Archive | Training


7:01 pm
November 15, 2016
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Vision, Passion, And Talent Management

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Learning how to perform a maintenance task, whether a repair or a preventive-maintenance inspection, requires training, proper tools, spare parts, and general knowledge relating to safety. But, that’s not all: Aptitude is also required. It’s the natural ability to understand functional relationships and accomplish the tasks at hand. In the case of maintenance, that means mechanical, electrical, or electronic aptitude.

Yet, to qualify as a competent maintenance technician these days, training and aptitude are not enough. As my Oct. 2016 “Uptime” column noted, technology innovation and modernization of the Fourth Industrial Revolution have reached into nearly every aspect of equipment and facilities operations and maintenance—at a remarkable pace. Couple the escalation of technology with a widespread shortage of technical skills in the workforce pool, along with a shortage of maintenance-and repair-education providers, and we have a serious problem.

To put a different spin on the situation, as industrialist Henry J. Kaiser once said, “Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.” Simply worrying about our skills shortage, the assimilation of rapidly advancing technologies, and demands for high-performing, reliable equipment won’t make these threats go away. Instead, we need to boldly confront them in a positive, proactive manner. That boils down to talent and how we manage it.

Hiring, developing, and retaining the right people should be the top priority of any business that depends on physical assets.

Hiring, developing, and retaining the right people should be the top priority of any business that depends on physical assets.

Food for thought

While attending Dematic’s Materials Handling & Logistics Conference in Park City, UT, two presentations stood out for me: One was a discussion about achieving your personal best and the other was about talent management. What, on the surface, might have seemed like two very different topics, became hard-wired together in my mind.

Although it sounds like an individual discipline, achieving your personal best is about aptitude, interest, willingness, and an associated passion to succeed under the guidance of talented, dedicated coaches and mentors. That was the premise for the presentation by Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic medalist of all time, who candidly discussed his award-winning journey. As I look over my copious notes from his interview session, I continue to be struck by two things that he highlighted: vision to succeed (to win) and passion for the sport.

When he was seven years old, Phelps dreamed that he would win an Olympic gold medal. At 15 years of age, he described how he wanted to do with Olympic-level swimming what Michael Jordan had done with basketball. And, at age 31, he has done just that. What began as a love for swimming, and some very skilled and motivating coaches along the way, still required a compelling vision for what he wanted to achieve. That’s where passion comes in. What may have seemed to be about wanting to win, win, and win some more was really this Olympian’s passion for the sport, and how it could be used for a bigger good.

This brings me to the presentation on “Supply Chain Talent Management” led by Mike Burnett of the Global Supply Chain Institute (GSCI) at the Univ. of Tennessee Haslam College of Business, in Knoxville. His topic is described in detail in a white paper entitled “Supply Chain Talent–Our Most Important Resource.” While space won’t allow a full recap of the subject, there were a number of timely—and essential—takeaways.

Best practices

Hiring, developing, and retaining the right people should be the top priority of any business that depends on physical assets (machinery, equipment, facilities, utilities), now more than ever. This process must also become a truly collaborative partnership between the front-line business leaders and the human-resources professionals.

The “GSCI Supply Chain Talent Management” white paper provides a framework that makes sense for reliable equipment, plant, and facility operation, well beyond its supply-chain focus. The institute’s surveys and interviews of benchmark companies should help us create career pathways for our technicians and leaders. Here are some of the best practices the GSCI identified:

• Clear definition of the “who.” Describe the talent, the “who,” you need in terms of technical and soft skills to be successful on the job and in the company’s culture.
• Use of mentors, sponsors, and first coaches. Acquire the resources required to help everyone succeed.
• Individual skills-development plans. Start with a solid definition of the skills needed to be successful in the end-to-end supply chain, in supply chain disciplines, and in specific roles.
• Internships/co-ops. Provide opportunities to obtain experiential growth in job skills, learn from diverse thinking, and evaluate a work-culture fit.
• Top university partners. Find students who best fit the definition of the “who” and then place them in a role where they have the best chance for success.


Employee training is a must, and on-the-job-performance qualification is the practical outcome of efficient and effective training. But, let’s not blur the lines between talent management and training. They’re not the same. Yes, training is a vital element of a talent-management system. But talent management is the system that aligns the people side of the organization with the needs of the business.

The bottom line of the GSCI supply-chain talent discussion was summed up in their three recommendations.

• Create a clearly documented, talent development strategy. This is the first, and most important, step.
• Employ best-in-class talent-development programs. Include educational and experiential components with a mixture of internal and external experiences.
• View talent development as owned by the business and driven by ROI. Manage talent like you manage your supply chain (your business).

