Book details training employees for proficiency
Speed is of the essence, says author Charles L. Fred, when it comes to giving customers what they want.

The nature of a successful business is its ability for rapid turnaround time from product to customer.

Consumers expect speed in delivery of product or services. Efficiency in the airline industry is measured with on-time takeoffs and landings. In the world of banking, it's home mortgages in days not in weeks. People now look for photo development in an hour or less.

Quality and speed expected

Consumers expect a quality product with value -- and they expect it fast. Delivery of services takes people who are trained quickly to accommodate upgrades and changes in product lines and they need to be proficient. It takes quality employee training to meet the challenges to keep the business competitive and on the leading edge.

In his book Breakaway: Deliver Value to your Customers -- Fast!, Charles L. Fred offers a compelling and practical approach to getting new employees up to speed in proficiency as well as new skill building for current employees.

He believes to achieve continuous quality improvement takes continuous and practical learning to give employees the edge to maximize the delivery of value and service to the customer.

Fred's resum/ is impressive. Starting with a degree in mechanical engineering and the completion of the aerospace manufacturing program at the University of Washington's Graduate Business School, his career began with Boeing.

During his tenure he was involved in the major development of Boeing's Fabrication Division where he oversaw a major transition of employees transferred from existing facilities to a new environment, a move that required training to acquire proficiency.

Fred later took a job with US West just as the company was determining how to use aerospace technology and apply it to telecommunications.

Throughout these experiences, Fred recognized the value of adding proficiency to employee performance through adult education.

As the former president of Kaplan@Work, a Kaplan Education Centers division, president and CEO of Omega Performance Corporation, and most recently president and CEO of Avaltus, an e-learning leader in developing content management software directly for businesses, he put into practice the ideas that help businesses meet the rapid changes of their industries by training employees to meet those challenges fast.

'Economy of speed'

Fred begins his book by asking the reader to consider how important proficiency of their workers is to their competitive edge. He believes that "the economy of speed offers a new and incremental advantage. Any organization that can quickly develop a critical mass of proficient workers will always be in the lead pack and in a position to dominate the marketplace."

He believes that proficient workers speed up in areas of organizational change, improving operations, problem solving, and faster delivery of services to the end users.

"When you shorten the time it takes for workers to become proficient, the capital and resources required to introduce a new product, to maintain operations and infrastructure, and to perform a service are also proportionally reduced," Fred writes. "I call this 'speed to proficiency,'" something he believes is "the most devastating competitive weapon in a world where the competitive forces of scale automation, and capital are subordinate to the power of a proficient work force."

Self-evaluation needed

Fred basically asks the readers to evaluate their own company's management and employees' proficiency speed as well as their ability to be competitive and faster in meeting their customers' needs. "The time a worker spends in any form of learning must be tied directly to the promises made to customers," he states.

Training has often been focused on the concepts of problem solving for what might happen in the future while missing the pragmatic solution to the employees' ability to immediately deliver service.

He illustrates this with a handwritten note given to him after a training he conducted as a senior manager in US West.

A front-line technician wrote the note on the back of a blank work order from his truck addressing a recent training offered on Team Problem Solving:

I know your intentions are good. I work ten hours a day out of my truck. Nearly everything I need to complete a work order fits someplace in this rig. The instructor said to keep the class materials handy over the next few weeks for reference. Where do I keep the three ring binder? Do you really think this class would make us better at bringing service to our customers? Our biggest problem or skill shortage is knowing how to install these new remote terminals. It takes twice as long to install them as the old ones. We keep telling customer that we will get them telephone service faster, but the only training we get is this problem solving-crap. Every day I have to face the homeowner that is waiting for phone service. If you want to help, get us the training we need to get these people hooked up faster.

Clearly the concept of training for employees was identified by the frontline employee who was responsible to provide the service to the end user.

Efficient training models

Fred's book continues to deal with how to create efficient training models, develop measurement of employee proficiency, and be able to effectively make the changes in products or delivery of services, proactively and with speed.

He clearly states that training for employees must center on the ability to speed up service with quality and value directly aimed at the consumers needs.

Fred's 143-page book is easily read during a three-hour plane trip. It is not filled with jargon or current buzz words. The book simplifies the concept of offering training for businesses and their employees to meet the direct goals of satisfying customers' needs for service and/or product quality.

Competition is fierce, people value their time, and employee satisfaction is also tied to their ability to deliver to the customers efficiently and with expertise.

Fred's book offers pragmatic tools to develop training that is focused on what employees require to deliver a company's product fast to the consumer base. It also offers solutions on how to make transitions within the company more efficient in order to return employee proficiency to its highest level.

Breakaway: Deliver Value to your Customers -- Fast is published by Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company, 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741. More information can also be found at www.josseybass.com.

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