I’ve Been Here For A Long Time; I Don’t Need To Be Trained

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A business owner from California called me some time back, with the desire to implement a Company-wide Training Program for his Foremen, in the hope he would gain more insight about each Foreman’s skill set and be able to secure more productivity from them to justify the inexorable Weimar-like rise in labor costs.  

Very capitalistic!  

For the next three months, I worked with his Field Supervisors to develop a Maintenance Foreman Training Program that consisted of the following tailored content modules: (a) Safety, (b) Equipment Safety (e.g., weed eater, hedge trimmer, edger, blower, 21”, 36”, and 48”mowers, Lazer), (c) Organizational Culture, (d) Horticulture, (e)  Field Operations Management, (f) Hazard Communication, (g) Customer Service, (h) Results Orientation, and (i) Job Quality.

With the Training Program developed and approved, it was determined that every existing Maintenance Foreman would go through the training program, and all future Maintenance Foremen new hires would be introduced to the training as part of their New Employee Orientation Program and enter the training program during their first month on the job as part of the Company’s On-boarding Program and Career Ladder.  

It was also decided that every trainee would be held accountable for successful completion of the entire training program in less than six months, and that each trainee would receive no more than three attempts to be certified in any one module; failure to achieve both criteria would freeze the Maintenance Foreman’s pay for an entire fiscal year, with the Foreman being allowed to re-enter the training program at the beginning of the next fiscal year.  Repetitive annual failure would result in demotion and a pay cut.

How’s that for Accountability?

Additionally, all successful trainees would receive: a $500 bonus, a redesigned upscale uniform shirt, a commemorative plaque, catered lunch with the owner and the Foreman’s work crew, and a photograph of the certified Foreman, his work crew, and the owner, signed by the owner.

Within three months of the Training Program rollout, it became readily apparent, albeit paradoxical, that the long-term Foremen were have much more difficulty passing the certification program than their less experienced peers.   Resistance became palpable, with certain incumbents complaining that they had been with the company for quite some time (i.e., more than five years), and as part of their non-sequitur logic, they did not need to be trained.  Agitation began.

I wonder if these Foremen used to work for the Post Office, DMV, or a teacher’s union?

To their credit, the Field Supervisors adopted an admirable coaching role to support the veteran Foremen through the program (e.g., individual training, additional equipment and horticulture practice, extra job quality preparation), without compromising their original standards for success (e.g., six months, three attempts, no pay raise for a year), since they knew they and the program would lose severe credibility for adopting differential standards.

Honor obviously still exists.

Despite that tutorial assistance, some Foremen maintained their egotistical inflexibility and are now confronted with some “interesting” career planning decisions:  study, practice, train, get certified, or do not exert effort, fail, do not get certified, get demoted, lose money.

I wonder if the DMV has any job openings?

If you have any questions or comments about this topic or anything else related to human resources, simply call me at (760) 685-3800.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.