Organizations suffer in a big way due to the lack of Knowledge and Skills on the part of employees. Very often this suffering is silent, and it is accepted as ‘Normal’. This leads to Companies accepting low skill / low Capability and try to have more people to do the same work. That is a poor alternative and Company suffers more due to higher number of Low skilled employees.
Let us discuss a few examples.
01. Anish joined as Production Manager in the Capital Equipment manufacturing company. He has 15 Years of experience. But he was never involved in Lean Implementation environment. Resultantly he simply does not know where to start in terms of implementation of Lean. The Company seem to throw more and more people at the rising Production. Company seem to lose more as it produces more!! The Company has at least 50% people more than it requires. This is applicable to Blue Collar and White Collar alike.
If Ashish can be taught and certified for his Lean Manufacturing skills, the Company can improve its’ Profitability by at least 3%.
02. Ketan is the Procurement Manager in a Compressor Manufacturing Company. He is not familiar with the Global Sourcing Practices and Cost Reduction. The company is expecting a at least 5% of Procurement value as Cost Reduction from his efforts.
If Ketan can be helped now, the Company can get ahead of its’ competition in the market and capture more market in Local and Global Market.
03. Varsha is the Quality Manager of Automotive ancillary company. She has to deal with Internal and External Quality issues and improve the Quality of Company’s Processes and Products very quickly. The Company’s Customers have given an ultimatum that if the Quality does not improve significantly, they will start looking for alternative suppliers in 9 months’ time.
If Varsha can be helped right now, her company may avoid losing a Big Customer and their Business !
04. Exwhyzed Pvt Ltd is a Electronics Manufacturing Company. It’s Business is growing and it has a lot of problem in retaining the employees. It recruits employees under NEEM , Company Trainee, Government apprentice categories. But, it loses at least 40 employees every month and 40 new employees come in. The losses in terms of Quantity (speed) and Quality are huge.
If Exwhyzed can be helped with Learning solutions, it can improve its’ turnover by at least 20% this year.
There can be many more such situations in Companies that are almost getting accepted as ‘Normal’ and companies are simply not putting up a fight in tackling such situations and trying to skill up their teams.
India is at a very low place on the People Productivity Scale among Manufacturing Nations of the World. We don’t belong there! We are capable of much more!!
Many Indian Companies are trying to implement Industry 4.0 elements. But, you can’t use these modern tools unless you have the Basics such as Lean Manufacturing Practices and Basic Productivity.
Change the Learning Paradigm
Now, Indian Companies need to believe that it is possible to do much more in the area of People Productivity. They have to rise their Targets / expectations in every area.
Bring in a Learning Partner: A Learning Partner from outside can help a Company to rethink its’ strategy in the area of Learning.
A Learning Partner is someone who would have Skills in the area of Manufacturing and Modern Learning solutions.
A Learning Partner can do the following:
a) Evaluate the areas where the Company is currently losing and where it can earn more if the employees are given timely help.
b) Skill up the employees. Here, a Learning Partner may help the Company with Blended Learning. Theory and Practice.
c) Look for specific results in terms of Specific measurable Business Improvement agenda.
d) Keep improving the Learning agenda of the Organization to Proactive from the above Reactive methods.
Today, we have modern tools that can help make the Learning @ the Point of Need and as required by Business exigencies possible. They can generate more results when paired with Traditional Training methods.
Establish the Learning Architecture
As explained in my earlier article, a Company needs to establish some Learning Architecture in the Company.
Important among them is making ‘Learning’ as the Centre of the Organization and the way Business is done in the company!
- It should mandate a ‘Weekly Learning time’ of at least 2 hours per employee.
- Learning should help Employee to deliver a specific result in the next three months.
- Company should adapt Modern Learning methods such as Video based learning / E-Learning / usage of LMS.
- It should reward the employees on the basis of Learning and their resultant Skills.
This is the only way Indian Companies can improve their Profitability and stay relevant in the Competitive International environment!
A Company that focuses on Learning and improve its’ efficiency can graduate to using the Modern Technology in terms of Industry 4.0.
Without Basic Skills of employees going up and without Basic efficiency not being there in the Company, thinking about usage of Industry 4.0 can only remain as a Dream!!
How are Basic Skills of Employees in your Company? Get them Certified by Experts!
Traditionally in Organizations, the Learning Architecture for the employees is not defined well and the only way to help employees learn is sending them to a few Training programs. Even this (sending employees to training) is done only by about 10-15% of Companies that I have come in touch with. Regretfully even now most of the Indian Companies do not look at Developing employees in a systematic manner.
When we studied in Colleges, Schools we would have been put through the paces of Learning in a systematic manner. There was a syllabus and there was a clear target of passing the Course and probably scoring well for the intellectual types among us. But, now in the Organizations, the Learning Objectives are not clearly defined, and the Learning paths are also not defined.
