Advice to Managers on Getting Most Value from Workforce Training—Get the training in use!

The purpose of training your people is to develop capabilities the business needs and to add value to your people so they feel that they have greater worth. But the most important benefit of training is often lost because managers do not get their newly trained people to improve the system of work with their better knowledge and skills.




Advice to Managers on Getting the Most Value from Training. Everyone needs training to reach their highest potential. Training introduces new ideas and new ways that make us more effective people. There is one vital issue managers need to keep in mind about training if you want to get the greatest returns from the investment in time, money and commitment. Only training put to use returns value and only training of value is of use.

Keywords: system of work, workplace improvement, training best practice, work skills development, employee training and development


When I was a maintenance manager I learnt the secret of successful training the hard way. Now that I deliver training I see that every manager makes the same mistake. The experience of wasted training described below made me look at how to get the greatest value from training.

The machines at the industrial company where I was the maintenance manager suffered regular roller bearing failures and I decided to send all our mechanical fitters to do a four-day training course with specialist roller bearing trainers. My hopes soared that finally we would solve the root cause of these on-going bearing failures that had plagued the business for years. All eight maintenance fitters took the bearing course over the next three months. This was a world class bearing course. The course content was sound, thorough and complete—the theory was explained and then practiced at a work-bench on sample equipment. There was no better bearing training available. But a year after all fitters had been trained we still suffered the same frequency of bearing failures. The training had done nothing to change the performance of the operation.

For a long time I pondered what had gone wrong. Then I read W. Edwards Deming’s book, ‘Out of the Crisis’ and realised what had happened. I had failed my people by not getting them to make use of their new knowledge to improve the way they worked. I had not changed the system of work that they laboured under. Though they had new knowledge the system stopped them from using it.

When each fitter returned from the course they simply went back into a system of work that perpetuated the bearing failures that they were meant to stop. As the manager in charge it was my responsibility to change the system of work and make sure that the people in it had the knowledge and skills to produce the outcomes required. My people had trained in the right competencies but I had not changed the work system so that they could use them as standard practice every day.

Make Sure the Training is used to Improve the System of Work
I would do things differently now. I would give my people permission to improve their system of work with the training they learn. But it would be done to a particular formula. Before any training was done by my people I would first select the problem(s) to be addressed in the operation. I would chose the training course with the content that brought the business most value and select those people currently suffering the problem to go to the course. I’d bring the persons going to the training into my office and give them each a letter containing a description of the problem that they were to overcome (or at least reduce its impacts) when they returned from the training.

Every trainee would be asked to improve their system of work with the new knowledge they bring into the company. They would be required to change the system of work within their realm of responsibility and bed-down the improvements. As their manager I would ensure they had the time and resources to make the changes. The final outcome of their improvement effort would be revised procedures tested to produce better results in the workplace, followed by providing on-the-job training to others in the operation that needed to know of the new changes and methods.

By asking people to fix their problems the training is put to use. Now the everyday work practices done in the operation are improved. In this way you created more valuable people who know what to do and feel responsible to deliver better outcomes with quality and pride.

With the example of the bearing problems, I should have given my fitters time to put the relevant course content into our bearing fitting procedures. They ought to have returned and immediately been working on improving the system of work. That would have made world best practice the normal way to do bearing installation in our company. I should have let the fitters change the bearing lubrication practices to include the better ideas they learned at the training. Letting my people solve the bearing failure problems would have delivered pride and satisfaction. Back then I did not understand what my role was as a manager of men. My training had been deficient too.

More Great Value from Problem Specific Training
There are other great benefits to be gained from using this problem-specific training approach. Those that go on the training are focused on learning answers. They are on a mission to bring back solutions to a specific situation that they know about because they live within the present system of work that causes the problems. They will ask useful questions and dig for answers that they can use at work. They will have a wonderful and effective training experience no matter the trainers ability.

Those people that change the system of work because of the training will own the changes; they will help others to use them correctly; they will train newcomers in the better ways; they will forevermore be looking for new and superior ways to make their system of work better.

I am no longer a maintenance manager. Since 2005 I have been a maintenance trainer presenting training courses across Australia, the Gulf States and South East Asia to hundreds of people at dozens of presentations. Every Attendee I have delivered training to was never there with instructions from their manager to improve their company. They were at the course to learn but were not required to use that knowledge to make positive change when they returned to work. I am confident that nothing changed in those companies because there was no plan in place to do so.

I regret the training mistake I made as an unaware manager. Thankfully I have since come to realise what I should have done. If your people go to a training course and come back to work with new knowledge yet nothing changes, then you have wasted everyone’s time and lost the company a lot of money. New learning must be used to make new improvements.

Managers are responsible to their company’s future and for identifying the knowledge and skills they and their people need in the future. If you want to be a manager that makes a difference then help your people bring new ideas into use so they can help you create a better company.


My best regards to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