Onboarding and Training are the Third Steps in Workforce Development

 Nicole Mitchell, writer, The American Mold Builder

The process of recruitment and interviewing is completed, and the prospective employee officially has signed on to the company – though not easily. In recent survey data, nine-in-10 mold builders currently have open positions at their companies. Of those companies, 88% face either moderate or severe challenges in finding qualified employees to fill those positions.

“We’ve had good luck with CNC operators and toolmakers on first shift, but we are having issues with hiring CNC operators for second shift, even with the added premium,” said David Musbach, plant manager of Strohwig Industries, a moldmaking plant with 180 employees, a 210,000 sq. ft. facility and 56 horizontal and vertical CNC machines located in Richfield, Wisconsin. “It seems that most of the best second shift operators went to first shift because they knew they had the talent to do so.”

According to AMBA’s Workforce Development Playbook, 68% of respondents indicated that their companies have a formal onboarding process in place for new employees. Of those, 40% indicated that the process took less than one week with 30% reporting that it takes their companies one to three months to complete the onboarding process. No matter how long the onboarding and training process is, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Alexandria, Virginia, stated that a survey said 75% of new hires agree that training during the first week is the most important.

A company’s hiring and onboarding team should ask themselves these questions before preparing the new hire, according to SHRM:

  • When will onboarding start?
  • How long will it last?
  • What impression should new hires walk away with at the end of the first day?
  • What role will HR play in the process? What about the direct managers? Co-workers?
  • What kind of goals does the team want to set for its new employees?
  • How will HR gather feedback on the program and measure its effectiveness?1

“Having a strong onboarding process is very important for hiring,” said Musbach. “It shows potential employees that we are professional, secure and shows interest in them working for our company. It gives them also a good overview of what they will be doing in their position and a good feel for the whole shop and our process.”

Common onboarding procedures
Based on the playbook responses, AMBA concluded that there are specific procedures that many moldmaking companies include in their onboarding and training sessions for every employee. Five of the top answers included policy overview, program eligibility, team member introductions, employee handbook and on-the-job training.

Procedures that still are completed in the industry at 63% or lower include trainings such as building set-up, safety videos/protocols, attire standards, background checks and similar.

“On day one, employees have a full day of training/safety videos to watch and study,” explained Musbach. “On the second day, they spend a few hours with their direct manager for hands-on training. Then they will work for X amount of time with experienced personnel until they are prepared to work alone.”

In general, onboarding manufacturing workers should address demographics, build skills and introduce any new technology to the employee while improving critical thinking skills, according to BizLibrary, an online learning blog dedicated to assisting companies in employee training based in Town and Country, Missouri.2

Employees new to the mold building industry will receive different education and onboarding vs. a seasoned professional who’s new to the company. “All employees have to go through the same amount of safety training, but they will go through a different amount of training on the floor,” Musbach said. “Experienced employees usually are trained for a few days. Someone new to the industry will most likely have a month or so of on-the-floor training.”

But first… pre-boarding
Haley Biggs, marketing coordinator at Ocasta, a firm that specializes in connecting employees with knowledge, training and education technology, Brighton, UK, stated, “Finding top talent for your business can be tough; and the reality is, once you’ve found that perfect hire, the challenge doesn’t suddenly end there.”

Pre-boarding should assist the hiring team in properly setting expectations, making connections and streamlining the process of hiring and onboarding, according to the recent playbook. Companies can do this by making “pre-boarding checklists”, examples of such would be letting the employee know appropriate attire, required equipment for day one, a list of necessary documents to bring on the first day and a daily checklist.

The process of pre-boarding also may help new employees’ potential anxiety about the job. By providing new employees with such information before they step into the building is a big step in keeping them comfortable. Other ways of easing the new hires’ first day jitters may be by sending a company-wide email announcement welcoming them to the team, scheduling a team lunch and assigning a “teammate-to-be” mentor to help answer any of their questions.

Manufacturing-specific training methods
Ninety percent of participants of the Workforce Development Playbook stated that their companies use employee-to-employee training, but that’s not the only option available. Companies should note that there can be multiple ways of training an employee. Additional education, while not always required by manufacturing companies, still can be beneficial. Other methods of training in use by US mold manufacturing companies include the use of trade schools, online resources and external trainers/facilitators.

By navigating other tools offered in the manufacturing industry, companies can create their own training manuals, which is a process that Strohwig currently utilizes. “We took advice from OSHA and ISO for our training procedures,” Musbach said. “Then we created our own onboarding process based off of what was required.”

Online resources
Online training resources have become the norm since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with many training companies, schools and educators offering online courses for training – both in the moldmaking field and out. Companies like 180 Skills, an online skills training and certification company based in Indianapolis, Indiana, often offer training courses for manufacturers. Such courses offered include blueprint reading, welding, machining, workplace safety, lean manufacturing and more.

Other options
Online training and training processes created by the company are the types that are most commonly used; however, those aren’t the only options. Sometimes using an external trainer or facilitator can help manufacturers stay on track. Trade schools also are often looked into by manufacturers. According to the playbook, 57% of respondents said that their company provided some sort of tuition reimbursement.

Cross-training employees
Not all companies offer to cross-train; however, those that do, often see benefits such as flexibility in scheduling, improvements in processes and, in general, a higher level of worker engagement, improved service and succession planning, according to REWO, a training and onboarding platform located in Seattle, Washington.3

Cross-training allows employees to further their careers while staying at the company. “We offer cross training to employees that have a drive to learn and enhance their careers,” Musbach said. “On day one, we make sure each employee is aware of our available training. All CNC operators have training courses for Powermill, set ups and safety. They also are put with an experienced employee if they show promise or drive.”

The benefits of successfully training the team
There are many advantages to successfully onboarding and training each employee that joins the team. According to BizLibrary, some of the said advantages include developing the employee-organization relationship, correcting common misconceptions about manufacturing, reducing absenteeism and increasing retention, introducing organizational values, kickstarting skill development and improving workplace safety.

Mold builders should be sure to pre-board to give the right impression to the new employee, as well as offer enough training once said employee is on the clock. Training programs can be through online courses, trade schools or something created by company employees. Whatever the case, the goal is to make the new employee feel welcome, comfortable and to give them the right tools they need to complete the job successfully.


  1. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/new-employee-onboarding-guide.aspx
  2. https://www.bizlibrary.com/blog/employee-development/onboarding-for-manufacturing/
  3. https://www.rewo.io/cross-training-in-manufacturing-what-is-it-and-why-it-is-important/