Change Management in Blue-Collar Training: How to successfully implement new training methods

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As leaders in the blue-collar industry, you know the importance of focusing on the worker for effective management. But do you know how to implement new training methods successfully? By using the principles of change management, you can, in fact, execute new training strategies more effectively in your facility.

About Change Management

The discipline of change management is to prepare and support workers (and all levels of management) to adopt change. “Change” may encompass launching a new production line, management reorgs, or implementing new training methods.

Numerous models of change management exist; John Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change and the Prosci ADKAR Model being quite popular. 

Regardless of the model you follow, change management can easily be broken into three phases: preparing for change, managing change, and reinforcing the change. How you engage your workers to adopt change in these phases can make all the difference in the world.

Preparing for change

Adults, by nature, are hesitant to adopt change. For this reason, it is vital to prepare your workers that change is on the horizon. When you support your employees properly during change, amazing things can happen. Apply a “participatory approach” to management by including your workers on the change management team. Including and involving blue-collar employees in the creation of new training methods subsequently increases worker motivation, buy-in, and engagement.

1. Diagnose the Current Situation

Let’s start at the very beginning. How do you know what to include in new training?

Identify the critical skills required to improve efficiency, safety, and productivity in your processing facility or warehouse. Thus, complete a gap analysis to compare actual performance and desired results. Prioritize training efforts where the gap is the greatest.

Solicit feedback from supervisors and workers to determine what is working in the current training method. Likewise, it will be apparent what is not working. 

Remember to analyze each role using criteria specific to that job. The key skills for someone working in package fulfillment differ from someone operating a forklift. Accordingly, the goals should be unique for each job task.

2. Study the Broader Training Environment

White-collar training is a different animal from blue-collar training methods, but there are lessons to be learned. 

Will you hire an external training company, or have some of your workers become certified trainers? Creating your internal training program ensures that new workers are receiving a consistent branded message. In addition to that, internal trainers know your company by heart and won’t teach your workers irrelevant skills.  

Technology is becoming a more substantial component of blue-collar training. COVID-19 highlighted that factories, manufacturers, and processing facilities could effectively use technology for training and onboarding. Moreover, the majority of blue-collar executives feel technology, as a whole, is the most significant factor impacting the future.

3. Develop a Plan Specific to Your Company

Your new training methods must be both interesting and useful. Piece of cake. Right?

The blue-collar workers on your change management team should be highly involved in developing the new training methods. They can provide insider information about what would be interesting and useful. Undoubtedly, they know the working conditions and equipment. Therefore, use their expertise!

Always consider your audience when developing new training methods. Training must be easy-to-understand to be effective. Does your training need to be delivered in multiple languages? Are your workers primarily a tech-savvy generation?

Evaluate the length and timing of training sessions. While it may be tempting to knock-out training in 2-days, that may not be what is best for your workers or bottom line. Conduct training in short modules (three 15-minute sessions is better than one 45-minute module). It should be noted that the attention spans have dropped to 8 seconds! Your new training must continually grab your worker’s attention.

In fact, you can use gamification in the training process. It is a fun way to combat short attention spans and utilize technology. Gamification is effective because, from a psychological standpoint, winning a game is more fun than basic learning. Workers completing training in this format gain a sense of achievement.

Test your new training methods with a pilot class. Your pilot group should include workers of different job functions, from logistics to delivery. As a result, you will gain feedback on the content and delivery method.

Managing Change

After careful planning, the time has finally arrived to implement new training methods.

 If your training goal is to educate workers about new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, those workers are your stakeholders. Without the support of your workers adopting the new OSHA guidelines, your operation would cease to exist. Remember your stakeholders when taking action and implementing new training methods.

4. Take Action

Motivate your workers by communicating the reasons for the change. What is the benefit to the worker of adopting the new training methods? Your workers need to know “what’s in it for me”(WIIFM).

Are your workers ready? The best time to train is when your blue-workers are motivated to learn. Likewise, create a “moment of motivations” by informing workers that they need to prepare for new processes or equipment, production lines, or seasonal challenges.

Reinforcing Change

Training is not a one-and-done process. Especially, a brand new training method.

5. Assess, Pivot, Repeat

Collect and analyze feedback after implementing a new training method. Do your stakeholders know how to comply with the changing Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines? Furthermore, does your workforce see the value in the change?  

Incorporate feedback into future training sessions. Be open to pivot directions and change your training methods.

Continue to visit with the blue-collar members of your change management team. They can provide valuable current opinions and views of your stakeholders. 

Listening to your employees about a process change or new training methods fosters an environment of open communication. As a result of listening to them and implementing their ideas and feedback, they will share more valuable information in the future. Your business will only become stronger. 

Employing new training methods will not happen overnight. Continue to focus on your worker, the key stakeholder, when using change management techniques. Always listen and be flexible. The end result will be new training plans that are relevant, useful, and interesting.