An Example of How Not to Train New Employees

At Big Brown, the training regimen for a new hire goes something like this:

  • They begin a week with classroom training.
  • Later in the week, they get out into the operation for half the night.
  • On Friday, they are assigned their new work area.
  • Starting on that Friday and for the next week or so, they usually have a training supervisor working with them.

The last one being the stage we are at with our latest new employee.

Big Brown has a training manual that they go through with each new employee. Page by page asking the employee questions, observing them and letting them know what they need to work on and improve and what they are doing well. It is designed to put both a timetable and a structure to what a new employee is to know and a process by which to measure it.

This is all a good idea. Yet, when would you think is the best time to go over this manual with the employee? Would it be…

  1. At the end of the night when things are being wrapped up?
  2. At a slow period during the night?
  3. At the beginning of the shift before things really get started?
  4. Right in the middle of the work while the trailer the new employee is working in is getting a significant amount of volume? When the trailer is backed up and the pickoffs can no longer send boxes down the chute because it is full. This leaving many a package having to be rehandled through the system and leading to extra work, a higher possibility of packages being damaged or being misloaded.

If you answered “D” then you could be a supervisor at Big Brown because that is exactly what happened last night.

We were getting a lot of Florida volume down our belt and the pickoffs had no place to put it because the chute was backed up and full and not moving very much. So they are sending them down the conveyor. The pickoff down the line is putting them down a chute for missorted volume. This volume gets rerun through the system after somebody loads it on a cart and then takes it and puts it on the return belt, which sends it back to the front-end to be resorted.

After the third cart of this, in a very short period of time, and hearing the pickoffs yell that Florida is blowing by for the umpteenth time, I headed over to find out what was going on. As I peered into the trailer, there he was, some new supervisor standing there with the new employee manual questioning and talking with the new hire. This, of course, is making him dual-focused and slowing him down at a time when he needs to be focused on the work at hand, not conversing with a supervisor.

When I asked the supervisor, a new one I had not seen before, if he could do this at a later time, say when we weren’t blowing by packages, he just looked at me and didn’t say anything. When I mentioned to him that this might not be a great use of everybody’s time he just looked dumbfounded and had no idea what to do.

It was great, however, that another new employee of about three weeks now chimed in with his assertion that they were going along pretty well and that they would normally be chatting amongst themselves anyway, so it wasn’t really a big deal, but that is a topic for another day. I left and the supervisor just continued with what he had been told to do, which I am sure was to go find such and such new employee and go over this with him. Yet he had no ability to see that it might be better to do it a little later, a perfect product of the Spiral Down Conic Training Method.

So I had to go and find our line supervisor and ask him if he would do something about it. He finally did and the supervisor stopped and came back to talk to the new employee a bit later when things calmed down, which is when he should have done it in the first place.

This is classic Big Brown management. They try to kill two birds with one stone, but end up with a whole flock of other problems as a result. This was not the first nor, I am sure, the last time I will be asking myself, “What the flock is going on here?”

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