Strategic and Effective Onboarding is Critical for Surge Hiring

Posted By: John Hindman, Director of Learning Services, Tooling U-SME on May 21, 2020

Strategic Onboarding

As with all industries, manufacturing has been deeply impacted by COVID-19. Companies are focused on how to keep their employees safe and their businesses running.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 78 percent of survey respondents anticipate a financial impact. Additionally, more than half (53 percent) anticipate a change in operations.

Manufacturers have reacted to COVID-19 in various ways:

  • Changed their business model to support new production needs.
  • Continued business as usual with additional risk mitigations in place.
  • Scaled back production for decreased customer demand or supply chain materials.
  • Suspended production or closed their door for the unforeseeable future.

Now we are starting to see some manufacturers ramping production back up. How are they responding to the new business environment we are in? How are operations changing?

Through my lens, I see training needs for incumbent workers and, especially, to address surge hiring. Having a standardized onboarding program in essential. If sound best practices are not followed, including validating competencies, a company faces risks to safety, quality, productivity and retention.

Focus on Manufacturing Training

This is a time when manufacturers need to adopt new procedures to meet the risk brought on by coronavirus — which means training.

Scaling production — means training.

Ramping up with a new workforce — means training.

Yet in the rush back to normalcy, making up for lost time, I fear some best practices will be ignored. Some companies will fall back into bad habits at a time when training is more important than ever.

Maintaining strong learning and development can’t be ignored as additional demands may be put on manufacturers.

We are already seeing reshoring which could bring manufacturing to all time heights. A surge in hiring may be needed. How do you do this when the pool of qualified workers is already slim?

Another hit to the talent pool? Baby boomers may leave the workforce sooner than expected.

And furlough skilled workers near retirement age may decide not to return in favor of retirement.

Fortunately, a potential new source of employees may be available. As the service industries cut back, workers may look to manufacturing as a secure and rewarding career.

This may be part of a long-term solution. Yet to start, more applicants will not have core manufacturing skills. You’ll need to train. Companies must ensure these new hires have the skill sets needed to help them develop long time careers. Structure and standardization are needed more than ever.

Strategic Onboarding

With new hires coming in with different skill and experience levels, onboarding is what will set them up for success.

Not to be confused with “orientation,” a standardized onboarding program develops skills and behaviors that will become the foundation of tenure within an organization.

After hiring, onboarding is the first critical step connecting new employees with culture and performance. This is where you define expectations for the role which helps with retention. In personal interviews, manufacturers tell me that keeping someone two years is the key to keeping them long term.

In fact, one study shows formal onboarding increases the chance of keeping a new employee for at least three years by 69 percent.

When you think about recruitment, selection and training costs (about $4,000 for frontline workers and up to $50,000 for executives), it’s a critical investment.

This should be a priority for leadership.

Orientation vs. Onboarding

In a recent webinar, I talked about three levels of onboarding and how they work together to go beyond day one orientation to validating expected performance. All three levels are needed in order to train a workforce of different skill sets. This formula allows companies to train consistently and quickly. Ensuring workers have a common skill set to work from means avoiding delays to teach fundamentals.

The three levels are:

  • General Onboarding: structures a general orientation to impress and educate a diverse audience of new hires. (typically 1-3 days)
  • Role Specific Onboarding: creates a welcoming and engaging environment that connects new hires with colleagues and the trainers who teach to the standard work of the job. Once ready, the employee is qualified and released to the job. (typically 30-90 days)
  • Core Onboarding: develops a common core of knowledge and skills for a particular job function that will create a foundational skills-set to build upon through a role-based standard work training. (typically 3-5 days)

The Core Onboarding piece is very important to ensure those lacking core skills don’t slow down the entire training process. As needed, trainers can teach basic skills (i.e., how to read a ruler, how to accurately read a work instruction) just to those who need them. This can reduce training time to performance by level-setting common skills.

Does Onboarding for Surge Hiring Really Work?

A few years back, I worked with a North American manufacturer that hired surge workers each year and placed them in facilities across the country. The manufacturer faced the same challenges as now. They were hiring and training a large number of workers with various skill levels.

Safety and quality problems arose. Additionally, unionized trainers were unhappy and refused to buy into the program.

Once we came in and performed a job analysis, we saw that the company was overtraining in some areas and undertraining in others. We created a new 40-hour program. It included 20 hours of core onboarding curriculum using a blended approach of online and classroom learning.

Additionally, new hires had six hours of training in a simulated work environment, learning and practicing concepts around teamwork, standard work, continuous improvement and quality.

This was a good indoctrination for what they would experience on the shop floor.

The program also included five hours of learning practice to properly and safely use tools as part of their job function. Finally, it included two hours per day of work hardening to build up strength and conditioning requirements for the job. Sometimes we forget the physical demands of the job!

The results were striking:

  • On-The-Job Training time was reduced by 50 percent.
  • Time to Performance was up by 20 percent.

Most importantly, there was a large increase in program approval and acceptance by the full-time unionized workforce.

Yes, a strategic and effective onboarding program works.

We are here as you move forward. Let us know how we can help.

Tags: "core onboarding", COVID-19, manufacturing, "manufacturing training", "National Association of Manufacturers", onboarding, "on-the-job training", "role-specific onboarding", "surge hiring", "Tooling U-SME"