Sunday, September 26th, 2021

Stop Sabotaging your Company

Posted: Friday, February 27, 2015

Article submitted by Carrie Van Daele, CEO Van Daele & Associates Inc.

My phone wasn’t working, so I got in touch with my phone-line provider. Two technicians came to my house expecting to fix my line, but they worked for more than an hour until they admitted they had no idea how to correct the problem. These technicians were maybe 25 years old. I heard one of them say, “Let’s call Hank.”

“Who’s Hank?” I asked.

“Hank knows everything about phone lines because he’s worked here for over 35 years, and he’s gonna retire this year,” said one of the technicians. Hank described the problem and the solution to the technicians, and my phone line was repaired shortly thereafter. “We’re kinda nervous about our job when Hank retires because we don’t know as much as he does,” said the technicians. This happened in 2009.

Where was your lean/quality focus in 2009 during the economic downturn? Did you witness your organization doing little to retain its tribal knowledge from people like Hank, only to end up with a skills gap in 2015?

Where is your lean focus now? It’s not enough for you to focus on correction, overproduction, motion, material handling, waiting, inventory, and processing without also addressing the skills gap. To grow market share, production, and revenue in 2015, you will need to stop sabotaging your organization by being fashionably lean, yet ignoring ways to maximize and capitalize on your workforce, especially with people like Hank.

Your supply chain includes people, time, equipment, space, and money, all dedicated to moving a product or service from supplier to customer. If you don’t fill the skills gap, that becomes a missing link in your supply chain — a bottleneck choking off your pace for process improvements, defect prevention, and reduction of variation and waste.

Joe Genc is a tool engineer with 56 years of shop-floor experience, including 25 years as an educator. At age 70, Genc is working to close the skills gap at Berry Plastics and in his industry as a mold-making instructor for the Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA). Both are using Genc’s extensive knowledge to train younger workers.

Who are your 20-percenters?

Perhaps 80 percent of your workforce skills are owned by 20 percent of your workforce. But do you know who those 20 percent are and how to maximize and capitalize on their knowledge?

To fill the skills gap, you must first consider your workforce as an asset, not a liability. Calculate the valuation of your workforce in earnings and financial asset returns, instead of labeling your workforce an expense. Ask two questions about each employee: “What future earnings can Bob bring to my organization?” and “How can I better utilize Mary?” Your answers will help you to achieve marginal benefit from your workforce, which means your organization will net a greater return on investment from each employee.

In summary, you must forge a partnership with human resources and your workforce to fill the skills gap. It is no longer simply the human resource department’s responsibility. You must now formulate lean/quality strategies that capitalize and maximize the 20 percent of your workforce to build products and services that customers demand.

Carrie Van Daele is president and CEO of Van Daele & Associates Inc. at, featuring her Train the Trainer System for trainers and subject matter experts. Van Daele’s company was founded in 1993 as a training and development firm in the areas of leadership, train the trainer, continuous process improvements, team building, strategic planning, sales/marketing, workforce development, and general business consulting. Van Daele is the author of 50 One-Minute Tips for Trainers published by LogicalOperations.