I was recently on a trip to visit a manufacturing facility for one of our clients. My connecting flight didn’t arrive on time, which delayed my arrival and put me on a tight schedule.
When I got to the rental car agency I saw 20+ people waiting in line and my heart sunk. “Should I call them now and let them know that I can’t make it on time?” I thought.
But as soon as that thought was over, the line moved up a space. 2 minutes later, up another space. I could see the envy in my neighbors' eyes as I flew past the other lines.
What was going on?
Efficiency, Party of One
My next thought was, “This must be the most efficient rental car agent in the history of airports!”
When it came to my turn, the process was smooth. The agent was confident in her work and performed it with speed and agility. 5 minutes later the keys to my sedan were in my hand and I was on track to meet our client — right on time.
While I was checking out, I made a comment about the efficiency and she told me, “Thank you, but things have actually been chaotic lately. We were all just hired and a lot of other people are struggling to get up to speed.”
Relying on Experience Alone
Even though I was pleasantly surprised with my transaction, most customers were having the exact opposite experience.
This rental agent helped 4x the amount of customers, all leaving satisfied while the other agents had significant delays. What was here secret?
Although she was relatively new too, she had worked at another rental car agency prior. She already had experience in the industry. This made her a quick learner and knowledgeable of common mistakes and challenges.
Just like in manufacturing, experienced workers are hard to come by. Yet most operations rely on these experienced individuals to solve problems and train their peers. In this case, industry experience was a serious bottleneck to a quality customer experience.
The Problem with Problems
The new class of car rental agents had received onboarding training. They knew the process for renting out cars to customers. That wasn't the issue.
The problem was in the problems. In other words, when a transaction didn't go according to plan, new employees had no idea how to troubleshoot. If a certain car model was out of stock or there was an issue with insurance, they had no procedure or information to fall back on. So instead, they had to rely on the experience of other co-workers, (namely one co-worker) disrupting workflows and causing delays.
They were "trained," yes. But they weren't equipped to solve problems.
Consider Employee Experience
While my rental agent was fast, she still had to pause her work to help out her co-workers. When something went wrong, she was the one who had to fix it.
This creates a poor experience for everyone involved.
The experienced employee is stressed because too much is being asked of them while they have their own work to get done. On top of that, the new hires feel incompetent and guilty for causing delays.
Manufacturing companies experience this problem all-too-often. A machine breaks down on the night shift, so Bob the technician gets a call at 2 am to come in and fix it. Now Bob is frustrated with the unscheduled wakeup call and the workers on the night shift are no closer to solving the problem next time.
This places a major strain on those few invaluable employees that remain. At the same time, production quality and efficiency suffer.
Good Training is More Than Onboarding
Effective training is a key component of a successful organization and unfortunately, many companies fail to go beyond the first 6 weeks.
In manufacturing, 84% of quality issues are still caused by worker errors. This isn't a reflection on employees, but a failure to support the training needs of the incoming industrial workforce.
Yes, they need onboarding training. But manufacturers also need to consider the broad range of technical skills and knowledge that the incoming workforce is missing. These are the skills and know-how that support healthy operations and prevent downtime.
When we equip new employees with the documentation/tools they need to successfully execute their job, not only do we get happy customers, we get a confident workforce. The days of relying on a few experts are over. It's time to leverage the full potential of your workforce.