To Train or Not to Train, that is the question

The perpetual question that confronts every employer, ‘ Do you train your people well and risk that they will leave or do you not train them and risk that they will stay?’


There is no simple answer to this. We are passionate about training our people both within the business, often on a one to one basis, and outside the business by sending them on courses. Any company with a serious commitment to training their people, will fully appreciate that it is very expensive, not only because you lose that person’s services whilst they are away on training courses, but also that the cost of the training courses is not cheap.  If people are determined to take all this for granted they can take everything that’s on offer, then jump ship to another company, even a competitor who, with no such commitment to training, can afford to pay a little extra. If there is no loyalty, that can’t be trained into people (or at least we haven’t found a way to do so).

A few years ago we made the commitment that we would ensure that all our sales personnel, present and future, would be trained to Lean Six Sigma, Black Belt Standard, in order to help them identify better with customer problems and thereby provide more knowledgeable and effective support to our valued clients during systems implementation and beyond. Overall, this has been seen by our users as a huge benefit and a real ‘value added’, that costs them nothing extra. ‘A bigger bang for their bucks’.

One person, whom we arranged to be trained from scratch, with no prior knowledge of Lean or Six Sigma, was trained over 4 years and qualified, to Lean Six Sigma Black Belt status at our expense We then put him through a Prince 2 Project Management course where he also qualified. Then, having bolstered his CV at our considerable expense, he left.

The image above, courtesy of Private Eye Magazine, puts this training dilemma perfectly.

I have no doubt that many employers have had similar experiences and doubtless others will follow. Some may even have reduced or abandoned their high-profile training schemes as a consequence of such acts of disloyalty. We won’t. We know that we could put restrictive covenants in place and/or time-based, training cost, payback schemes, but we know that, as employers, we will receive no support from legislation for doing so and contracts that seek to prevent such unacceptable behaviour are virtually unenforceable. We prefer to continue to pay for our people to be well trained and run the risk that the odd one will show no loyalty in return for such support and investment.

Systems Training

We believe that a similar employer’s dilemma arises in the deployment of systems. It often takes companies years within the food and drink manufacturing industry, to justify moving away from paper-based systems and justifying the installation of MES paperless systems.

With the increasing interest in automation, training becomes even more important. In our experience, companies are more than willing to make the personnel available for the necessary training at the beginning of a new installation, especially if the cost of the training is already embedded in the cost of the new solution. There are plenty of reasons why the investment in training can be lost over time, other than employee disloyalty, such as promotion, changes of location and/or redundancies, etc. In our experience, when people move on, for whatever reason, they don’t always train those who take over the responsibility for running the new, more automated systems, and even when they do make an effort to do so, some of the original training importance can be watered down or lost entirely from their own in-house training programme.

In addition, if automated and semi-automated systems continue to develop at the present rate, there is a strong argument for an annual training refresher, especially if the system has been upgraded in the meantime.

Many automation companies are currently spending £millions on further system enhancements so it is highly likely that additional training will be required, in order to achieve optimum utilisation.

Aside from systems training, there are a number of areas where we believe factory floor and middle management personnel need additional and regular training.

Average Quantity Law

An area which is one of our own key specialities, is compliance with Average Quantity Law. Even though Average Quantity Law replaced Minimum Quantity Law, for a wide range of pre-packaged goods in 1979, there is still a lack of knowledge amongst many packers as to what is and what is not acceptable. Government cuts in spending have hit Trading Standards departments (responsible for overseeing weights and measures control), just as they have most other Government departments and the availability of trading standards officers to carry out weights and measures reference tests or to provide advice upon the best way to achieve compliance, has radically reduced.

When Average Quantity Law first came in, by legally lowering their filling levels, some large companies were able to save £millions per annum through better materials utilisation (less giveaway). In the four decades since, we have become increasingly aware that a lot of these companies have allowed overfills to creep back up again, largely because of the lack of training, understanding, knowledge and visibility.

The same can be said for OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) and many other metrics with which packers have become more familiar over the last few decades. Unfortunately, familiarity without the knowledge, understanding and training, can easily breed contempt, misuse, exposure to legal challenges and significant wastage in raw materials and production efficiency.

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