Real Skills vs. Learned Behavior: What’s the Difference?

The truth is that there is a huge difference between a skill and a behavior — a difference too frequently ignored by plastics manufacturers, to the company’s detriment. Skills are what make effective engineers, technicians, and operators in your production floor — while learned behavior involves mimicking what a fellow employee is doing.

Are your employees developing skills or just learning behaviors from their fellow employees? That’s a big question that’s critical to your company’s success.

Real Skills

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines skill as ‘a learned power of doing something competently.’ Applicable skills contain many components — such as an understanding of how a task is to be properly performed, how things work, and why the task is done in that manner. Beyond the mere how-and-why, turning a task into a skill also requires practice.

Skills involve knowing…

  • Who is responsible for performing the task
  • How the equipment or system works
  • Why the task is done in the required manner
  • What is expected when it is done correctly
  • Where to turn if things go differently than expected

Skilled employees are the ones who can improve a procedure, identify an incorrect procedure, notice inconsistencies, and correct an issue. Furthermore, a skilled employee will recognize a problem they are not trained to handle — and they’ll inform the right person in order to resolve the issue.

Learned Behavior

Learned behavior is merely a compilation of responses to stimuli: an employee watches a fellow employee respond to a situation in a certain way and learns a response. The more times they see fellow employees do something, the more likely they are to respond in the same manner. Such a response does not involve much thinking as much as reacting with similar responses as their co-workers. The biggest downside to this process is that bad work habits are often transferred from one employee. This why shadowing should never be the primary method of instruction.

Learned behavior involves…

  • Shadowing others to learn their habits
  • Mimicking their behavior when possible
  • Relying on memory when things go wrong

Learned behavior is often the fastest way to get an employee on the production floor — doing something simple like sorting parts or moving material. Over time, plastics companies need to expand the knowledge and capability of their workforce. No company can expect to production improvements with learned behavior alone. Furthermore, employees training in this manner are incapable of quickly adapting to future changes in product, materials, equipment, or procedures.

Developing real skills is the only way your employees can quickly and confidently adapt to new equipment, products, materials, procedures, or processes. Routsis Training proudly delivers skills-based learning. Click here for more information about our company-wide training products and services.

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