Budget Smarter by Recognizing the Gaps in Your Business

Which of These 10 Common Challenges Could You Address Next Year? 

It’s 2020, which means it’s time to start thinking about executing on your investments for your organization this year. Leading up to 2019, we talked about reserving budget to build a training program that works for your business. This year, we once again encourage you to do some reflection on what will benefit your organization, but this time, think beyond training. Ask yourself: “What are our most pressing pain points? What’s holding us back?” Then prioritize your investments from there.

To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of the top challenges we’re seeing companies face, as well as some suggestions for how you might tackle them in 2020. Almost every client we serve deals with one or more of these issues, but the good news is there are steps you can take to alleviate any of them.  

10 Issues That May be Holding You Back… and What to Do About Them.

Skilled workers are retiring faster than we can hire replacements.

Struggling to find the next generation of skilled laborers to fill positions vacated by retiring workers is all too familiar for many manufacturing or contracting companies. Besides working on recruitment efforts, there are steps you can take to get the most from the workers you have, setting your company up for future success. 

A great place to start is with the formation of a knowledge capture program, documenting key insights from seasoned workers while their expertise is still available to you. Use that knowledge to develop technical/process documentation and tools to help new workers get up to speed quickly. You can find more guidance in our previous post on the topic.

We need to hit aggressive continuous improvement goals.

If you’re pursuing a continuous improvement program within your operations, whether LEAN, Kaizen, or another format, achieving your efficiency goals for the year starts with ensuring your workers know what to do and when. Training will take you to a certain point here, but process or technical documentation like work instructions and job aids could be crucial components of a successfully executed program, as well. If you haven’t conducted an analysis of your documentation as a means of working towards a continuous improvement goal, it may be time.

We need documentation, but engineering availability is limited.

Many companies want to move away from having the engineers write the technical documentation, giving these valuable resources more time for higher value work that demands their expertise. Availability aside, your subject matter experts may not be the best writers anyway, and they may gladly give up their technical writing responsibilities to a trained specialist. Consider whether you could benefit from better allocation of your resources while also benefiting from better technical writing by finding the right partner.

Our customers need better instructions to use our products.

Better quality technical writing not only benefits your business from the inside by ensuring your employees have strong written guidance, but it could benefit your customers, too. If you are experiencing a high rate of service calls and returned products, the issue may not be that the product is faulty… users may not be able to follow the instructions for use. You may need better manuals that include pertinent info in an easily digested format, and that requires the right writers on the job.

Downtime, damaged equipment, and scrapped material is hurting our bottom line. 

Mistakes happen, but when they’re repeatedly costing your business money, it’s worth looking into how you can afford loss in the future. Are you suffering from lack of training or information retention? Or are employees trained, but they need work instructions/job aids as reminders? Start by assessing whether you truly need training or something else. Whether you do or do not, there are options to get your error and scrap rates down.

We’re growing rapidly and can’t keep up with training.

There comes a point in your business’s growth where doing one-on-one training for everyone is no longer feasible… but you may not be prepared to do anything else. You need to adjust, ensuring that any online training materials you create are consistent and get the new hires up to speed quickly. 

Start by working through our tips for getting employees to competency quickly, and don’t be tempted to take shortcuts. Off the shelf training won’t always do the trick; you may need custom materials that reflect your company’s way of doing things. An instructional designer can help you develop courses that use your unique processes and situations to build better, more relatable materials that include relevant examples and scenarios featuring real-life situations that your employees will encounter.

I have a large dispersed workforce I need to educate.

As remote work becomes more popular and the global economy increasingly encourages working with team members across the country or across the world, it is becoming ever more challenging to provide cost-effective, consistent training to employees. Flying employees to a centralized location for in-person training can be cost-prohibitive, and even if it does work out, there may be opportunities to make more of your time together by providing employees with supplemental pre-work assignments. Whether you need online training to reach remote workers or better materials to prepare them before an in-person meeting, training specialists can help.

We have high turnover because employees are frustrated. 

Sometimes associates don’t feel like they are given appropriate training on how to do their jobs, but are being held responsible for the outcomes. You may have training in place, but frankly, it isn’t the best. Consider how you could improve with outside help. Companies are working to standardize training so they have a baseline for what employees (and sometimes clients) know. The intent is to avoid inconsistent messaging and confusion, ultimately improving job performance. You may need to work with professionals to create performance-based training and support materials designed specifically for your unique issues and environment that give your employees the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs correctly. 

We need specialized documentation to win contracts.

If you plan to sell to the military and need precisely written documents to meet MILSPEC requirements, you may need to rethink who is putting together your technical documentation. Similar challenges can arise if you manufacture medical devices and don’t have anyone on staff (or available) that knows how to follow the FDA’s required specifications. These are just two situations where writers with highly specialized knowledge can help. Rather than getting slowed down by compliance issues or pushback, consider how you might tap into a third party that specializes in this sort of documentation.

We need… something. But we don’t know where to start.

Not having a clear understanding of what’s holding your workforce back is OK, too. Sometimes you know something is lacking in your organization, but you don’t know how to address it. We often help clients review and evaluate existing materials and source data, or we conduct audience, task, or performance analysis to determine gaps in documentation or procedures. We then make recommendations for what the client can do to solve the identified issue. Know that help is available; you may just need an experienced outsider’s perspective.

Find Your Pain Points. Invest Accordingly.

Clearly, there is no shortage of areas in which you could invest to improve your business next year, and the list above is hardly exhaustive. Yet hopefully as you read through this list, you found yourself nodding along with a pain point or two. If so, that’s a place to start allocating funds. 

We work with businesses every day to address the challenges on this list, and we’re happy to talk through opportunities for improvement with you, too. Reach out any time for help, and in the meantime, best wishes as you navigate budget season!