Reduce Training Costs While Increasing Talent

This article appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

If you’re like many other manufacturers in Michigan, finding and retaining new hourly workers has been a challenge. While we can’t control the talent pool, we can control how we think about training new employees. Understand as they’re being trained, they are assessing their future with your company.

Here are three factors to consider that could help the effectiveness of your employee training efforts and lead to greater retention:

1. Anticipate what each new hire is experiencing.

Trainers should put themselves in the shoes of the new employee. Consider how uncomfortable they might be; learning new skills in an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by people they don’t yet know and wondering how they fit in. They will be observing the plant, equipment, the work and the people with sight, sound and touch from their perspective. All of this triggers emotions and guarded behavior that can impact retention of new skills.

Overcoming this requires feeling both physically safe and psychologically safe. Physical safety is obvious. Psychological safety is valuing the person before you can expect them to value their work. Giving them time, encouraging them to freely express their concerns and addressing their spoken and unspoken questions will allow the job-related training to soak in.

2. Onboarding includes team building.

A work team is not a list of names, but a group of individuals with unique experiences, skills and perspectives who work well together. Becoming a member of a team is not automatic, it’s intentional. To incorporate a new hire in the team, listen to their comments, include them in team conversations, invite them to the lunch table, introduce them to a co-worker, a mentor who they can rely on. Explain what to expect in team meetings, what metrics reflect daily or monthly goals and how problem solving occurs.

You can set-up a machine or program a robot without concern for feelings, but people need to experience a sense of belonging before they feel safe in the team. That increases productivity, engagement and loyalty. With this new employee, you will have fewer errors, less downtime and cultivate creativity within the team.

3. Consider training as being a process.

Training should begin with a tour of the full in-coming to out-going dock value stream. It’s helpful for new employees to see the big picture before getting the details of their assigned work station. For a new employee to be deemed fully trained there are key knowledge packs and skills that need to be mastered. The Luminous Group has created a Certified Operator Training process that uses job-specific checklists to ensure essential knowledge and skills are acquired including validating that new employees have blended into the team. Your Certified Trainers should apply that process consistently to all new hires across all shifts. In addition to reducing variation in how people are trained, it demonstrates the importance of following standardized work methods and Job Instructions to reduce variation and ensure part quality, every hour, every day.

Of course, you want to encourage continuous improvement and the fresh eye of a new employee could be an impetus for productivity and quality improvement. But that can only evolve when employees feel psychologically safe to speak up and assured that their ideas will be considered.

Give it a try. This approach will develop productive team members who will bring their full selves — head, heart and hands — to the workplace. This can improve retention, reduce turnover and lower annual training costs.

About the Authors

Murray SittsamerMurray Sittsamer is president of The Luminous Group. He may be reached at 248-561-5802 or

Ken WoodsideKen Woodside, Ph.D., is an Associate with The Luminous Group. He may be reached at 248-538-8677.

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