Championing Staff Development in the Age of Lean

When I write about the lean age, my focus is not on the actual foundational process improvement initiative that seeks to streamline operations, eliminate waste, reduce costs, develop supplier relationships, and increase customer satisfaction.

Instead, I look at the ‘age of lean’ as a time of shifting company priorities, uncertain leadership, expanded offshoring, bare boned staffing, a quarter-to-quarter management mentality, and evaporating company loyalty from the employer and employee alike.

Lean is good. The age of lean can leave a lot to be desired, especially when it comes to employee training and development, and especially for those in the supply chain field.

The changing workplace

As a professional educator, I see first hand a reduction in company sponsored tuition reimbursement for degree seeking students in disciplines from business to nursing to education.

As a seminar and workshop leader in the supply chain field, I witness and hear about less company support for professional development. More and more attendees are paying their own way in an effort to maintain a path to career development.

Education is often area often the victim of budget cuts, lack of employer support, or the shifting of skill development the responsibility to a previous employer. Training is focused more on the regulatory issues of right to know, environmental health and safety and workplace harassment, rather than career development.

One can see the changing workplace in the want ads that are posted on company web sites, on large online employment sites, or even once in the while in the newspaper. The requirements for some positions in supply chain management look like a list of search engine optimization (SEO) keywords and skills that no one employee could have.

Are employers trying to hire the perfect candidate? Or are they looking to bring in the most experienced employee possible to eliminate the need for training?

A shift to OJT

Source: ATD

Source: ATD

According to the Association for Talent Development’s (ATD’s) 2016 State of the Industry Report, the 300 employers in the study reported in 2015 spent more on direct learning expenditure per worker than in the previous year. The average direct spending by employee in 2015 was $1,252, up a fraction from 2014.

In 2015, about half of the training hours were delivered by instructors live in the classroom and about 40% were technology based, including online training, in satellite classrooms, or via DVDs. About 10% was self-paced learning.

Yet for the first time, the ATD measured on the job training (OJT), an increasingly significant portion of employee development. On the job training is defined by the ATD as any learning that is not a standalone activity and intertwined with work activities.

Two-thirds of the respondents reported that on-the-job training was an important part of their employee development. Those with higher instances of on-the-job training or coaching often reported fewer formal training hours.

Personal responsibility a must

While there is a role for on the job training in all organizations, it does not replace formal training with its predictable outcomes and quantified measures of success. OJT is rife with shortcuts, anecdotal approaches to problem solving, and adherence to company cultural norms that may be at cross-purposes with the training itself.

Those in the supply chain profession seem more at risk for reduced training. Formal training in the concepts of negotiation, financial analysis, project management and global trade seems to be relegated to either previous experience, on the job training, or just day to day experiences.

Supply chain professionals must take ownership and responsibility for their own professional development as their companies take a more hands-off approach. Leverage any training your company may provide and supplement it with professional certifications, professional development programs, and staying current in your field.

The responsibility for career development rests squarely your shoulders in this age of lean.

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