For our purposes

Now, back to my notes from Michael Phelps’ interview. To repeat, what struck me most about his story was the vision he had to succeed (to win) and his passion for the sport. We need to leverage those things for our own purposes.

As we look ahead to developing talented people to succeed at installing, maintaining, and repairing equipment and facilities, we must find ways to excite our in-school youth. For example, some have keen interests in sports because of what they see on TV, at sporting events, and what their friends are doing. Some get excited about computers and software and writing code. Some pursue teaching because of the role models in their schools and classes. Some want very much to preserve our planet, or to pursue agricultural interests. Some have a passion for mastering welding for their own use, but later find out that they can earn big bucks as certified welders.

Our challenge is to find ways to instill in them a vision to succeed and a passion for their futures. Sure, the focus on STEM education is resurfacing. But that’s not enough. We need more, younger-aged students learning about the rewarding careers they can have as equipment and systems technicians in manufacturing, utilities, process industries, and building and facilities management.

There are plenty of ways to do this. Look for opportunities to invite students, teachers, school administrators, and board members into your facilities. Institute and/or support plant tours, career days, bring-a-child-to-work days, co-op experiences, and summer internships. Over time, the payoff could be significant. After all, what if Michael Phelps had never seen a real swimming pool, learned to swim, or not had a motivational mentor who recognized his aptitude and talent? MT


• “Supply Chain Talent Management” white paper, April 2015, Global Supply Chain Institute, Haslam College of Business (

• Michael Phelps Foundation (

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM and member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


6:47 pm
November 15, 2016
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Employees: Retain the Good Ones

Workforce ManagmentHighly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their employer than disengaged counterparts. Are you doing what you can to engage your people?

Mary Jo Cheney is corporate TPM coach at GE Appliances, Louisville, KY, and tacks CMRP, CRL, and CPMM onto the end of her name. Her credentials and experience make her an expert on managing and retaining people. She shared that expertise in her presentation, “Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain—Lessons of Leadership from the Wizard of Oz,” given at the 24th Annual SMRP Conference, held October 2016 in Jacksonville, FL.

The Wizard of Oz angle was a creative use of the characters in that classic movie to represent various aspects of personnel management and retention. I’ll spare you the Dorothy, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Man references, but share several of the facts and figures Cheney provided to help you better understand how to identify and retain talented employees.

—Gary L. Parr, editorial director

randmRetaining good leaders

Effective leader retention starts with honest, clear communication, which is not a strength for most companies. Good leaders also stick around if they are fed enriching assignments that challenge their talents. This is particularly true for younger people. Along with that is providing a clear line of sight to the next opportunity.

She also suggested the importance of knowing your competition in terms of who is likely to steal good employees. Cheney told a story of a competitor who bought a billboard sign near the entrance to one of her previous company’s property in an attempt to lure away talent. That sign got the full attention of employees and management.

“Training is critical!” stated Cheney. She asked two questions worth serious consideration: What if I train them and they leave? What if you don’t and they stay?

She also quoted Mark Alan Csonka, the smartest businessman she has ever met: “I hire people who are smarter than me and then I help them grow. I do not feel insecure because they know more than I. In fact, it has made me a better leader.”

Chaos-elimination leadership

In this segment of her presentation, Cheney turned the mirror on herself and her peers with these two questions:

• Are you the the person causing chaos in your department?
• Do you need to control every decision that is made by your employees?

An answer of yes to either or both of those questions is probably not a good thing.

Along with those two questions she suggested the importance of presenting a crystal-clear strategy, having a direct line of sight from the top to the people in the trenches, and knowing your role in a successful strategy.

Some employee facts

Cheney also offered some facts worth noting, obtained from Dale Carnegie Training and Daily Infographics, February 2014:

• $11 billion is lost annually due to turnover.
• 71% of workers are not fully engaged in their work.
• 80% of employees are dissatisfied with their direct manager.
• 70% of employees who lack confidence in senior leadership are not fully engaged.
• Revenue is 2.5 times higher in companies with highly engaged employees.
• Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave than disengaged counterparts. MT


5:57 pm
November 14, 2016
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Achieving ROI From Public Education


By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Despite leaving Alabama (and family) for Chicagoland 11+ years ago, I continue to start each day with a quick review of news about the region on Note that my interests go well beyond SEC football rankings.

The progress of the state’s public-school system and economic-development efforts are compelling topics for me. That’s why an Oct. 19, 2016 post by Trisha Powell Crain about a recently released White House report had me grinning from ear to ear. That report ranks Alabama third in the nation for high school graduation rates (89.3%), behind only Iowa and New Jersey. Seemed like good news—until I delved deeper into that article and two others Crain later posted about recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing. It wasn’t a pretty picture after all.

