Doing Something About The Skills Gap - Part 3

June 8, 2020 11:51 am

Popular vs Effective

Proper instruction is about more than just simply telling or showing a person how a task is to be completed. These are two of the most common methods to train and they both have numerous shortfalls.

Telling a person how to do a job is one of the most popular methods of training in use today. This type of training includes conversations, memos, reading manuals, presentations, much online training, and videos. While this type of training can be used best for very simple tasks, it is not experiential and does not address multiple learning styles, so many people just do not learn well through telling alone.

Telling, as instruction, can result in injury, defects, delay, and rework. When and if this type of instruction fails, it is not the employee’s fault.

Showing someone how to do a job is another one of the most popular methods of training in use today. Showing, as instruction, is in many cases better than “Telling” but alone is not good instruction.

Showing alone is not experiential and does not address multiple learning styles. Even when seeing a job done, many people do not learn well through showing alone. Trainees may just “copy motions” without understanding, and many motions are hard to copy. Critical points can be missed, and that leads to mistakes. When and if this type of instruction fails, it is not the employee’s fault.

Helping others to understand a job allowing them to do it safely, correctly, consciously, and effectively is one of a leader’s most important responsibilities and will require proper instruction.

“Effective leadership is not about speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” – Peter Drucker

Proper Instruction begins with preparation, and that includes identifying the skills needed to perform the job and committing to setting up the learner for success.

Getting Ready To Instruct

Make a timetable for training  

  • Who will be trained?
  • For what jobs?
  • When will the training occur?
  • Specifically, what skills are required for this job?

Break the job down into manageable training sessions

  • List the important steps
  • List the key points; what are the tricks of the trade and safety protocol that make or breaks the job?
  • List the reasons for important steps and key points
  • Make and document improvements utilizing Job Methods analysis

List and be sure you have everything needed

  • Equipment, tools, supplies, materials, and any training aids required
  • Verify everything needs for proper instruction works as it should prior to instruction
  • Assure you have ample time and supplies to

Be prepared to set the example

  • Arrange the work area neat and orderly as it should be under actual working conditions
  • Never instruct in a way that might risk safety, quality, morale, or customer expectations

My personal preference and recommendation are to utilize a training and mentoring plan for all Job Instruction. Among other things, this form should include information about the skills required for the job to be performed. Any improvements that were made in creating the Job Instruction packets and a method to document lessons learned or suggestions for improvements that need to be made as a result of this instruction. Feel free to email me for a copy of the form I use.

How to instruct


  • Put the learner at ease
  • State the job stressing why it is important that this job is done correctly
  • Find out what the learner already knows
  • Put the learner in the correct position


  • Tell, show, and illustrate – one IMPORTANT STEP at a time
  • Stress each KEY POINT and its REASON be sure to instruct clearly, completely, and patiently giving no more than the learner can master at one time
  • Instruct in a way that teaches to at least 3 learning styles


  • Have the learner do the job – while you’re correcting any errors
  • Have the learner do the job repetitively – while they explain KEY POINTS and REASONS WHY
  • Make sure the learner understands, continue mentoring until YOU know THEY know


  • Put the learner on their own
  • Designate a go-to person
  • Check on the learner frequently – encourage questions
  • Taper off coaching and close follow-up, as the learner demonstrates proficiency

In closing this article, I encourage you to look past what may be popular and focus on what is effective. If you intend to do something about the skills gap rather than just deal with it, my recommendation is to take a holistic approach.  Begin by ensuring that your culture and methods support proper instruction.

Then as you move to instruction take the time to prepare for mutual success. Utilizing a Job Instruction training & mentoring plan, and then taking the time to document lessons learned throughout the process provides an opportunity to assure you are addressing the skills that are needed now and in the future.

In my next article, I will go into greater detail about addressing the leadership skills gap utilizing Staff Development. 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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