It's Sunday June 4th (my 34th Wedding Anniversary BTW) and I am underway aboard a US Coast Guard Cutter somewhere in the great lakes. There are a couple new crew members just out of boot camp and when they aren't getting some on the job training they are working on earning qualifications. Their free time is spent moving about the ship, notebooks in hand, reading, studying, asking questions and learning ships systems until they are ready to test and stand for a board. Qualifications are the stepping stones and blocks that build their capabilities and careers. While not always perfect, it is an effective, well documented, and always improving system. It ensures that new crew gets trained consistently (along with interim improvements) and completely just like those that came before them, and that necessary skills aren't forgotten or lost as more senior crew members rotate out.
I’m sharing this because it occurred to me that while this is standard operating procedure for the Coast Guard, it is far from standard in the business world. Over the years I’ve moved in and out of many offices and seen many employees come and go. Overall, I’ve witnessed less than consistent and comprehensive training for new hires. Occasionally there is an on-boarding checklist, but it rarely includes a checklist of training items much less the actual information that must be learned. Often there are standard operating procedures for some procedures in some departments, but most often it’s on the job training by the people who work around the new hire. While on the job training can be very effective depending on the "trainer(s)", it is often hit or miss due to the lack of supporting standardized checklists and documented institutional knowledge.
We've seen business value and employee satisfaction increase when process improvement plans are well executed. Can we really be surprised that sustained value and satisfaction are often elusive for organizations that haven’t committed to and adopted a process improvement methodology?
What about your office or organization? Do you document your workflows and processes? Do you ensure some level of standardized training across the organization? Not just general orientation, sales, or customer service training, but a comprehensive program that touches on and improves every aspect of your organization?
If the benefits of improved performance and workflow aren't enough to convince you, think about that one person that knows all the details about every customer, process, or agreement. Or maybe there’s one person who knows everything about all the machines or devices in your shop. How difficult would it be to replace someone with that knowledge or skill set? What would be lost to your organization if someone like that decided to move on? What level of disruption would it cause to you and your customers? Personally, I think it’s better to start building a program on your own timeline, than dealing with the aftermath when you are thrust into chaos by an illness or sudden departure.
What do you think?