We all reach points in our careers where certain aspects of our jobs become ingrained in our instincts and muscle memory.
For powder coaters, industry lingo becomes second nature. We become comfortable identifying substrates, and predicting how they’ll behave. We can quickly assess a part and know exactly how hang it for best coating results.
This degree of comfort and expertise is very valuable as we’re moving through our daily tasks, but it becomes a liability when it’s time to train someone new. We don’t always remember how little we knew when we started – several years in to our jobs, we’re likely to take industry knowledge for granted in ways that can be harmful to those who are just starting out.
I’ve spent a lot of time training new blasting and coating team members, and I’ve developed a few rules along the way.
Figure out a logical training progression, then use it.
At Kaser, we start with hanging and packaging (after a healthy dose of safety training, of course). New team members spend the first few months getting very comfortable with these two tasks. Once they’ve achieved a certain degree of mastery, we introduce them to our various pretreatment processes, and then we build from there.
This progression works well for everyone: new hires are given ample opportunity to slowly and thoughtfully build their skills, while the team benefits from having extra hands to help out with the shop’s more time-consuming tasks.
No matter your industry, throwing a new hire into the deep end is a risk to them, and to you. Consider putting some thought into building trainees’ skills in a logical way that benefits everyone involved.
Yes, this will likely annoy new hires who happen to have a lot of industry experience. But it’s worth the risk. I would rather have a powder coating veteran roll their eyes at me, than (wrongly) assume that a brand new powder coater understands every technical term I’m using.
Above all, remember that what you consider to be “common knowledge” is most likely not common at all. Just because you know how to use a tape measure, doesn’t mean that everyone knows how to use a tape measure. Just because hanging parts is second nature to you, does not mean that everyone in the world knows the most efficient, least-disruptive hook to use. Take the time to spell out every step of every process, at first – worst case scenario, you waste a few hours explaining something the person already knows; best case scenario, you’re laying a firm foundation for your new employee’s success. It’s worth the gamble.
Invest your time wisely.
I wait to train new hires on spraying until they (and I) know for sure that they enjoy the industry, and are committed to sticking around for a while. Spraying is by far the most difficult, nuanced task in the shop – like any complex skill, learning to spray powder coating requires time and commitment from the trainer and the trainee. If I’ve seen the new team member display these qualities while hanging, packaging, and pretreating parts, I can comfortably assume that they have the capacity to be successful powder coaters. If not, it’s not worth my time (or theirs).
Some new hires will never learn to spray powder coating, and that’s alright. I will find other ways to put their skills to work. The more attention I pay to my trainee’s abilities and interests, the more likely they are to find a meaningful and fulfilling niche at Kaser.
With careful planning, zero assumptions, and a little shrewd discernment, training becomes a lot less mysterious for everyone involved.