Resultantly, In the case of at least 90% of the Employees the Learning habit has died down. There is no hunger for learning. Employees are just expected to deliver results. The Owners / Bosses are not seriously focused on skilling up the employees and taking more from them. This is not a smart strategy. The result of this strategy is that you keep adding more people to get the work done. I would say that in Indian Companies the Productivity of White Collar and Blue Collar can be multiplied at least from 2 to 4 times if they pay attention to having Skilled employees.
For Organizations to encourage learning and to ensure their employees are continuously learning and delivering more, they need to build a Learning Architecture in their Company. This Learning Architecture is not a ‘Ready solution’ that can be transported to a company and delivered. This is something that has to be evolved.
I have been a Learner in the Manufacturing Industry for more than 3 decades now. I have gone through a lot of Learning in my career. From being an Accountant to managing Technical functions, Business responsibilities. I have been helping Organizations to develop their employees as a Boss and now as a Coach / Trainer. I have learnt a lot about helping Employees to learn in the last 6 years. There have been some resoundingly successful cases and there have been some ‘dud cases’ where I could not deliver. But, the Successful cases have been many. As I learnt the best way to help people to ‘Learn’, I am starting to see an ‘architecture for learning’ developing in my mind and practice.
Let me try sharing this with all of you.
Elements of a ‘Good Learning Architecture’
For an Organization to have Good Learning Architecture, a few elements are needed. This by no means a complete list. I am listing what I have experienced. Do not hesitate to add more by means of Comments.
01. Inclination at the Top: The Top management of the Company should believe that Learning is a foundational process for a Company to be successful over a longer term. They need to believe that ensuring your employees learn continuously is a SMART strategy for a Business.
02. Gentle push to the employees and leaders: An Organization needs to create a gentle push to the employees and Leaders to prioritize Learning. You can do it nicely by motivating the teams to Learn with some promotional measures like Learning Points that will entail you to get more increments. You can also have some hard measures that may make getting Certified for Skills mandatory for employees.
03. Skill Definition: Companies need to have a Leadership Model that prescribes the Leadership Capabilities that the employees need to have at different levels. Companies also need to define the Functional Skills defined for all levels in the organizations. This is fundamental to start learning. This definition is not set in stone. It has to keep evolving as the Organization evolves.
04. Learning Process: The Learning Process of the Employees need to have a few elements:
a. Foundational Learning: Employees need to get some Conceptual inputs for all the skills preferably in a face to face environment. Testing the absorption is important.
b. Reinforcement Learning: Once the Foundation is there, the employees need to Learn contextually and at the point of need using Micro Learning concept. E-Learning modules are a good tool for this purpose. This should be an LMS based learning.
Eg. Once a Team of employees have learnt ‘Assertiveness’ as a skill , they should be asked to log their experiences and they can also be given Micro learning modules on specific topics within Assertiveness as a topic.
c. Application of Learning: Employees should be encouraged to formulate Micro Business Processes that applies the learning in to the Business Process and enriches the Business process.
Eg. A Team of Employees who have gone through a course of ‘Business Communication’ can be encouraged to formulate ‘Guidelines for Business Communication’ for their Company. These guidelines should become a
deeper definition of their Business Process and the Skills that are needed in their company.
Usually the application is measured in terms of a Project that is taken up by employees. But, this may not be sufficient. We need to get more granular about application of learning.
d. Point of need / Contextual Learning: You need to identify the Training needs of your team for each Quarter on the basis of the Targets that they have to achieve. You need to provide the Micro Learning modules to the employees as needed.
05. Coaching of Senior employees: The Senior Employees need to be Coached on a continuous basis. It is good to get external Business Leaders to coach your Senior team. This way you approach it ‘Outside in’. You can then encourage your senior team to Coach the next level.
In the next article, we will explore one or two specific examples of how an Organization can enable the Learning on the go.
John reached the office at 8 am itself. John is the ‘Manager – Marketing’ in the Automotive ancillary company. Normally he comes to office at 8.45 am as the office time is 9 am. But, he is very enthu about coming to office on every Monday as he has his Learning hour today. He can access the Learning programs from his home. But, he loves to sit at his desk and complete the Learning for the week undisturbed. His son has grown up. But, still there is some time to go to School. While at home, John loves to play with his son. He was worried his son will disturb him at his ‘most favorite work’.
John logged on to the ‘Learning Management System’ of the ‘Training and Certification Partner’ (whom the company of John appointed a few months back to manage all the learning of the employees). There were Two Micro Learning modules waiting for John. John also took out the Work book that reached him the Friday evening. The ‘Work book’ helps him to write down a few learnings and also do a few exercises.
John started going thru the E-Learning video about ‘Dos and Don’ts while designing the Social media promotion’. These are John’s company’s own Check list of what can be done and what cannot be done while designing the Social media campaigns. This week John has meeting with his vendor for Social media campaign. John is working out the agenda with them so that the Vendor company can go on for the Quarter.
