Are people trained to do their job?

According to a recent Lloyds survey, most experts agree good management is key to improving productivity. I know that not many will be bowled over by this insightful piece of wisdom. In any manufacturing environment, Management decisions will affect the productivity and profitability substantially which can lead to spectacular gains or devastating losses. But what are the major factors that influence productivity?

In that survey, Lloyds questioned 200 of the country’s largest manufacturers. Importantly, 88% admitted to having a skills shortage. It would be tempting to point the finger at the shop-floor and the ability to entice low and semi-skilled labour to the less attractive jobs paid at the minimum wage. However, 49% of those surveyed said the problem was most pronounced at Management levels.

The problem is simple; the solution is profoundly difficult.

Let’s be honest, so much is expected of Managers: managing performance, understanding processes and systems, understanding people, coaching, tutoring, mentoring, challenging, problem solving, decision making, hiring and firing as well as possessing excellent communication and presentation skills. On top of this, Managers also have the well-being, safety and productivity of their staff whilst understanding the conflicting strategies of higher management, balancing cost-constraints and the myriad of deadlines that cascade through the organisation on an hourly or daily basis.

At the same time, there is very little in the way of preparation, succession planning or direct training for this important role. Even now, most new Managers are taken off the line and are encouraged to follow the routines of their peers or the previous incumbent and follow the same behavioural patterns with little direction, encouragement or guidance. In fact, the survey found that employers are more likely to prioritise new product creation than funding training.

Is this complacency? Is this a reluctance to see the problem? Is this a failure to address the issue or is it a question of where to start? The problem is surely that Managers cannot be effective in achieving productivity growth if they do not have the tools at their disposal or are unsure of how to use them. In fact, many organisations are becoming more adept at data input and collection but lack the skills, wherewithal and encouragement to use the data in any meaningful way.

In a landscape that is becoming more and more competitive it is alarming that productivity fell by 0.6% between April 2019 and end of June 2019. This points to one unavoidable fact: manufacturing needs to invest in upskilling the next generation of Managers – immediately.

But what sort of training? And where to start? Is training always beneficial? How do you know when you are getting value? How do you know that by sending people on a course that their heads are not being filled with what an incoherent trainer believes he or she needs to tell them – rather than what they actually need to know?

See part 2 to understand where to start.

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