A WWII Model for Supervisor Training Today

Posted By: John Hindman, Director of Learning Services, Tooling U-SME on July 20, 2016

In workshops, I often play a World War II training video to show the difference between a well-trained supervisor and one that is inadvertently costing the company time, money and good employees.

Every time I watch the first “wrong way” scenario, my heart aches for both the supervisor and the trainee. The supervisor doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. And, with no guidance, the new employee makes mistake after mistake, works unsafely, and ends up quitting.

Yet, this damaging approach to training is not the supervisor’s fault — it is the organization’s responsibility to train him.

Here is the problem: As an industry, manufacturing organizations tend to promote higher performers into lead roles without the proper training to develop and mentor their teams into higher performers.

This has huge repercussions. An unskilled on-the-job trainer (OJT) can lead to low morale and high attrition, resulting in adverse performance and missing financial goals.

In the past decades, OJT has become an inconsistent, tribal knowledge-driven approach that does not validate that skills have been transferred to new workers. We need to bring back strong practices to counter current informal practices.

The situation we face now with the retirement of millions of experienced and knowledgeable workers is creating a situation similar to that during World War II. The incumbent manufacturing workforce went off to fight the war and a “new” workforce was needed — one that had to be trained quickly. At that time, OJT programs were mandated to provide the standardization needed to quickly build a strong, reliable and safe workforce.

With an increase in new hires from an unskilled talent pool, it is more important than ever to provide your trainers with a competency in delivering training in a consistent and concise manner.

You may wonder about the second scenario in the training film. The situation is quickly turned around when the boss sends the supervisor off for his own training. Rewind, and both trainer and employee obtain knowledge and skills to advance their company’s competitiveness.

This doesn’t happen just in the movies. You can transform your own workforce as well. Starting in September, Tooling U-SME is holding Train-the-Trainer: Accelerating Worker Performance workshops in six locations (Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Nashville, and Houston). We welcome you and your colleagues to join us. Register here.

Tags: learning, manufacturing, OJT, "on-the-job training", training, "workforce development"