John also has another Learning module about ‘Preparing Marketing Plan using 7Ps of Marketing’. This is slightly longer module. It goes on for 20 minutes. John has to initiate his team to prepare the Marketing plan for the next year. This is a refresher course for John. This module teaches John about ‘Their company’s way of preparing Market plan’. John goes thru this module every year before he starts the Market plan work. It helps him to refresh his knowledge about Market plan preparation. It helps him to guide his team very well.
John could see on his home screen of LMS that he has a few more modules coming up for the next week and the week after. Each week he has to spend about an hour on learning. This practice has started in his company three months back. The E-Learning videos given by the ‘Training and Certification Partner’ are quite interesting to go thru. They always build a situation around the learning and render the learning thru an animated video. It is quite fun to go thru the video and learn the concept.
At the same time, the Production Manager of the Company, Vijay was passing through Marketing department. He saw John and stopped for a chat. ‘Hey John I see that you are starting the week with your Learning agenda for the week. Great way to start the week’. John agreed with him ‘Yes Vijay this is my most favorite part of the week’. This month I am expecting to complete my Learning agenda for the Quarter and I will get a Certificate from our ‘Training and Certification Partner’’.
Vijay was happy to hear that ‘Yes John, that is great. I have completed two Micro Modules at home yesterday Sunday. It took me an hour to complete both of them and take the test too. Now I can peacefully attend to the Customer visit today’.
Vijay also has a Weekly learning agenda for himself. He can remember how they had some problem in getting used to this ‘Weekly Learning Agenda’ introduced by the ‘Training and Certification Partner’ along with the HR & Operations Head. But, those initial troubles settled down in the first month itself. The Learning was made fun and everyone waited to go thru the Learning modules.
Learning @ the Speed of Business
Exwhyzed Limited, the company of John and Vijay adapted modern learning methods using technology 3 months back. They outsourced the whole Learning agenda in the Company to an outside Partner who are experts in Manufacturing and Learning Methods. This company consists of Manufacturing Professionals who are good at Learning methods. They understand all Business aspects unlike many IT companies who are only ‘techies’.
The new way of learning meant the following to the Company:
- The Training and Certification Company identified the Skills that are needed for every employee. This constituted Functional and Behavioral skills.
- On the basis of the Business agenda for the Year / Quarter / Month, they identified the Learning priorities of the Company’s employees in different functions for the year.
- These Learning Priorities were something that would help employees immediately in handling their Business agenda. They learn and they use the skills immediately.
- The Partner company developed Interesting E-Learning Videos on the specific topics.
- Wherever some very BIG topics are there like Lean Manufacturing, there was some face to face training was there too at the beginning of the year.
- The Partner company set up a ‘Learning Centre’ for the company that had physical facilities for training as well as a few Work stations for company’s employees to take E-Learning Lessons. Whoever wanted to use this facility could come to the Learning Centre. It is like ‘Library’ in the Company. Silent and inviting.
- The Partner company interacts with the HODs and HR every month to understand the Learning agenda for each employee in the Company. Then they populate those Videos in the Learning Management System. They give access to the employees as needed.
- The Partner company’s employees follow up with employees who are lagging on completing the Learning modules and motivate them to complete the courses. There are hardly any laggards as the Learning has become priority for everyone.
- HR has already announced that ‘Skills Certification’ will be mandatory from the next Quarter for every employee.
- The employees can access the Learning modules from their Smart phones too. This made it convenient for the employees to complete their weekly learning agenda. Usually the Weekly Learning agenda does not cross about an Hour.
- The Partner company along with Operations Head monitor the Target achievement of the employees on a monthly basis. The Learning agenda of employees is Fine-tuned on the basis of their performance.
This methodology started working very well in the last three months. This way each employee would Learn for 6-8 days in every year. This is quite healthy to start with. The best thing is, this learning is directly linked to the Results that the employees are producing.
Revolution in the Learning methods
The above scenario may very well exist in many Companies World Wide in next few years.
Today the technology that is available to all of us enables us to do this. The Learning has to become ‘Contextual’ and it has to be given at the ‘Point of need’. This would make the Learning very effective.
The Learning Modules that the company develops would be a one time investment. But, they would be available to the company forever. I suggest an external Partner as this would be a very big change that a company would be implementing, and a Partner initially can help in a big way.
Even today, when an employee is forced to learn about something because he does not know that topic, he takes to ‘Google’. He will try to learn that topic by hook or crook. So, the willingness to learn is there.
Unfortunately, there are somethings that he can not learn from Google. These are typically Company specific Product knowledge, Process knowledge etc.
We only have to create our own resource bank for the employee. Employees are willing to learn on the go using their smart phones or tablets and so on.