Known as the nation’s report card, the NAEP has been administered since 1969 in multiple academic areas, including math, reading, science, and civics. It’s given to 4th, 8th, and 12th graders in states that voluntarily agree to participate. As I understand it, the most recent findings reference scores from 4th graders who took the test in 2009 and 2015, and 8th graders who took it in 2009, 2011, and 2015.

In the 2015 science assessments (which included physical, life, earth, and space sciences), Alabama’s 4th and 8th graders scored below the national average. Mississippi was the only southeastern state with lower scores.

It gets worse.

In math, Alabama’s fourth-graders ranked 52nd—dead-last in scores from all 50 states, the Department of Defense schools, and the District of Columbia. (Sadly, while Alabama 8th graders have languished at or near the bottom in NAEP math results for many years, other states with near-bottom scores have apparently been making gains.)

Given its students’ 2015 NAEP science and math scores, Alabama probably shouldn’t be high-fiving itself for achieving that third-highest graduation-rate shout-out. According to Andrew Yerbey, senior policy counsel for the conservative Alabama Policy Institute, (as quoted in Trisha Crain’s Oct. 19 article), the ranking points to a big problem. “There are way too many kids graduating with way too low scholastic achievement,” he noted. “As long as the graduation rate is high and our test scores are low, there is no reason to celebrate.” I agree with Yerbey on this issue.

How can those dreadful scores be coming from a state that’s home to several world-renowned research universities and many world-class manufacturers, including, among others, Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai, and Airbus, and their suppliers? It’s a huge question, and one every Alabama parent and business owner and/or operator should be asking. I personally know of at least one family that has already begun considering a possible move out of state for this very reason.

Enough about Alabama, though: How does your own state’s public education system stack up in preparing students for life after high school? As a strong proponent of public education, after digesting the articles, I turned to Achieve ( for a reality check. I encourage you to do likewise.

A national advocate for improved college- and career-readiness, Achieve released a report in May 2015 on how states got their graduation rates ( Examining the different diploma options available to students in all 50 states, and identifying those at the college- and career-ready level, it’s an eye-opener. Reading this report and other information from Achieve, you may—or perhaps not—be surprised to learn that the educational investment in your state’s children, i.e., our workforce of the future, is not delivering on its promise.

I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. MT


7:20 pm
October 10, 2016
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Are Your Electricians Safety-Trained?

OSHA and NFPA provide the guidelines, but our survey suggests there is still some room for electrical-safety training improvement.

OSHA and NFPA provide the guidelines, but our survey suggests there is still some room for electrical-safety training improvement.

randmWhen electrical systems are in question, anyone would be hard pressed to support any compromise in safety should maintenance work be required. To develop a picture of electrical safety in the manufacturing arena, we surveyed the readers of Maintenance Technology to determine their knowledge of electrical-system events/activities in their facilities. More than 230 professionals took time to respond. The survey results are presented below.

While the responses were overwhelmingly positive in terms of system knowledge and safety, there were enough of the “other” responses to suggest some element of training, either initial or ongoing, is in order. According to the electrical-training experts at AVO Institute, Dallas (, compliance with OSHA and NFPA 70E regulations is not optional. In addition, NFPA 70E stipulates that retraining, not refresher courses, must occur every three years.

Ask your team members to take the same survey. Your results will tell you whether training needs are immediate or if you’ve been doing your job well and additional training can be scheduled down the road. MT
—Gary L. Parr, editorial director








4:23 pm
May 16, 2016
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Maximize Millennial Workers

Millennials checklist on clipboard for survey of generation with age born between 1980 and 2000, social and connected, and cause driven

For many, the millennial generation presents a significant workplace management challenge and is often labeled lazy and entitled. Unlike previous generations, this group approaches things in a very different way. Like it or not, they are the future. In fact, that future is now. Millennials currently make up more than 35% of the workforce and that number will be just short of 50% by 2020. In other words, if you’re not one, you have to learn to work with them.

At the Uponor Connections 2016 users conference, held this past March in Las Vegas, keynote speaker Ryan Avery (a millennial himself) in his talk, “Motivating Millennials,” shed some light on what makes that generation tick. Uponor North America, headquartered in Apple Valley, MN, is a manufacturer of PEX piping systems.

Avery started his talk by making it clear to the baby boomers in the audience that they are the reason millennials are the way they are. Boomers had to work hard to move up the ladder and didn’t want their kids to have to do the same and now get to work with the result of that approach. What follows are more insights from Avery that, if you’re a baby boomer or part of some other generation, will help you understand and benefit from what can prove to be a talented group of workers.

—Gary L. Parr, Editorial Director

Ryan Avery assigned shapes to the two generations.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 8.45.27 AM

The triangle represents baby boomers and their hierarchical approach to life and work. Millennials are the circle because they have a community approach and like to be coached. They don’t appreciate bosses and like to be part of a team. The shape for GenX people is a square.

