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Company training shouldn't be one-size-fits-all

By: Bill Bregar

April 9, 2013

TAMPA, FLA. — Companies need to offer a range of training, including e-learning, reading and videos, backed up with face-to-face learning for needed areas, such as kaizen events, an official of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers said at the Plastics News Executive Forum.

Jeannine Kunz said there is no one-size-fits-all training strategy. Create the best plan for the individual company, she said.

As SME's director of marketing and professional development, Kunz works with schools and manufacturers. Dearborn, Mich.-based SME also develops its own educational materials.

Kunz recommended "blended learning."

"You want to use different methodologies, based on what you're going to convey," she said.

The goal is to build a continuous-learning culture. Kunz also noted that a structured training program is a requirement for ISO certification, but added it should be more than just checking a box that says you have it.

"Training is not a quick fix," she said. You can measure the results of training by tracking quality and turnover. "Our people drive productivity and output."

Many companies cut back on training during the recession. Now they're paying the price in the recovery, Kunz said: "We have too many customers right now that are trying to do a quick ramp-up because they're launching a new line or they've got a new order. And it's just an uphill battle on some of those environments."

Kunz said hiring retirees can be a good idea, but it's not a long-term solution. She also recommended formalizing the "tribal knowledge" of older workers.

She acknowledged that technology plays an important role in factories, but when people skills don't keep up, it means "we're out of balance."

"We often find ourselves, as an organization and a company, investing in equipment, materials, tooling — and sometimes we forget the people," Kunz said.

And as baby boomers retire, Generation Y's are becoming a major part of the workforce, and Kunz said they expect their employer to invest in training and help them map out a career.

They will make a long-term decision on staying within your company in the first day, she said.