Job Instructions: An Important Part of Business Growth
At a time of widespread labor shortage, slow learning curves, and high turnover rates that hinder the post-COVID economic recovery in the country, we must take a fresh look at the labor market.
In May 2022, the Desjardins Group announced they would hire people without experience or qualifications for several call centers in Québec on a starting salary of $22.46, while the minimum wage was set at $14.25.
On the face of it, the first reflex would be to examine the wage and conclude that Desjardins is willing to do anything to remain attractive in the current context. There’s some truth in this.
In addition to that, we believe that the job instructions made available to new Desjardins agents are well documented and perfected, which allows for rapid training, effective onboarding, as well as a clear and consistent delineation of tasks.
Back to the Basics
Just like Desjardins, all businesses are built around a unique expertise, product or service.
This takes the form of techniques, processes, product lines or other which, once planned out, are continuously documented and improved.
Developing a business without ever improving its expertise is obviously impossible. And so, what good is growing a company without documenting its knowledge base?
The documentation of work is one of the logical steps of standardization. It’s also mainly seen as a means to standardize business operations.
The term “job breakdown sheet” (JBS) was first used in the 1940s in the United States when implementing the training within industry (TWI) service.
The purpose of this methodology was in fact to solve the shortage of skilled workers at the height of the crisis. Some would say tried-and-true methods are the best.
In TWI, the job breakdown sheet is a sequence of work steps that helps the “doer” to visually and quickly understand all safety, quality and technical aspects of the work: tooling, operations, methods, parameters, systems, time required, etc.
When this documentation is reviewed directly at the workstation, the learning curve flattens out swiftly for tasks specific to the job. Combined with shadowing, this allows junior employees to reach 50-60% of a senior employee’s productivity after only 2 weeks of experience at most manufacturing sites.
The job breakdown sheet therefore provides a way to train new hires efficiently, but also—and more importantly—to carry out work in a consistent, qualitative manner, in compliance with health and safety standards, and at the required pace based on the prescribed standard time.
What Is a Good Job Breakdown Sheet?
A basic rule of thumb is that it’s best to have a job breakdown sheet than not. Each and every attempt to documentation is justified.
A good job breakdown sheet should be written directly at Gemba, where work happens.
Taiichi Ohno, father of the Toyota Production System, believed that job instructions always had to be written and tested by expert operators, directly at the workstation.
This is also part of Createch’s recommendations and preferred way of doing things.
When writing job instructions, there must be a consensus on the method; otherwise, the issue has to be determined by a support expertise.
A good job breakdown sheet should be as visual and documented as possible, from the operator’s standpoint. It also has to be easily accessible, up to date, and clean. And let’s insist on the cleanliness of the document since it must inspire others to read it.
The risk stems from the loss of credibility on the part of operators who will refrain from using the sheet, and therefore appropriate and transform the method. In such a context, the variability caused by human factors can increase, and the process can lose in stability.
The initial version of a good job breakdown sheet can be very detailed. You can then adapt and create several instruction levels based on operator experience, for instance by using a general or entirely visual procedure. It is easier to create a simple document from a detailed one, rather than the other way around.
Whether general or specific, a good job breakdown sheet should always include mission-critical aspects: H&S diligence, inspection, time required, and more.
The current overheating of the labor market, and the accelerated retirements of baby boomers result in a massive know-how leakage in North American companies.
The employee knowledge base becomes a precious asset when industry competitors have access to the same machines, tools and systems.
What’s urgent is the reinforcement of your knowledge assets in order to protect and maintain your business expertise.
The job breakdown sheet is one of the keys to maintaining that knowledge.
Affordable technological solutions are on the market and can help harness this knowledge quickly (see section Job Instructions and 4.0), but job instructions still need to be documented.
“I don’t have time to train my employees!”
The lack of job instructions or the absence of a knowledge management process can result in a considerable waste of time when onboarding new employees. Training management therefore involves managing the actual knowledge base as well as the documentation itself.
Investing time in writing job instructions can seem tedious at first, but it will soon be compensated for during hiring cycles. It will then be possible to train people quickly and—most importantly—to factually evaluate new hires based on their learning journey.
On the other hand, instructions allow senior employees to further develop their skills, and gain in versatility.
As explained above, a good job breakdown sheet requires to define the standard time for each task. Using standard times, you can then measure performance.
This measurement helps to identify any potential discrepancy with the standard established.
Without this standard, it’s impossible to draw comparisons, and it gets difficult to envision opportunities and potential improvements.
Without any standard, it’s also impossible to control the flow of operations as they were defined. If the discrepancies persist and exacerbate over time, the workflow may become totally unbalanced, and the productivity may decrease drastically.
Monitoring operations regularly helps in maintaining a high performance level throughout operations. To do so, it’s important to impose rigorous documentation requirements for working methods.
Job Instructions and 4.0
In the age of 4.0 where dozens of technological solutions emerge each year, it gets more and more difficult to choose the right technology. It’s easy to get lost between learning management systems (LMS) and work instruction applications.
That’s why we encourage all our customers to concentrate on the essential.
Digitizing job instructions using simple digital tools is the time-saving solution.
At Createch, we chose the VKS software to help our customers.
And even if the instructions have not yet been created, you can write them directly in the VKS work instruction software while still being out in the field.
If you wish to learn more about VKS and its features, contact us to discuss further.
In the end, job instructions can be found in the company’s foundations, operations and performance. It secures business growth.
If you wish to continue growing your business, contact one of our experts. They will help you implement digital job instructions in record time!