A couple of recent news stories, albeit on subjects completely unrelated to manufacturing, have made me ask if we do a good job retaining and reinforcing talent. Not retaining the talent we create by training employees and providing them with experience over the years, but the talents and experience new employees come to us with.
First off, last week the AP’s Rodrique Ngowi wrote a story on how more and more parents begin potty training at birth. Now I’m not a parent, but even to me this sounds like a wondrous concept.
Some parents begin going diaper-free at birth, and the infants can initiate bowel movements on cue as young as 3 to 4 months, said Elizabeth Parise, spokeswoman of DiaperFreeBaby.org, a network of free support groups promoting the practice. Some parents and toilet training experts are skeptical. Still, the practice is common in many parts of rural Africa and Asia where parents cannot afford diapers.
There are obviously some very positive consequences of this practice, not the least of which relates to the size of the local landfill. But while poking around at this story I came across another interesting related tidbit:
In 1950, nearly 95 percent of American children were potty-trained by the age of 18 months. Now, in an era of disposable diapers, less than 10 percent are. As surprisingly early as all this sounds to most Americans, to much of the rest of the world it’s late. According to Contemporary Pediatrics magazine, more than 50 percent of the world’s children are toilet-trained by the time they turn one.
Many of you have probably heard the other story, that newborns have the instinctual ability to swim and hold their breath under water, but lose it within a couple weeks if it isn’t used. Now we learn that they can be potty trained basically from day one, and that over time we’ve been delaying the start of that training. How many diapers could have been saved, landfills reduced, and smelly disasters avoided?
Just because we didn’t recognize, leverage, and reinforce the talents they came to us with.
When we hire new employees we review their talent. We see it on their resumes, we test for it, we discuss it in interviews. We want people with the best array of appropriate talent, and most of us also look for the interesting or unique background that may be somewhat unrelated to our needs but could potentially complement it. We’re excited about what a great catch we’ve made, what great hobbies and outside activities our new well-rounded employee has, and look forward to how all of that background can add to our organization.
Then on their first day of work we forget about it. We sit him or her down with a stack of procedures to read and train on… our procedures, describing our way. We often assign them a mentor to indoctrinate our policies and culture, and even if we’re very lean they become a part of a cell operating to strict but supposedly continually improving standard work procedures.
They become assimilated, Borg-like in nature. Some of us with more enlightened organizations may occasionally ask about their previous experiences, and tap into some of it at kaizens or other activities. But I’m guessing a lot of their original talent is left on the table, providing a good bedrock of experience for the employee but not a keg of knowledge to be tapped by the new organization. Now that’s a metaphor… and you now know what I was doing last night! And to carry it one step further, if we’ve done our hiring job right we have a keg of St. Pauli instead of a keg of Natural Light. Although I still prefer Pilsner Urqell.
Think about the individuals in your organization. Are you leveraging the background they came to you with? Do you even remember what that background was, especially the areas not directly related to their position? Perhaps it’s time to break out their resumes and look them over again.
Tap that keg!