Magazine article Industrial Management

A Systematic Approach to Determining Productivity Improvement Training Needs

Magazine article Industrial Management

A Systematic Approach to Determining Productivity Improvement Training Needs

Article excerpt

Industrial engineers have traditionally used operational or managerial audits as a means of identifying barriers to productivity improvement. Towards this end numerous techniques and programs have been developed and implemented over the years albeit with somewhat mixed results. Constant changes in productivity improvement methods have become commonplace while the popularity of various programs (e.g. quality circles, employee empowerment and leadership development programs, TQM, etc.) seem to rise and fall with each phase in the business, industrial and economic cycles. Before any type of productivity improvement effort can be undertaken. however, obstacles to such efforts defined as needs--must first be identified so that a rationale to address them can be devised and implemented.


Productivity improvement efforts are, for the most part, brought about through an increase in human endeavor and/or changes in the methods and processes used to produce and deliver goods and/or services. In most cases, however, productivity improvement efforts are, by and large, designed around some form of employee involvement. Training and productivity improvement therefore are Logical extensions of each other. It is improbable to produce improvements in human performance without relying, to one degree or another, on training. Also, training should not be undertaken without first determining if it is necessary or required. Consequently, training should not be considered without having productivity improvement in mind as a principle goal.

Training thus becomes an integral part of almost any productivity improvement effort. As such training and productivity improvement share a common objective--to improve performance on individual as well as collective levels, thereby increasing efficiency, quality and output while simultaneously controlling (reducing) costs.

Most productivity improvement programs will, at one time or another, require training or retraining of employees as a basis for their implementation. These requirements are the result of an operational audit or some other form of investigation into what needs to be done to increase productivity and, hence, efficiency and output. Traditional IE audits tend to focus on an evaluation of tasks, work practices and methods in an attempt to address the following questions:

* To what extent have prior productivity improvement efforts, if any, contributed to increased output, quality and reduced operational costs?

* What specifically needs to be done to increase productivity, contain costs and continually improve the quality and/or delivery of goods and/or services?

Current and especially future needs can be vague and somewhat difficult to identify. A starting point is to first begin by evaluating the strategic as well as short-term plans and goals of the organization in an effort to determine where it is currently positioned in regards to the attainment of those goals and further, to proceed to identify and investigate possible ways and means of meeting those objectives. Thus, the audit will generally identify operational and/or administrative obstacles while focusing on what needs to be done to facilitate further improvement. This approach, however, tends to examine tasks within processes and overlooks, to a great extent, the human involvement and contribution to each of these activities. Tasks, processes and procedures are generally more easily observed and analyzed than are individuals' behavior, actions and reactions. Because of this employee skill and/or knowledge, deficiencies (needs) can be lightly considered or, at worst, overlooked. An over sight like this can quickly grow to become a major inhibitor to the productivity improvement process.

One way this can be corrected is to ensure that employee training needs are measured, analyzed and evaluated as part of the overall productivity improvement program. This can be accomplished through the design, administration and analysis of a training needs assessment (TNA). …

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