Lean Manufacturing: Building a Lean-Oriented Workforce

You’re a manufacturing company starting your journey toward a Lean culture. What kinds of knowledge, skills and behaviors should you look for when hiring new employees?

Last fall, Halogen hosted an informative webinar entitled Designing Employee Performance Reward Programs that Support Lean Initiatives presented by Gerry Ledford, Ph.D, President, Ledford Consulting Network and Timothy Haines, Director, Human Resources, Quaker Chemical Corporation.

Gerry Ledford is a nationally recognized authority on HR issues including employee reward systems.

In his presentation, Gerry discussed the types of employee knowledge, skills and behaviors that Lean requires:

Knowledge and Skills

  • Quality principles and tools – Employees should be familiar with Lean quality principles and be adept at employing the tools necessary for ensuring quality.
  • Standardized work requirements –  Employees need an understanding of what standardized work is and how it applies to the position the employee is responsible is for.
  • Skill for multiple jobs, job rotation – Employees require a certain level of flexibility so they are able to contribute where they are needed not just in one job that may or may not be needed on a given day.
  • Set-up, inspection, maintenance as well as operations – Jobs should be looked at in more of a holistic way so rather than just being a button pusher, an employee would be responsible for set up, inspection, maintenance as well as operations.
  • Team skills – if we want people to function well in teams, we need to teach them how to behave in teams.
  • Problem solving techniques – Problem solving is a fundamental skill required for a Lean culture.


  • Customer orientation – Employees need to be interested in and supportive of meeting the needs of the customer.
  • Follow/create standardized work – Employees are involved through their teams in creating standardized work as they find ways of improving the process.
  • Focus on continuous improvement, suggestion making – Employees satisfied with the status quo need not apply.
  • Monitor performance – Employees need to be metrics-oriented: know what production level is, what quality level is, where they are in on time delivery, etc.
  • Proactively find, solve problems – Employees must continually be on the lookout for problems and ways to solve them within a team context.
  • Cooperate within and across teams – Continuous improvement and a focus on quality require team-oriented employees.


Lean demands a great deal from employees. To be successful, you need to develop people who are willing and able to proactively help manage the Lean process: employees who are customer focused, good problem solvers, and interested in helping to continually improve the processes around them.

You also need a Lean competency management process that helps you to easily evaluate your employees’ demonstration of key competencies, and put development plans in place to address identified skills gaps.

Gerry Ledford, Ph.D.

These are competencies that extend beyond an employee’s ability to perform a specific task or set of tasks. As Gerry put it, we’re not looking for “button pushers”.

What kinds of Lean-oriented skills and behaviors do you look for in your employees?

I invite you to listen to the full recording of the webinar Designing Employee Performance Reward Programs that Support Lean Initiatives (media file will open in new window).

You can learn more about Gerry Ledford and his work on the Ledford Consulting Network website.

Link to original post


Leave a Reply