Important Assets Within the Business – The Employee Skill Set

Important Assets Within the Business – The Employee Skill Set
Monday, June 4th, 2012 Scott Bossart

When a discussion within the organization begins around the value of all the assets in a organization, rarely does the word “Employee” or “Worker Skills” even come up.  This is because from a financial perspective only those assets purchased under a capital project and which the company can own outright, are considered “Assets”.  And unfortunately, in many cases, these are the only assets which are typically given any sort of maintenance or improvement towards improved efficiencies and increased capacity.  But the question still remains, what about the employee and the impact that could be provided if they were given the same attention as assets mentioned earlier?

                Just to keep things in perspective, the safety and regulatory aspects of maintaining an employee is typically well taken care of.  Why?  Because it is regulatory and safety related it is typically a requirement to be covered to great detail.  Continuous education such as college, university, and even other community related courses are often times covered to a certain extent.  These types of education opportunities should, no doubt, establish an improved and better thinking employee.  Often times however, it merely establishes opportunities externally and sometimes internally for personal growth with the successful achievement of gaining a certificate or degree in what is considered higher education.  While this process does provide a smarter and more educated employee, it typically does not change the way the employee functions in his or her actual job or role within the organization.  I say this only for those employees gaining education that does not directly pertain to the current job or role with which they are currently working within.  In many cases, a business will provide some sort of subsidized or reimbursement type funding for those wishing to take extra education in an effort towards gaining a personal higher level of knowledge in a specific topic.  This is regardless of its linkage to the actual role or job function the employee is currently working.  This is always a good thing and can certainly help to build employee moral as well as open other doors of opportunity for personal growth and monetary gain…that is make more money whether it be on the side or with a different employer.

                But the question still remains as to the level of employee maintenance or education which is given regarding internal operating efficiencies and effectiveness?  The education I am referring to is the operators running equipment better or utilizing the systems within the production and maintenance realm to function better.  Let’s consider for a moment how a new employee is typically given training or education for them to perform their primary function or role, other than the safety and regulatory compliance.  This new employee training is typically in a three phased approach.  The first phase is where the new employee watches an experienced employee perform the same function or role.  The second phase is a joint effort where as both employees work side by side.  The third phase is the newer employee performs the function or role independently with the experienced employee watching.  So we start with the new watching the old.  We proceed with the newer and old working together.  And then finish with the old watching the newer.  The length of time for each phase is solely dependent on the urgency of getting the newer employee up to speed within a pre-determined and acceptable level of performance.  Often times this period is considered the “Probationary” period and affords the business to reject or redirect the new employ6ee if he or she struggles.  So what becomes the problem?  Even though this is considered a probationary period, the business is often times under the gun to fulfill a vacancy in the shortest amount of time necessary so surrounding employees that have been picking up extra workload, and the business, can return to some level of normalcy.  The result, the best person for the job is not selected, the person selected might need more time, or one or more of the phases is given a short cut to expedite completion and may not necessarily provide optimal training.

                There are many ways to correct training deficiency and performance issues even after the initial training is completed.  This is where I recommend treating an employee as you do an asset and providing continuous improvement.  Several questions can be asked to determine how well the employee is trained is even after the employee has been performing the function or role for many years.  One of the biggest mistakes I find is when an organization feels if an employee has been performing the function or role for a length of time, so it is a waste to provide additional training or review for improvement.  I’m often amazed how many operations supervisors will make comments about how some operators are marginal and how only the best ones are often called upon for the detailed tasks.  I question if this is really the optimum effectiveness within the organization and the best course required to increase efficiencies.  Many non-personal processes can be put in place to offset employee stagnation and uniformity between the same functions and roles.  These can come in the forms of routine exams, both written and hands on performance, as well as collaborative discussions for what optimum equipment operating means.  Exams need to be objective, concise, and able to be scored to provide direct feedback towards where any weaknesses exist.  Collaboration must include discussions facilitating shared ideas and experiences for equipment operating functions.  The results should facilitate and drive continuous improvement to the employee as opposed to a simple failure to perform status.  It cannot be a popularity contest and must be data and hands on driven.  One of the biggest deterrents to a business making efficiency improvements is when the culture is built around the idea where an operator that has been performing a function or role for many years is left alone and considered to be performing to their optimum performance level regardless if that performance level is at standard or not.  Consider your own business and those operators within it that some folk’s comment how they may not be the best employee on the floor but have been doing it so long, nothing can be done to improve them.

                The challenge is to build a culture where optimum performance is provided not only to the financial assets, but also to the employee assets.  No employee likes to be considered as the less than optimum employee.  Equipment functions, speeds, and configurations routinely change.  Processes and work flows change.  The products change both in the type and the configuration, as well as the speed at which it travels through the organization.  How much effort is given to the employee to change with it?  How much effort is given to building a culture where an employee can rest assured they will be given the mental knowledge and tools necessary for them to be successful within their own function or role?  How often is an employee given a simple non-threatening review to help them determine where they need “Maintenance” for improvement, as opposed to failure to perform?  The expense cost given to an employee for improvement will provide a quick ROI for the organization in improved efficiencies and production effectiveness.  When the employee is treated as an asset within the organization, the entire organization and employee benefits and can more easily provide business growth.

Stay Well

Scott B.


Leave a reply