Doing Something About The Skills Gap - Part 2

May 28, 2020 1:51 pm

Do your culture and methods support instruction?

Before investing in a training program, or system, I recommend ensuring that you can support training culturally and that the methods you intend to instruct are current and documented.

“The best training program in the world is absolutely worthless without the will to execute it properly, consistently, and with intensity.” John Romaniello

To illustrate this point I would like to share one case study I utilize when working with clients during Training Within Industry sessions. As you read through “The Lori Problem”, I encourage you to list your questions, comments, and recommendations for Lori, Emily, Joe, & Bob.

The Lori Problem:

1. Lori was hired as a tool crib attendant approximately three months ago by a well-known manufacturer of powered hand tools that operates on a 24/5 schedule. Lori reports to Joe who was promoted to service department manager five years ago. Joe also manages the tool crib and his team is accountable for spare parts. Six months ago, after a Kaizen event the tool crib also began providing tool kits for all production assemblers. Previously this work had been done by a vendor.

2. For the past four years, employee turnover rates for most roles in production have been extremely high including this role. Lori was hired as the 3rd shift tool crib attendant and works from 11:00 PM – 7:00 AM. Emily has been working as a tool crib attendant for three years on 1st shift. As there is no crib attendant on the 2nd shift Emily works from 11:00 AM -7:00 PM to provide some tool room coverage on all three shifts. When Lori was hired, she received one week of training from Emily on 1st shift. Lori was then transferred to 3rd shift the following week as the need was immediate.

3. Over the past 4-5 weeks, there have been a few complaints about Lori’s work including incorrect parts in the parts kits. Workplace organization in tool crib on Lori’s shift has also become an issue during this timeframe.

4. On break this week Lori was overheard saying she is frustrated and is ready to quit. She does not feel like she was fully trained and due to her shift, she almost never sees Joe, who usually is busy working with the service techs at the beginning of their shift and the end of Lori’s shift. After Lori made these statements, several employees met with the HR Manager Bob to let him know. They are concerned Lori will quit and feel she is a good worker.

5. After Bob is made aware of the situation, he thinks to himself “I have witnessed Joe training and mentoring service department technicians, so I know he understands how important that is”.

6. At about that time Joe comes into Bob’s office to tell him he does not think Lori is working out and thinks it may be time to let her go.

This case study is from an actual client and has been used in training sessions with hundreds of students from organizations across the US/Canada/Mexico.  Here are some common comments, questions, recommendations:

  • Was Emily able to or interested in training Lori?
  • Is this type of training the reason for the high turnover rates?
  • It seemed like Joe was ignoring Lori
  • Lori had some responsibility to talk to Joe
  • Bob needs to talk to Joe
  • Every group has wanted to work to save Lori if possible

What I hope is clear after reading through this case study is that there is more to set a new employee up to succeed than providing them a week or less of training and then throwing them to the wolves.

As a bonus, if you follow my recommendation to sure up your culture and methods first, you will likely gain the kind of invaluable knowledge. That can only help ensure you are training things that really make a difference as well as identifying the skills needed to be successful.

Job Relations – The Foundation of Leadership

How well do you know yourself and the team?

One of the first pieces of homework I ask students to complete during a Job Relations session is to answer these questions. I encourage you to try to answer these questions and share the results with your team. These discussions can be worth their weight in gold.

1. What are your strengths?

2. What are the strengths of everyone on your team? List them individually

3. How can your team honor each other’s strengths?

Four practices that are the foundation of good Job Relations.

1. Let each team member know how they are doing. – People generally want to know that they are working on the right things and doing a good job. But they also want to trust that if things are not going well something is being done to improve.

2. Give credit when credit is due. This practice seems obvious but unfortunately, it is not commonplace. When giving credit be specific, authentic, and time-bound. Feedback should be given within 24 hours if possible, and certainly within a week

3. Tell people in advance about changes that will affect them. Understandably people do not respond well to unexpected change that affects them. Authentic communication is the first step in helping people understand why and how the change will occur.

4. Make the best use of each person’s ability. Not allowing people to work to their full potential can lead to them shutting down. Or even leaving your team in search of more fulfilling work. Allowing people to work in their niche means understanding where they can add the most value.

A staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged, we can and should do better. If people do not believe you care, about them as an individual. It is not reasonable to believe or expect that they care about you or your goals.

Job Methods – Are you making the best use of resources?

Working as a consultant over the past decade I have discovered a theme. Regardless of the region, or level of the team I am working within the client organization(s), most teams or individuals can, at a high level, explain their procedures “what” they do. But when the subject turns to the methods that are used, “how & why” they do “what” they do, gaps in alignment and understanding are common and that can hamper training. Job Methods is not only an effective continuous model, it is a precursor & companion to world-class Job Instruction.

The 4-steps of the Job Methods model are:



  • This means listing all details of the job Exactly as done in the Current Method
  • Be sure to include transportation, information flow, tasks complete by people, & tasks completed by equipment


  • Use WHY, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHO, & HOW questions
  • This step should be completed by a team, not an individual


  • ELIMINATE unnecessary details
  • COMBINE details when practical
  • REARRANGE details if an opportunity for improvement exists
  • SIMPLIFY all necessary details
  • DOCUMENT the method including skill requirements


  • Help all concerned understand how to perform and support the method
  • Develop a method to track performance
  • Develop Job Instruction for the method, including coaching and mentoring


In closing, if you intend to do something about the skills gap rather than just deal with it. My recommendation is to ensure your culture and methods support proper instruction. Job Relations & Job Methods were created for just that purpose and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

In my next article, I will go into greater detail about preparing for and providing proper instruction.  If you would like to learn more about Training Within Industry, I look forward to hearing from you.


For more information about Training Within Industry, please visit

Author: Dave Swenson president of Multilateral Improvement

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