In the restaurant industry, training is a given. There’s no question that a new hire won’t get a minimum number of training hours, from processes and procedures, to food handling and customer service. On the other hand, many small to mid-sized manufacturers resist investing in employee training, citing concerns that if the employee leaves, that investment was lost. However, this is a straw-man argument. Let’s address these preconceived notions.

Don’t Train Because of Employee Turnover?

First and foremost, manufacturing isn’t the only industry that has employee turnover. Industries like food service, have incredible rates of turnover. Sometimes, people don’t even complete their first day on the job. Why bother training them? Because the restaurant industry knows that untrained employees impact their bottom line. If a server doesn’t know the menu, what ingredients are in each dish, how to enter or customize the order, or how to effectively manage the timing of those orders based on the capacity of the kitchen, it directly impacts customer satisfaction. In turn, those customers don’t come back. Knowledgeable employees directly impact the customer experience, and employees won’t magically gain that necessary knowledge without training.

Don’t Train Because it Costs Too Much?

This is also an interesting fallacy. With our restaurant example, often times a senior server will serve as a mentor, where the new employee will shadow them for a solid 2 weeks before left to their own devices. There are tests about food handling, service processes, Point-of-Service software usage and more, before they ever get to be in front of a customer on their own. There is a standard process in place for training, which builds performance consistency and measurement, along with reducing training costs. Manufacturers have even more cost-effective resources at their disposal, from partnering with local community colleges to state incentives that will pay for specialized training. In short, it’s about taking advantage of the resources you have at your disposal.

Don’t Train Because You Can Just Hire People With Training Already?

There’s no new hire that will bring enough knowledge about your internal processes and procedures to hit the ground running at 100% on day one. Every person, no matter their skill set, has a ramp-up time required to acclimate to that organization’s unique process. While organizations can hire specific skills, such as welding or project management, this doesn’t mean that their previous training or experience was at the quality level you expect. They might be extremely talented in one area, such as using Microsoft Project, but not as skilled in other areas, such as managing people or communications. Every person you hire will have strengths and weaknesses. It’s the organization’s job to identify those, and help fill the gaps with training and mentorship where necessary.

Don’t Train Because It Consumes Too Much Productivity Time?

While training does take up time not being spent on revenue-generating activities, it also helps shorten the time it takes for a new hire to become fully productive. If you can cut the time it takes to get a new employee up to speed and working independently in half, they will be generating revenue for you faster. According to a study by US News, the typical new employee requires 6-10 months to get fully acclimated to a job. In that time, they are dragging on other resources in the organization, they aren’t as efficient as other employees, and they make more mistakes that take time and resources to correct. If you could utilize training to cut that time in half, it not only saves the organization money, but also gets them more productive faster, which impacts your bottom line.

While training feels like a burden, it’s a great way to show employees that the organization wants to invest in their growth and advancement. Not every organization can provide consistent raises or bonuses to their teams. Why not provide training and support to advance their skillsets, making them more valuable to the company, as well as to themselves. It’s a great way to show you’re willing to invest in them beyond a paycheck.

Remember, training doesn’t simply have to be tied to hard skills, such as software or assembly, but unique soft skills including communications, problem-solving, and more. It’s about knowing the gaps.

Why Business Growth Starts With Trust

There’s an old saying, you get more flies with honey. Yet many organizations still have a hard time with building healthy company cultures and building trust. This includes trust between the company and their customers, as well as between leaders and employees.

In the age of transparency, where information is available in virtually a mouse-click, building trust is essential for long-term growth and success. It’s not simply things like getting positive customer reviews, or employee feedback, but the need to create sustainable trust.

Take for example, employees. What message are you sending to employees when your organizational structure limits their ability to make independent decisions within the scope of their job? Or when they are micromanaged? It indicates they aren’t trusted to make those decisions. In addition, without that trust and ability to practice that decision making, they are limited in their ability to problem solve, finding new ways to innovate, and to expand their value to the organization as a whole. In short, they are simply executing tasks.

Often, this leads to the “tribal knowledge” effect, where employees start to tie their perceived value to the organization to the information they have about a process, procedure, software platform, or simply historical company information. When this information isn’t shared with others, it limits the company’s ability to scale. Processes are force-funneled through specific individuals, which often slow down implementation or bring it to a halt completely. If they aren’t in the office that day, the project doesn’t move forward.

Or take customers. What happens when a customer doesn’t trust you? They seek out other options. They examine other solutions. They drop you as a provider or partner. This trust doesn’t get broken typically with a single incident, but rather the lack of information transparency, follow-through, openness, and proactive responsiveness over time. When a customer is constantly waiting on you, or don’t know the status of their project for weeks, trust begins to erode. Often times, a simple issue that arises becomes the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, and they end the business relationship. Organizations then tend to blame that “last incident” as the cause of the break, and proceed to implement changes in that area, when the real issue were all the activities before the final incident. It built up over time.

As business leaders, it’s hard to take the long-view perspective. Each and every day, we are pulled in different directions and often feel like there’s little to no time, or wiggle room, to allow employees to make mistakes. Many leaders frequently take the path of limiting scope, and putting the burden of decision making on themselves.

It’s extremely common with small business owners – in a 2018 survey we conducted of 100 manufacturing CEOs and 98% explicitly stated that they “wanted to make the majority of decisions, as they did not want to have to blame or discipline their employees”. While this may seem admirable, it’s unsustainable. It’s akin to the “one point of failure” theory, where if that individual – or in this case, business owner – takes ill, gets hit by a bus, etc., the entire organization goes down with them. Not a real viable business strategy.

So when you examine your organizational culture, start by thinking about how you build trust – with employees, partners, vendors, and customers. This begins by laying the groundwork of educating and empowering others to make bigger business decisions. It’s the most cost-effective growth strategy you can get.

About the Author

Andrea’s 20-year, field-tested background provides unique, applicable approaches to creating more customer-centric organizations. A 4-time ADDY® award-winner, she began her career at a tech start-up and led the strategic marketing efforts at two global industrial manufacturers. In addition to writing, consulting and coaching, Andrea speaks to leaders and industry organizations around the world on how to craft an effective customer-facing operational strategies to discover new sources of revenues and savings.  Connect with Andrea to access information on her book, workshops, keynote speeches, training or consulting.

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