Just In Time Training: A Key Tool In Talent Development

For the past three years, more than 50 members of boat builder Boston Whaler’s management staff have participated in leadership training provided by Thomas International, one of the world’s largest providers of human resources assessment tools. 

It is a form of just-in-time training an increasing number of companies are turning to in the ever competitive corporate landscape. While originally tagged to web-based or distance learning, the concept of just-in-time training in recent years has expanded to a more general application by corporate human resources departments to include any training delivery system or practice that can quickly be provided to workers when and where they need it.

Thomas’ blended learning modules and programs tackle key challenges affecting companies, with the aim of enhancing
team working skills and ultimately improving performance
and productivity.

Once the Whaler employees completed the Thomas International 360 assessments, a consultant was brought to the company’s Edgewater facility to provide participants a second level of professional development using four separate learning modules depending on each employee’s assessment feedback.

“We’ve always had an approach to developing our incumbent employees, whether it is job-specific or advancement training,” said Brandon Beck, Whaler’s human resources director. “As we came out of the last economic downturn, our business began to expand, creating a need to do more advanced training over the last three years just to be able to keep pace.”

Thompson Pump and Manufacturing in Port Orange is certified to an international standard called ISO 9001, which specifies quality management system requirements. Organizations use the standard to demonstrate their ability to consistently provide quality products and services. The 47-year-old company is audited every year to ensure it conforms to ISO 9001 standards, said Dale Conway, Thompson’s vice president of engineering and manufacturing.

Last fall, Thompson Pump engaged the Center for Business and Industry at Daytona State College (CBI) to conduct customized Root-Cause Analysis workshops for about 20 employees. The workshops focused on how to “more efficiently identify and differentiate true problems that may occur in the manufacturing and operational processes rather than mere symptoms of the true problem,” Conway said.

“The sessions involved a diverse group, including our engineers, shop floor supervisors, machine shop personnel, equipment maintenance, assemblers – all facets of the manufacturing cycle, as well as our operational staff such as purchasing, sales and marketing,” he noted. “It enabled us to look at the whole system more effectively from the time the customer contacted us to the time we delivered the product.”

As they’ve continued to grow over the years, Boston Whaler and Thompson Pump, like so many progressive companies, have created more structured cultures of continuous improvement. Much of that strategy involves just-in-time training for staff, whether it be web-based learning modules, expert speakers, tuition reimbursement, mentoring programs or any combination of training that allows employees to quickly update their skills.

Boston Whaler, for example, conducts internal training for team leaders as part of its just-in-time repertoire. The formal program consists of three modules that were created by benchmarking best industry practices. The company also enlisted the help of the CBI to conduct “Coaching and Motivating for Improved Performance” workshops, Beck said.

Thompson Pump, too, sees leadership training as a top priority and regularly brings in national speakers to meet with its management teams.

At Whaler, new employees participate in a week’s worth of “onboarding” orientation, where they receive department specific skills training that will allow them to hit the ground running with the basic skills to do the job. More technical employees, such as fiberglass finishers, are handed off to a mentor upon completing basic training.

“As a company we are committed to the challenge of continued innovation. We build the highest quality boats in the world, which is why we choose to hire only the highest quality individuals to join our team,” Beck said. “Our boat builders are true craftsmen and our professional staff is the best in the world at what they do. Over a quarter of our workforce has been part of the Boston Whaler family for more than 10 years, which is a true testament to our culture, diversity and sense of community.”

Just-in-time training is not just for employees. For more than two decades, Thompson Pump has conducted its annual “Pumpology School” at its Port Orange facility. The three-day workshop for new customers, sales, and service-oriented professionals focuses on the intricacies of selecting, operating and maintaining the heavy-duty commercial pumps it manufactures.

“Pumpology School offers hands-on demonstrations and classroom training from industry experts,” said Conway. “Upon completion of training and successfully passing a comprehensive examination, attendees are recognized as certified Pumpologists.”