention was appropriate and that the gap has been closed or the problem solved.
Training for performance
Having determined that training is required to improve the performance of your maintenance staff, where do you go now? Start with a Training Needs Analysis (TNA). The TNA helps you determine what kind of performance you're after and dovetails with the performance enhancement model to provide training-specific outcomes that are required for a specific employee, craft, or responsibility. See "Training Needs Analysis or Assessment" section.
Once you have completed your TNA, you need to convert your findings into actions, to move beyond "touchy-feely" training to instruction that delivers bottom-line performance results.
Start training program development by gathering basic information: the training mission, core program goals, and operational or maintenance requirements. This will clarify the business outcomes and tie your training to a specific problem. This gives your training a target or goal right from the start and keeps it in alignment with the organization's vision. Remember, a training program that makes you feel good about yourself is nice until you walk out the door and get back to the plant. What counts in the plant is not "warm fuzzy's" but cold, hard knowledge and skills that can be wielded in daily business battles. Here are some examples of bottom-line skills:
Performance enhancement is giving your people the resources they need to succeed, not just handing them tool belts and saying go fix it. MT
Richard W. Lowell is the director of educational services for HSB Reliability Technologies, a maintenance management consulting firm with offices in Houston, TX, and Alexandria, VA. He has worked extensively in process and discrete manufacturing industries and the military as a trainer and performance consultant. He can be reached at 800 Rockmead Dr., Kingwood, TX 77339; (281) 358-1477
There are five phases in this process: