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Proficiency Training: What’s the Problem?

Recent research reports that many root cause investigations prescribe training as the primary go-to method of problem remediation. Despite organizations providing these corrective action plans to customers for approval, there’s often little evidence to suggest that a lack of training caused the observed issue. It’s almost universally accepted that training will remedy the observed problem.


Whether that’s an accurate assessment or not, training does provide indisputable benefits to the employee and organizational development.

Training fundamentally improves an employee’s overall competency and proficiency. Let’s say a retired surgeon has been out of the operating room for 10 years. Though they may have the skills on paper from years of surgery experience, they won’t be as effective as someone with an equal amount of recent experience. Consistent practice drives efficiency.


But most organizations have ineffective training systems. They have to accommodate employees and trainers with different schedules. There’s often only a loosely defined training plan with limited forethought going into the content strategy and delivery of training materials. Most troublingly, team commitment is typically lackluster in response to scheduled training exercises. 


Let's examine how organizations approach professional training internally and externally, discuss where those platforms fall short, and what other solutions organizations can use to address problems stemming from training.

Read on to learn more.



Defaulting to On-The-Job Training Programs Is a Mistake



Why do so many companies default to on-the-job training programs where mentors work closely with new or poorly performing employees? On-the-job training is difficult to document. It also fails to identify the necessary skill sets required for each position within an organization.


Most employees aren’t performing surgery. They’re repairing equipment, fabricating a product, doing prep work, or helping customers.

Each of these roles has unique education and experience requirements as they relate to the organization they work in. On-the-job-training is used because organizations tend to believe that given a certain period of time, with the right exposure to circumstances, an employee will gain substantial knowledge and experience.


However, non-conformance data, corrective actions, and customer complaints don’t support this supposition. Something more is necessary.



Learning to Leverage Trainee’s Attention Spans



At the other end of the spectrum, some businesses who perform training in dedicated meetings derail their training programs with painfully boring and long-winded sessions. The average attention span is 14 minutes. The most effective training is accomplished in sprints.


When training is provided externally, many trainers will encourage long sessions. These sessions accommodate business travel schedules and represent a substantial cost reduction.


Internal training faces similar problems. Managers have little time to spare. They’re pressed to consolidate multiple subjects into one session. They attempt to cover too many topics, which results in low-quality content.



Employees Won’t Endure Ineffective Training. They’ll Leave.



Most industries define high turnover as more than 10% of your workforce. If your organization cuts the bottom 10% of performers on an annual basis, you’re likely in good shape with employee retention. However, in a business with 50 employees, if you lose seven employees in a typical year, you’re probably losing some valuable team players.


Countless research shows that failure to equip employees for success is one of the top five reasons high performers depart an organization. Another of the top five for high turnover rates is employee frustration resulting from a lack of guidance, career development, and feedback, which can be summarized is leadership failure.



Training Deficiencies Cost Your Organization Money



Training deficiencies can cause employee turnover, recurring non-conformances, repeat corrective action, and customer complaints. These cost organizations money, time, and business. In the quality management sector, we call this the “Cost of Poor Quality,” which in turn results in:


  • Extra materials used

  • Increased labor to fix the observed problem

  • Lost opportunity cost

  • Late delivery

  • Long cycle time

  • Loss of sales and revenue and slimmer profit margins

  • Lower service level to customers and consumers



An Examination of Training Hours



Let’s do some simple math on a conservative hypothetical example. An organization with 50 employees and 10 operational procedures could reasonably expect to dedicate 500 hours a year to training. That’s nearly 25% of one employee’s annual productivity.

With this much time dedicated to employee development, organizations of all sizes should have a carefully planned employee proficiency management plan.


While the original point of discussion was to address root causes, we should recognize this is a sophisticated problem with many influences. To effectively address root cause issues with employee training, an efficient and repeatable method of employee skill and knowledge verification is required. That means having a training plan, and consistent execution of that plan.



What’s your organization’s training improvement plan?



Don’t worry if you can’t immediately provide a list of improvements. We’ll examine potential solutions next - let’s look at some practical ways to overcome employee training challenges.



Spend Less, Not More.



Successful training doesn’t require millions of dollars. It requires more effective methods. What organizations will need to invest in is time. Specifically, you’ll need to focus on the implementation, repetition, and assessment of what your employees have learned after the initial training session. Without this reiteration, your training won’t work.



Let Your Data Guide You



Training should pinpoint performance and procedural weaknesses within an organization. This is particularly the case with heavily regulated industries. Instead of providing general information or basing your training on qualitative judgments, focus on the data your organization has collected. Non-conformance management feedback is essential.



Optimize Your Content for a Modern Audience That’s Accustomed to the Pace of Digital Media



It’s hard to truth to face for most organizations: Your current training materials probably aren’t as engaging or well-researched as you think. Address this head-on and revise your content. Your employees are not going to be engaged by dry, technical content with long, extraneous paragraphs. Keep it simple and to the point. Use headlines, bullet points, and infographics to break up the text.

Remove any subject matter that could be interpreted as a non-sequitur lesson. Stick to a central theme for each training and cut down each lesson so that it doesn’t exceed 15 minutes. You’ll also want to leave room for a question-and-answer session after each lesson.



Use On-The-Job Training to Supplement What’s Taught in Training Sessions



It’s not ideal, but it’s common for organizations to substitute on-the-job training for internal and external training sessions. In practice, it’s best used to supplement what was learned in those internal and external training sessions. Give your employees the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned on the job rather than throw them into tasks without training. Schedule on-the-job training opportunities to bolster training sessions. 



Make Sure All Employees Have Access to Training



What if you only host training sessions during certain periods, or shift-workers can’t attend an unpaid session?

This limited access benefits only some of your staff and represents a significant missed opportunity for many others. By limiting training, you’re limiting its potential and risking your organization’s reputation. Open training to everyone and ensure it’s a paid opportunity for all employees. If there’s an unavoidable scheduling conflict, publish digital copies of the training sessions.



Keep Training Consistent



Once-a-year training without performance evaluations and follow-up sessions simply aren’t enough. Develop consistent methods of measuring employee proficiency and schedule follow-up training based on non-conformance data, standard operating procedures, and employee performance evaluations.



External Trainers Work for Your Organization, Not the Other Way Around



Resist the temptation to accommodate an external trainer’s travel needs. Find an educator whose schedule and expertise matches up with your organization’s needs. Your goal is to provide training access to all of your employees, not to appease an educator.

It’s also important that whomever you choose understands the importance of value-based training programs. The content of your training sessions should be based on your organization’s internal performance data, not the educator’s boilerplate performance recommendations.



Automate Training Development with SaaS Software



The perception is that training is time-consuming, difficult to coordinate, and generally unsuccessful. It doesn’t have to be.

Effective training increases corrective action success while reducing organizational training costs. QMC's cloud-based system will help you create training plans based on employee performance evaluations, proficiency plans, non-conformance data, and standard operating procedures.


Our software allows you to connect your organizations’ training and document management systems, seamlessly integrating practical modifications to your employee proficiency plans. See below to learn how QMSC’s cloud-based system solves your training problems:

Key Capabilities

Want to see QMSC’s Cloud-based Quality Management Software in action?

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