While boomers grew up in and work in an aggressive/demanding culture, millennials do better if things are explained. They like to know why things are done or need to be done.

When millennials are presented with a task, they like to start with the result/goal and then be allowed to figure out how to get there. Established procedures aren’t always of interest to them. If they see a better way, they want the freedom to take that path. That path doesn’t always fit in the conventional 9-to-5 workday.

When communicating with millennials, stop multitasking — put your phone down and your computer screen aside. This applies to anyone, but managers should take care to talk to millennials like they matter. Four of five employees do not feel valued at work. That one valued person will give 90% more of himself/herself than the other four. Keep in mind that employees spend more time with managers than their loved ones. Pay attention to the person opposite you.

Millennials stay at their jobs an average of two years, meaning that they aren’t interested in the conventional end-of-the-year reward/bonus approach. They are much more receptive to little rewards throughout the year, such as meals or gift cards. Avery suggested that paying their monthly Netflix fee would be an excellent reward.

Millennials like a cause, which translates to the fact that they are more willing to participate if there is a social responsibility involved. Instead of a bonus, give them money to donate to their favorite cause or provide days off so they can volunteer to help others.

Instead of smoke breaks, provide social-media breaks.

They like to collaborate and don’t like to compete.

They are not big fans of the word “but.” Instead of  “Good idea, but . . .” try “I like your idea and another way to accomplish it is…” MT


9:01 pm
February 8, 2016
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Encourage Your Hidden Coaches

A major competitive advantage for a company is its employees’ ability to learn, grow, and change so they can discover, improve, innovate, and meet the challenges of an evolving marketplace. According to Tara Holwegner of Life Cycle Engineering (, Charleston, SC, another challenge many process organizations face involves harnessing the intellectual capital of experienced employees and using it to benefit new employees and enterprise initiatives.

Holwegner should know. She’s a learning and performance-improvement subject matter expert (SME) for Life Cycle Institute. The intellectual capital to which she refers typically isn’t delivered in a classroom.

According to the “70-20-10 Framework” from the 70:20:10 Forum (, Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia, about 10% of learning comes from a formal learning environment (online or classroom); 70% from experiential opportunities, e.g., day-to-day learning, challenging projects/tasks, stretch goals; and 20% from social learning (mentoring, coaching). That indicates that, while formal instruction is critical to developing talent in an organization, it’s a rather small part of how people learn and grow.

Holwegner advises maintenance and reliability professionals to take a closer look at people’s roles and see how they might function as coaches, knowledge agents, and advocates for professional growth and change. Ask yourself, “Who are the hidden coaches in my organization?” and “How can we harness that extra 20% of learning to produce results, influence what we teach, and make the most of the critical 10%?”

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.59.45 PM

Skilled workers as hidden coaches

“A skilled worker,” according to Holwegner, “can be an excellent hidden coach or ambassador of knowledge.” Although he or she may not have the title of expert or coach, this type of worker can be considered an expert in a field and frequently be asked to share knowledge to enhance competency in a certain area.

Holwegner points to several examples of hidden coaches you might find in your company:

  • tenured work planners
  • experienced operators
  • skilled maintenance technicians or journeymen
  • millwrights
  • veteran craftspersons
  • software system “power users”
  • financial or contract analysts
  • top-selling salespeople
  • six-sigma green or black belts.

She characterizes hidden coaches as “knowledge powerhouses” who can share their intellectual capital during employee on-boarding, change and improvement initiatives, everyday problem-solving activities, and work planning. “Their individual consult,” she continued, “can drive solution design, identify process re-engineering needs, steer work-procedure documentation, and influence training requirements.” But there’s more.

“Another benefit from having a hidden coach on your team,” Holwegner noted, “could be their informal leadership. As a respected or influential person within the organization, their credibility can be a positive or negative risk to your initiative.”

Harnessing the power

To make use of hidden coaches’ tacit knowledge, Holwegner encourages project leads to first ensure the work practices of such individuals align with standards, then invite these employees to contribute and participate, as well as record their best practices for enterprise use.   

In Holwegner’s view, every organization has hidden coaches with the capacity to mentor and motivate employees to practice behaviors that produce results. “With 90% of learning coming from on-the-job challenges and social learning through coaching,” she explained, “these hidden gems can be incorporated into both strategic and daily initiatives to manage your company’s intellectual capital and strengthen workforce skills.” MT

Tara Denton Holwegner is a PMP, Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) and Prosci Certified Change Management Professional. In her role as a learning and performance improvement SME for Life Cycle Engineering, Charleston, SC, she co-developed the organization’s 3A Learning process that incorporates the concepts of active learning and change management. For more information, email, or visit