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Eight Principles of Functional Training

September 1, 1995
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Related Topics: Behavioral Training, Basic Skills Training, Featured Article
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Functional training is a flexible, ongoing training system for the changing industrial environment. Although systems must be designed specifically for a particular company or factory, there are eight principles common to all workplaces that use them:

Systematic:
Training should systematically address the total plant environment. It should be founded on an analysis and definition of the plant's technology, the learning goals of the organization, the learning objectives for each job and the learning needs of each worker.

Total Learning:
Training should be total. It should give workers control of all the processes used in their jobs. All workers in a plant should know what to do, why they are doing it, what decisions they must make and the constraints on their decision making. Workers must have more than just the ability to do their jobs; they also must have a full understanding of their work and how they interrelate with the rest of the plant.

Line Function:
Training should be a line function in which everyone in a plant or other enterprise is responsible for training and developing everyone else—employees, managers and associates. Workers and supervisors are trained to be trainers—and to support trainees. Employees learn to learn, and are prepared to aggressively participate in their own development.

Everyone Gets Trained:
In today's environment, management can't hire people who are completely qualified for the work they're expected to do. They have to be trained. The question is not whether to train or not to train, but how well. Too often, training is disorganized and catch-as-catch-can. This is the least efficient and most costly way possible to try to stay competitive.

Not in a Vacuum:
Even seemingly effective training may fail, because training in many companies exists in a vacuum. Too often, well-trained employees are sabotaged by those outside the process: "I don't care what they told you at headquarters or the classroom. Do it the way I tell you." Functional training prevents this by making certain that every member of the line organization is directly involved and responsible for the training.

Follow Through:
Only learning that's reinforced and repeated is retained. Training that is a class or an event and not a continuous process soon fades. Systematic follow-through must be an integral and formal part of the training program.

Relevance:
Training must focus on the work to be done, and learning should take place within the context of that work. Workers learn by doing their jobs, or a close simulation of them, onsite.

Measurement
Training results must be objectively measurable. Functional training requires the employee to demonstrate his or her skills, so employers know that learning objectives have been met.

Personnel Journal, September 1995, Vol. 74, No. 9, p. 132.

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