New Employee Training on Continuous Process Improvement—Strategies and Methods to Touch Every New Employee

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Dennis Narlock

Every organization that has implemented a process improvement methodology or methodologies is faced with the dilemma of how to train new employees in such a way that they fully understand the organization and its approach to Continuous Process Improvement (CPI). You are seeking to provide an overview of your Continuous Process Improvement program and how it ties to your strategic business plan. Once an employee has been hired by an organization that understanding needs to be communicated as soon as it is practical. This article discusses strategies and methods that could be employed to accomplish this monumental task. In addition, since there are many topics that new employees are trained on, this article only focuses on the process improvement portion.

What Should be in Place Before You Begin Overview of Continuous Process Improvement for New Employees

There are a few things that should already be in place when you start to include an overview of your Continuous Process Improvement methodologies in new employee training. First and foremost you should establish your deployment plan and achieve a consensus vision of the future with your entire organization. For the Continuous Process Improvement program to produce the results desired by the organization, the employees who are expected to implement that program must have a part in creating the vision for them to truly buy into it. In turn, they will own the work required in accomplishing that vision. Once the vision has been established you have to ensure that the existing workforce creates the overview training and that all employees have received the training. Bringing in new employees that know more of what is happening than the existing workforce will create an organization where the old and new employees are already at odds over what should be done. To that end, it is imperative that the existing workforce know what is happening and their role within the Continuous Process Improvement program. These steps will ensure that the current organization is aligned top-to-bottom.

Continuous Process Improvement Training Determines What Needs to be Communicated

As the overview training is being developed, knowing what needs to be communicated is determined by the goal of the training. Since we are talking about indoctrination of new employees, the Continuous Process Improvement training should be limited to a brief overview. How long the training should be and what information should be discussed will be decided upon by existing employees. The reason that you would utilize the existing workforce to create the training is because they have the ownership of implementing the initiative, and they are most familiar with what information is needed to start a new employee off on the right foot. Peer-to-peer instruction can be difficult to start but will be more beneficial in the long run.

Strategies for New Employee Continuous Process Improvement Indoctrination Training

Indoctrination of the goal of Continuous Process Improvement training is not to create in-house experts in Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, etc.; instead it is to provide an overview in such a manner that the new employee feels comfortable communicating with his or her fellow employees. Secondly, the goal of the training is to educate the new employee on the organization, its strategic plan and what his or her role will be in achieving the goals and objectives of that plan. In the end, the length and content of the Continuous Process Improvement training will be dependent on the organization; there is no single "cookie cutter" approach that will work for all organizations.

The strategies that could be utilized are dependent on a few variables:

  • Internal or external organization facilitators, the question here is: Will your organization utilize existing employees or an external training group to provide the new employee indoctrination? Choosing to adopt an approach that transfers the ownership of the development and implementation of the Continuous Process Improvement program will also include using existing employees to provide the new employees with their indoctrination training. An external organization would include facilitators that are more technically proficient both in their experience and the material that they are presenting. However, they do not have any ownership of the collective vision and their material may not adequately cover your specific organization.
  • Self-paced or group paced: Each and every new employee will learn differently, so the training must be facilitated in such a manner that all of them can effectively receive the message. A mix of group and self-paced activities will reach the majority of new employees.
  • On-site or off-site training: On-site training is best suited for those organizations that have the space available, hold frequent training sessions and can accomplish the training with minimal introductions. Off-site training is best suited for those organizations that do not have the space available to dedicate to training, hold few training session or have a high potential for interruptions.

Methods for Delivering New Employee Continuous Process Improvement Indoctrination Training

In conjunction with the strategy for the new employee indoctrination training, the method of delivery must be developed. There are many different methods of delivering the Continuous Process Improvement training and the choice for your organization may result in the use of one method, or the combination of multiple methods.

  • eLearning is training that is conducted through interactive programs accessed through the Internet, intranet or a program on the user’s computer. This allows the student to learn at his or her own pace.
  • Classroom-based training is used as part of a group-paced indoctrination program. A facilitator guides the new employees through the material the organization deems important for all new employees.
  • PowerPoint presentation-based instruction is most often used in the classroom environment.
  • Video presentation-based instruction can be used in the classroom or in an eLearning environment. Videos can be tailored to show the new employee the material they are learning applied in the environment that they will be performing their tasks.
  • Document review, or the reading of organizational policies and guidelines, can be used in the classroom, eLearning or other self-paced environment. It requires the new employee to read through pages of material.
  • Mentorship involves the linking of two employees, one who has been with the organization for a period of time and a new employee. The experienced employee guides the new employee through their orientation.
  • On-the-job training establishes a skill or knowledge level for the new employee to attain through the performance of specific tasks.

Which strategy and delivery method is best is dependent on the size of the organization, the employee turnover rate and the maturity of the Continuous Process Improvement deployment. Arguably the best approach would be the development of a robust program, developed and facilitated utilizing peer-to-peer on-the-job coaching and instruction. It incorporates many of the strategies and methods listed above.

Properly Welcoming Your New Employee to Your Continuous Process Improvement Program

New employees should be welcomed by existing employees who approach their responsibility for indoctrinating them through a collaborative teaming environment. Executive leadership should be on hand at the start of each new employee indoctrination session, establishing the importance of the Continuous Process Improvement program and the trust that has been placed with the existing work force. Following the brief indoctrination, new employees should be given the opportunity to identify a mentor and begin building a relationship that will continue to grow throughout their tenure. Step one in the process of establishing this program is to have a conversation with your existing workforce, listen to the information that they provide and then allow them the opportunity to take ownership of the program by developing it.

Monitoring Your Continuous Process Improvement Orientation Program’s Effectiveness

Once your new employee orientation program has been developed, your organization will need to monitor it for effectiveness. The goal of the program is to provide an orientation for new employees as it relates to the Continuous Process Improvement methodologies within the first 90 days. This means that the organization will need to track its effectiveness at getting new employees into the training within their first 90 days. That will only communicate how many attended within the desired time frame. To truly judge the effectiveness of the information that is communicated, an organization needs input from two sources: the new employees and the existing employees. I recommend using a Gemba Walk approach that allows the executive leadership, as well as employees of all levels, to see the new and existing employees interacting where the work is performed. Careful observation and engagement in productive conversations will communicate the effectiveness of the program.