No matter how much technology enters the factories, blue-collar workers still serve as the backbone of most businesses. Due to factors like seasonal changes and high fluctuation, there is an increasing demand for blue-collar workers across the world. These challenges are particularly present in the logistics industry.
For most warehouse managers, the high production season means they must staff their teams more thoroughly. So, it only makes sense to focus on training to make these jobs more attractive.
Training in the blue-collar world is often an afterthought. Many organizations invest in only minimal training programs or sometimes have 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. While there is nothing wrong with this method, you should use it merely as an addition to your logistics training program.
Fortunately, there is a wide range of training methods that you can use to ensure that your warehouse workforce understands their tasks and performs them safely and effectively.
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It integrates learning into the workflow.
Creates higher productivity.
This method can only fill gaps, basic knowledge must exist beforehand.
Performance Support does not equate to learning but is more about fast support at the workplace.
When the basic knowledge already exists and only needs support in the learning process, for example, precise questions or problems.
Learning on the Job
One of the most effective ways of training employees.
By seeing how the systems operate in a real-time environment, workers learn applicable skills that are specific to their job or organization.
Has a high practical focus.
Errors must be expected, causing possible disturbances or delays in the workflow.
Long-term training that takes place during work hours.
A new worker can see the physical aspects of the job and ask questions to gain more understanding.
Workflows can be influenced by the presence of an observer and can differ from the norm.
Suitable for the start of new workers.
Offer advice and give knowledge about the job and company functions. Can also provide moral and emotional support.
More focused on personal development.
Covers a wide field of needs.
Success depends very much on sympathy and the relationship between the mentee and mentor.
Does not take place at eye level.
Suitable for the start of new workers, but also for further development.
Provide professional presentations and evaluations; improving performance throughout the department.
Takes place at eye level.
Should be based on consent and voluntariness and not be forced.
Can be expensive.
More focus on improving an existing routine than on introduction / basics, so it’s recommended for experienced employees or if there is a clear goal.
It can be useful to take some time away and simply learn about the job in a classroom of peers.
Not the favorite method for warehouse workers.
This can be particularly beneficial for topics where it is not advisable to allow “practical” demonstrations, e.g. safety training.
Remember: There is no “one size fits all” approach. You can use a combination of different methods that better fit the training needs of your warehouse staff.
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 train workers on the various aspects of the job. These tools are excellent for on-the-go employees who need quick solutions. They offer training that takes place on the job site and can be accessed at any time.
PSTs empower workers to make tough decisions without requiring them to take time away from the job for formal training sessions.
Learning platforms like how.fm can help you integrate performance support in the form of a worker training app and train your workers without any effort. You can book a 15-minute product demo here.
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 warehouse 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.
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, 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, and how 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.
“DB Schenker [a global logistics provider] understands the value of good mentoring and has made it a key part of its corporate culture and training approach. From the entry-level employees to the mid-level manager to the executive, the company offers a range of mentoring opportunities, knowing that having someone to turn to for advice and support is a key success component.”Source: DB Schenker
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.
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 less concrete goals and are more focused on personal development.
A coach in a blue-collar company 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.
This may not be the favorite method for warehouse 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 useful 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 things 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 workers is incredibly important, and more companies are realizing its value. There is no correct answer to how to train your warehouse staff. 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 their feet on the floor and help with workflow. Regardless, a comprehensive and useful training program should be a priority of any blue-collar firm.
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