Q&A: How to Build a High-Performance Workforce

Posted By: John Hindman, Director of Learning Services, Tooling U-SME on October 18, 2017

John Hindman

From our many decades in the manufacturing industry, we can tell you that world-class companies outperform others in large part because they manage and train their workforces differently.

We get a lot of questions about how they do it. In a two-part blog series, we are sharing some of the frequently asked ones — along with answers. We hope this Q&A inspires you to build a high-performing workforce using a competency-based training and development program.


How do we ensure buy-in of senior management for our training and development program?

A learning culture starts at the top. The best way to engage your leadership team is to talk their language, by demonstrating learning’s impact on the bottom line. Show how the training program helps boost productivity and profitability while reducing expenses related to overtime, downtime, waste, etc. Start by identifying your business objectives, creating SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) goals that help manage expectations with stakeholders. Identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) during the planning stage will help you calculate return on investment (ROI) after implementation, and show value to your stakeholders.


Why do we need performance-based competency models?

Performance is the accomplishment of a task in accordance with a set standard of completeness and accuracy. If those standards are not in place, you will not build the high performers you need and expect. The first step is defining the specific behaviors that will bring about the desired change. What should employees be doing that they are not? What is preventing them from reaching the goal you envisioned? Do they have the proper training and tools to meet the standard? Once this is defined, you can identify the knowledge, skills and abilities required to meet the performance need. This is done through competency modeling.


What is competency modeling?

Competency modeling is a structured way for employers to look at job progression, job assessment and workforce planning. Having a system in place to codify knowledge and skills required for a specific job role is critical to ensure individuals are successful in their roles.


Why should we align learning solutions to competency models?

First, let’s look at the goals of a good training program. Learning solutions should empower an employee to achieve an understanding of a given topic, become self-sufficient, improve their job performance and ultimately drive results that support business goals. A well-defined competency framework and aligned learning plan will eliminate unnecessary or redundant training, and maximize training time to develop only required knowledge and skills.


How do we determine a training investment?

Across all industries, direct expenditure as a percentage of profit is 8.3 percent, according to ATD’s 2016 State of the Industry report. The manufacturing industry’s investment, however, is just about half that at 4.45 percent. This translates to only $503 spent per employee in the manufacturing industry versus twice that ($1,252) across all industries. For companies aspiring to world-class status, there needs to be a commitment to learning from the boardroom to the shop floor as well as an understanding of how KPIs impact the business. Tying training to the bottom line will demonstrate why a performance-based learning and development program must be a priority and receive sufficient funding.


The bottom line is a well-designed competency framework, tied to business goals, becomes the foundation for performance management, talent acquisition and leadership development. To learn more, download a free copy of 5 Best Practices for Building a High-Performance Workforce.

Have any other questions about building high-performance teams? Ask away! And stay tuned for Part #2 of our series.

Tags: "5 Best Practices for Building a High-Performance Workforce", ATD, competencies, "competency modeling", "learning and development", "learning culture", manufacturing, "State of the Industry"