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Mary McAtee

Quality Insider

Training and Qualification: Work Smarter, Not Harder

Determine why you train and who has responsibility for it. Then measure effectively.

Published: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 12:08

One of those pronouncements that are widely accepted despite a murky link to facts or origin concerns proficiency. “They” say it takes repeating a task 1,000 times before you become an expert. I guess I can understand why they might take this position. Clearly, repetition fixes memory. But I’m trying to think of things I’ve repeated that many times, and it’s a short list.

Recently I heard a master sushi chef interviewed about his apprenticeship program in Japan. An aspiring chef must study with him for a minimum of 10 years. The apprentice must not marry, must live at the school, and must work for free during his apprenticeship. The jaded New Yorker in me thinks that this master chef has developed a great source of cheap and extremely dedicated labor. Others will look at this model and point to it with Zen-like certainty that this is how excellence must be cultivated.

In practical business terms, training is undeniably valuable on many levels. It ensures competency and consistency, which is critical for quality and benchmarking best practices. In addition to training’s positive effect on quality, it’s also fertile ground for identifying opportunities for improvements. Training can even serve as an incubator for new ideas and technological advances.

Training and qualification activities are also a positive cost-of-quality element under the “prevention” heading. Almost every company I work with carefully tracks the amount and cost of training delivered. But those same companies can’t tell me what they are measuring in order to assess whether the time and dollars invested generate a real return. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d blame this on an inability to make logical associations between processes. It’s easier to verify short-term proficiency and understanding of training that’s delivered through testing, but this is only one facet of measured effectiveness. It doesn’t tell you whether the training was internalized by the trainee so that she understood it and can reliably apply it to her daily work. Companies must expand their views beyond training records and include other processes to gain a more complete insight into total effectiveness. Here are some things to consider:
• Post-training effectiveness reviews by the trainee’s manager can provide that look back over time to see if he has retained and can apply what he’s learned.
• Regular process audits are useful if they specifically look at training received by the persons interviewed during the audit. This can be particularly valuable when reviewing corrective and preventive actions resulting from the audit.
• When patterns of issues or failures are identified, regardless of whether the source is an internal nonconforming material report (NCMR) or a customer complaint, training issues should be considered and ruled out. Training lapses are one of the easiest causes to address and remediate once identified.

Part of the problem is determining why we train and who has responsibility for the training program. Many times training is delivered to satisfy regulatory or compliance requirements. The group that is responsible for training might not have any interaction with other manufacturing and quality processes. The gaps between lapses in quality and ineffective training are simply never addressed in a meaningful way. Many of the companies I see carefully monitoring how much they spend on training have little or nothing in place for professional development of their employees. In my opinion, this is shortsighted and counterproductive. Everyone in the organization should have a professional development plan, even if it’s simply cross-training and a performance appraisal process. This is especially crucial for organizations that are growing or downsizing.

Our CEO is a master of what he calls “moving pieces around on the chessboard.” He knows this keeps people engaged, challenged, and constantly paying into the bank of collective corporate knowledge. Efficient business managers know that true sustainable success comes from leveraging all the available resources and assets to truly work smarter, not harder. An effective training and qualification program that integrates with other quality processes such as internal assessments, CAPA, NCMRs, customer complaints, risk assessment, and quality objectives as part of a company’s key performance indicators will add bite and relevancy to the program. If you’re investing the resources and dollars, take the steps to ensure the return.

First published Feb. 19, 2015, on the IBS blog.


About The Author

Mary McAtee’s picture

Mary McAtee

Mary McAtee has been a member of the Siemens organization for more than 20 years. She is a 40-year quality professional specializing in reliability engineering for semiconductor and nuclear devices. McAtee is an exam-qualified lead assessor for ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 13485, IATF 16949, and TickIT. She has lead several organizations to successful registrations to various standards and has written and presented on the topic of compliance and quality extensively over the years. She is working with organizations in the United States and Europe to develop a broader uniform interpretation of primary norms and compliance standards.


Performance reviews are deadly

Great points on training - i seldeom see trainining effectiveness being measured in a meaningful way.  I have to differ with your recommendation to give Performance Reviews.  It's one of Dr Deming's 7 deadly diseases** - i see the harm done by these all too often.

**"Evaluation by performance, merit rating, or annual review of performance." - Dr Deming, 1986