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Streamlining On-the-Job Training with Innovative Technology

By Intertek Alchemy   |   

Q&A with Learning & Development Expert, Amy Valek

Training and development is critical for all aspects of a food manufacturer’s business, but is often reserved only for specific departments. JB, a family-owned cold supply chain provider in the upper Midwest, has found a way to standardize training for all associates – through JB University and Intertek Alchemy training solutions.

The JB University program provides development opportunities for all associates to learn and grow, including leadership development for managers and supervisors, and job-specific training for frontline workers. Until recently, the company lacked a means to provide job-specific training for associates on the food production line, until it came across Alchemy Coach and Alchemy Playbook.

Amy Valek, an Intertek Alchemy client of 10 years, has been spearheading learning and development initiatives for over 10 years with JB. We sat down with Amy to learn how Playbook and Coach provide a consistent format for the company’s entire training program. Watch the video and read additional insights below.

We asked Amy to share her insights and experience with Intertek Alchemy training solutions. Watch this video, and read below for even more insights from Valek.

Intertek Alchemy: Amy, it sounds like you have expanded your use of Intertek Alchemy beyond safety and compliance training. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Amy Valek: Yes, we launched JB University in 2014 but lacked the right tools to support specific job training. We’ve been using Alchemy for over 10 years, primarily from a compliance standpoint and getting all of our compliance done in manufacturing. And then we started to explore expanding our job specific training. So, it was easy to convince the right people to look at Playbook and Coach to fill the void.

We didn’t have to sell a new system or a new program, which our IT department appreciated! So we use it on the floor for our job specific training, specifically starting in our manufacturing.

But my vision is to take it across the entire JB organization. Ultimately, I want to take it from accounting to sales to maintenance, our warehouse, and all the way across the board.

Intertek Alchemy: So, the goal is Playbook and Coach across the entire training spectrum?

Amy Valek: Yes, that’s our goal, to use it for everyone at JB. When you’re learning a new role, whether it’s cross-training or you’re a new associate, you’re going to be learning with the Playbook app and then be checked for proficiency and understanding by the Coach app. Everyone at the company will use it somewhere down the road. We’re still mainly focused on manufacturing, but we’re also testing the training programs with a sales role right now as a kind of pilot for us.

Intertek Alchemy: What was your experience in developing and rolling out your Alchemy Playbook program?

Amy Valek: Building out Playbook has been a huge undertaking. One of our keys to success was working with the Intertek Alchemy consulting team. My experience with them has been nothing but phenomenal. I am so grateful for them, and we’ve been able to move mountains working together. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them. Kristin Kastrup on the consulting team has done a fabulous job.

She has given us unparalleled support in building out content and has been an extension of my team, which has been wonderful. In about a year, we’ve gone from having virtually nothing to having 270 Playbook courses, 56 observations, and 47 job qualifications in just one manufacturing area.

Intertek Alchemy: What was the experience like for your employees?  

Amy Valek: We have gotten great feedback. Associates really feel like we care about their learning and development. We’ve been very intentional when we build our training content, creating guidelines to standardize content development so that every associate has a consistent way of learning. Whoever is developing the programs, they have guidelines, so everything starts the same way.  

Intertek Alchemy: What has qualification tracking meant to you?

Amy Valek: One of the things that we were previously not great at was knowing who is qualified to do what on our floor. In manufacturing, that’s really important because we’ve got a lot of equipment and safety considerations.

Now we can easily see who’s qualified and proficient at what tasks or in what roles. We worked with leadership to help us identify what roles are tied to specific skills and then built out the job qualifications in the Alchemy platform so a manager or a supervisor can go on the floor and easily find which employees are qualified to complete specific tasks.

This helps them identify gaps and areas for additional cross-training. If someone calls in sick, we know how to fill that gap. If we have one associate qualified in a specific role, we can quickly start training someone else so that we don’t have those holes or gaps in our team.

Intertek Alchemy: Do your employees see more opportunity? Do you think this has helped morale in any way?

Amy Valek: This has really helped our new associate base coming in. We have been able to focus on them and their development more, and we even brought in a translator to help us with some of our multilingual associates. A lot of our training content is comprised of videos so they can see how to properly set up and operate equipment. The visual component is very helpful, and they also have a training specialist that talks them through things. What I love about Playbook is that it’s not just training on a computer, laptop, or tablet. This is an additional tool to standardize training, but it doesn’t replace the trainer.

Intertek Alchemy: How has Alchemy Playbook helped youron-the-job training? 

Amy Valek: As we were developing our training, we uncovered lots of bad habits. Everyone’s kind of got their own way of doing things, so we’ve had to work to determine the best practices so that everyone is on the same page whether it’s between shifts or between lines. Now we have a standardized playbook on how to train new associates and do cross-training with our current associates.

Intertek Alchemy: To somebody who’s an Intertek Alchemy client that doesn’t have Playbook, what would you tell them?

Amy Valek: I would highly recommend Playbook. It has brought our on-the-floor training back to life. If someone told me tomorrow that we could not use Alchemy Playbook anymore, I honestly would cry and probably give up because it has solved a lot of our challenges. I can’t imagine using anything else.

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