Make the Most of Your Training Budget

Make the most of your training

By Mitch Stansloski, PhD, P.E.

My road to learning to make the most of your training budget began early in my career.  When I was still pretty green, I was hired as the Plant Engineer at a chemical production plant. I still remember my conversation with the Plant Manager on day one..."Turn this into a world class maintenance and reliability program in two years or you're fired!" Serious panic set in... 

How in the world was I going to accomplish this? I barely knew what I was doing let alone how to direct the efforts of the entire plant towards excellence. The maintenance and reliability staff we had was full of very good people. Mostly they were hard workers who grew up farming in rural Mississippi. The effort was there but skills needed improved. That was it, that was my solution! We had talented hard working staff that just needed some guidance.

SMake the most of your training budgeto, I spent money on training. I bought some new tools and software and such, but the bulk of my investment went to training. I looked at the big picture in order to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. I then took that information and developed a two-year comprehensive training program for everyone, including the receptionist at the front door. I figured I needed to get all on the same page, talking the same language.

As the staff learned more and more, I gave them increased levels of ownership. I didn't micromanage them but rather let those talented people apply what they had learned. It didn't mean that in every case I agreed with their approach. But I gave them the end goal, and let them decide how to get there. I believe that any program developed internally, though perhaps not as smooth and refined as one developed externally (or by management), is more readily implemented - and that's what we needed...immediate action.

The results were tremendous! By the end of two years we had dropped maintenance costs per unit produced by 67%. Our unplanned downtime had reduced to less than 1%. Over average overtime went from 16 hours per week to 2 hours. Our list of bad actors had reduced to a few.

There was no magic to it. We just gave good people great training, and then gave them the power and opportunity to implement what they learned.

So, here are some tips to make the most of your training budget:

1) Have a two to five year plan for your training. Don't just pick courses one at a time. Evaluate your program and build a comprehensive training plan.

2) Don't wait for "the right time" - when budgets are healthy and the workload is lean. It's never going to happen! Make now the right time. Be creative in order to find funding as well as covering the workload. The sooner the staff is educated and motivated the quicker those costs will drop.

3) Get training from a variety of vendors. Everyone learns differently, and all teachers are not the same either. Learn the material from different points of view as well as through different avenues. Mix in self-study, on-line, and face to face classroom programs.

4) Don't forget to include everyone. Even if it's only a few hours in order to communicate the plan to the least affected staff, making your plan public is always helpful for implementation.

5) This is the last and most important tip. Trust your now well-trained staff with key decisions. Give them the time to implement what they learned, before they forget and lose momentum!

Hoping this article is helpful, or at least motivating, and wishing you the best of luck with your program! Contact us any time at info@pioneer-engineering.com with any questions you may have.