This is a very important aspect of Digitalization that a company has to go thru. If you are able to activate your employees and make them more effective at work, the results can surprise you!!
When are you starting off?
In many companies, the cost of White-Collar Staff is very significant. By international standards, the number of staff that Indian Companies hire is significantly high. The Productivity of the Staff in a company seems to be very low. We seem to be throwing ‘Warm Bodies’ at work and problems! More Problems, more ‘Warm Bodies’..
The Indian Companies have been waking up to the higher costs of employees in the past Decade or so. The profits are under pressure. Top line is not growing as aggressively as one may want.
In this situation too, many companies have been addressing the Blue-Collar cost. Companies have been trying to hire cheaper and cheaper labor. I know many companies who try to run the whole Manufacturing Plant with temporary and low-cost labor. Genuine attempts to improve Productivity have not been many. Indian Companies have a long way to go in improving the Blue Collar Productivity.
By Comparison, the White Collar Productivity had been an unexplored area for most of the Companies.
No Standards for work!!
Most of the Companies do not have a Standard for the work of the White Collar Employees. What is the work each Position should be doing and what is the Standard time and effort that each of the work is supposed to take?
Resultantly there is no measure for the work of the White-Collar Employees. When something is not getting done, more employees are recruited. Sometimes having more people will result in more confusion and more inefficiency.
The other side of this continuum is that some companies simply refuse to recruit White Collar Employees or fire who is there. Even this act will not have any rationale. Usually it is the ‘feel’ of the Boss who may just ‘feel’ there are too many people and they are ‘wasting’ their time!
Direct and Indirect Cost of White-Collar Employees and their work
The White-Collar employees are tasked in every company with very important tasks. They decide what Raw Materials have to be purchased, at what cost, how much inventory to keep, what price to sell a product, how to market the products and many other crucial decisions.
So, the money that the Companies spend on the Salaries of the White-Collar employees is only a small proportion of the Total cost. The Cost that this group of Employees can inflict on a Company is huge. They and the work that they do can either make or break the Profits of a Company.
Hence, this category of employees deserve a much higher Quality attention! It is not enough to just focus on Blue collar and drive their productivity !
What needs to be addressed?
Companies need to consider addressing two elements of this category of employees.
01. The numbers in this category. How many people you have and how you can optimize this number? This ensures you spend as little as possible on this category of costly employees. This addresses the Direct cost of White-collar employees.
02. The Quality of the work and decisions of this category of employees. Companies need to pay attention to this as they can inflict a very high cost on the company due to the quality of the decisions that they may take.
Let us address these issues in two or three articles.
Addressing the Direct Cost of the White-Collar Employees
This again can be addressed at two levels. You can improve the Productivity of White-collar Employees in two phases.
a) Multiply the Productivity by applying the Lean Principles.
b) Go to a new level of Productivity and way of working by adapting Technology tools that are available today.
Multiply the Productivity using Lean Principles
I would suggest a methodology to address this area.
While many companies may have KPIs for their Employees and may be some of them are using them well, the Productivity at Task level may still be suffering.
Have a Target: When you start improving the White-Collar Productivity, it is important to have a CLEAR target. I would suggest the target as ‘Avoid recruitment for next one/two years’. Do not start with a target of ‘Cutting 25% of Staff’. This would be like cutting the foot to fit the shoe. While this is so basic and everyone should be knowing, I see many companies just firing Staff to reduce costs!! A Good team is what the Management should be looking to build. They would reduce costs and improve profits!
Log your time: Encourage the employees to log their time and find out what are they actually spending their time on. You can give them Log sheets and ask them to capture what they are doing and to what KPI is it really related to. This effort may give you a long list of activities. Pick the Pareto items for improvement. You need to do this for each Position in the company.
Time Study: Study the specific Tasks on which you are spending significant part of your time. By capturing the micro details of the Task, you can examine the various losses that you have in doing that particular task. Usually you would have very BIG losses.
Identify Kaizens: Identify the improvements that you can do to reduce the time that the task takes. The improvements may involve changing the Work flows, changing the authorizations, improving the ERP features and many other activities.
Carry out the Kaizens: Here, the company has to move with some great purpose. One should not be stuck with some Kaizens that are difficult to implement. It may involve modifying your ERP and modifying your methods. Good amount of ‘Change Management’ is needed here.
Multiply the Productivity
One should aim at improving Productivity by 2-3 times with this methodology. A lesser target will not justify the effort and possibilities that are there in every organization.
Wherever IMA handled this type of Project, the improvement in Productivity was at least twice.
What is critical: Try out in one model area. Take the help of outsiders in this project. An outsider can bring a fresh perspective for this work. But, you should develop an internal team that would focus on Productivity of People forever.
Next Article: We will examine how an Organization can transit in to a New Way of working at the next level of improvement.