Blue-Collar Training Methods – An overview

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No matter how much technology enters the factories, blue-collar workers still serve as the backbone of most businesses. Due to factors such as seasonal changes and high fluctuation, there are significant needs for blue-collar workers across the world. For example, an increase in demand during the produce season means that warehouses managers must staff their teams more thoroughly. We must make these jobs attractive and provide ample training.
Training in the blue-collar world is often an afterthought. Many organizations provide only minimal training programs, and sometimes, no training at all. After all, many manual laborers are “hands-on” workers who make great strides by jumping into a job and learning on their own. There is nothing wrong with this method. But you should use it merely as an addition to your training program.
Fortunately, there is a wide range of training methods that you can use to ensure that your workforce understands their tasks and performs them safely and effectively. There is no “one size fits all” approach. It is essential to use a combination of different methods that are tailored to the needs of your organization.

Performance Support

Performance support is aimed at helping workers on the job, providing them with solutions and advice at the time that they need assistance. PSTs, or Performance Support Tools, are used to provide access to instant information when a worker is in need. These tools can be as simple as a worker’s handbook. However, modern technology has made it possible to avoid carrying around a large book for advice.

Performance support can now be found in the form of mobile apps, instructional videos, e-books, and even short games that teach workers how to make the right decisions. These tools are excellent for on-the-go employees who need quick answers. They offer training that takes place on the job site and can be accessed at any time. PSTs are important.  They empower workers to make tough decisions without requiring them to take time away from the job for formal training sessions.

Learning on the job

Many studies show that learning on the job is one of the most effective ways of training employees. The 70-20-10 model posits that 70% of learning is done on the job. While this is similar to Performance Support, it refers more to long-term training that takes place during work hours. PSTs are used for quick answers to on-the-spot questions while learning on the job is planned and directed.

Learning on the job has been a popular method for many years. Apprenticeships are a great example of positions that are focused on learning while also providing essential services to help an organization function.

A new warehouse worker may benefit from on-the-job training as he or she learns the layout of the floor and the processes behind shipping, receiving, and inventory. By seeing how the systems operate in a real-time environment, workers learn applicable skills that are specific to their company.

Many blue-collar jobs require physical labor. Whether a worker is lifting and placing packages or fixing heavy-duty machinery, getting his or her hands dirty is an effective way to learn the needs and nuances of their position. This is why so many blue-collar workers benefit from on-the-job training.

Shadowing

Job shadowing is not limited to blue-collar training, but it is helpful in onboarding new employees. Shadowing is when the new employee follows one or more experienced employees throughout the day to gain knowledge about the requirements and operations of the job.
By shadowing, a new worker can see the physical aspects of the job and ask questions to gain more understanding. This is another form of training that is valuable in blue-collar environments due to the hands-on nature of many jobs.
One common form of shadowing in the blue-collar world involves a new truck driver sitting aside an experienced one for a week’s worth of trips. The new driver can watch as the veteran drives, navigates, and communicates with dispatchers and warehouse workers. He can ask questions about truck operation and maintenance, and he can observe as the trucker backs into tight spaces and logs his hours.

Mentoring

Mentoring, like shadowing, requires both an experienced employee and a new worker. The more senior member does not need to be in upper-management or executive levels. Anyone who has exhibited success and progress in their position can become an influential mentor for new employees.
Mentoring allows older employees to offer advice and give knowledge about the ins and outs of the job, as well as the way that the company functions. When a mentor takes a new worker under his wing, his goal is to turn this employee into a valuable team member. He is also there to provide moral support and assistance when undesirable situations arise.
Traditionally, mentoring is a one-on-one process, but there are group mentors who take on several mentees at the same time. This can be beneficial in allowing the mentees to discuss what they have learned and to collaborate on questions.

Coaching

While mentoring is generally an informal form of training, coaching has more structure and definition. A mentor might take on an employee for a year or two before ending the mentorship program.  But coaching happens over a shorter period of time.

Companies will often hire coaches to come in and teach a group of workers. Often, coaches come from outside of the organization to provide professional presentations and evaluations. Coaches have a goal of improving performance throughout the department. Mentors, on the other hand, have a less concrete goal and are more focused on personal development.

A coach in the blue-collar realm may be an expert on warehousing who is hired to improve KPIs in a company’s supply chain. Workers may be required to take classes and show progress over a specific time. The coach would focus on increasing package output from the warehouse, decreasing surplus supply, and minimizing downtime. All of these are measurable and actionable indicators that employees can improve.

Classroom Teaching

This may not be the favorite method for blue-collar workers, but there are certain advantages to classroom teaching. As important as it is for workers to see and interact with their work environment. It can be useful to take some time away and simply learn about the job in a classroom of peers.
This can be particularly beneficial for safety training, as it is not advisable to allow “hands-on” demonstrations with dangerous materials or machines that could cause injury. Taking a class on how to operate a forklift, for example, can highlight the inherent dangers of the machine and spend extra time reiterating the hazards of being irresponsible.
While some workers may roll their eyes at the thought of sitting in a classroom, they can learn several items best in such a setting. These classes don’t have to take all day. Instead, they should focus on important aspects that can be learned and accepted in a short, to-the-point session.

Training in blue-collar jobs is incredibly important, and more companies realize their value. There is no correct answer how to train your employees. It is best to use a combination of the above methods. Some organizations will require more time in a classroom due to safety hazards. Others will need on-the-job learning to keep feet on the floor and help with workflow. Regardless, a comprehensive and useful training program should be a priority of any blue-collar firm.