Thursday, October 18, 2018

Haphazard Training

The unfortunate truth is that practices in teaching workmen skills is very haphazard.   Schools teach students the skills they might need in an abstract form, often buy rote and with little to no practical application.   When a new employee is hired he is sent to the shop with little instruction, expected to observe and figure out the job with little guidance.

This is even more so of the knowledge workers than laborers.  An individual who is meant to fuel an engine is shown how to shovel fuel into the boiler, but one who is meant to sell a product is simply told to “go sell” without any instruction.   It is to his credit that, by some haphazard process, workers can teach themselves to do a task with some level of proficiency – but this ability is too much relied upon by the vast majority of employers.

For employers, this leads to employee turnover. Employees who might have become competent with instruction are unable to figure things out on their own and leave in frustration, or are dismissed for being less productive than needed.   As such a person may learn a piece of the job in one shop, another piece in another shop, and over the course of several years come to develop competency in his trade.

Learning by experience means learning by mistakes and successes – which carries with it the necessity of making mistakes, and some of them quite serious.  “The burnt child avoids the fire” summarizes the issue of haphazard learning: it would be better if the child were taught to avoid the fire without getting burned.

This is not merely a theoretical consideration of what might happen – looking at the high turnover rate in businesses in general, and certain industries and positions specifically, it is a widespread problem.

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