So being raised at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK), I had the pleasure of seeing our temporary worker program evolve over many years to meet the needs of the company in an ever-changing market. I was also fortunate to be involved in certain areas of curriculum and training in the mid 2000’s for the program. Internally the term “variable workforce” is often used which implies exactly what it is, but for the most part it’s often called the “temp-to-hire” program. There is a purpose often with a good outcome if goals are met, unlike some temporary programs that are developed with different intentions.
So if you think about business models most businesses shouldn’t hire their full time workforce based on their highest production volumes if there are fluctuations. This could create certain levels of muda, muri and mura, so it’s best to first understand capabilities and customer pull so proper decisions can be made in regard to the correct number of manpower needed to create the product or service. A basic lean principle often overlooked. So a variable workforce is often used to allow for flexibility regarding attrition, promotions, product line changes, training, and growth – at least from my experience.
I think for the temporaries and for the company (Toyota) they share a “win-win” situation. So the temp-to-hire program was started for the temporary worker to “try out or pilot” what it is like to build a car every 57 seconds for 8 to 9.5 hours per day. In true Toyota fashion it’s common to run a pilot before full blown implementation occurs, this program very similar. I can speak from my eye-opening experience at 19 when I started there that you utilize muscles in your body you didn’t think existed as we ramped up to an average of 540 cars per shift. This program is not just a variable workforce is much more robust. There is a specific hiring process for temporaries which look for specific competencies such as – listening, problem solving, teamwork, initiative and leadership. Those who meet the pre-hiring expectations are then placed into a ramp up program that includes specific TPS curriculum, physical fitness and an interval percentage introduction (25%-50 %….) to 2 jobs on the line. This program protects the team member by arming them with information and standards of how Toyota does business (expectations), as well as keeping them safe ergonomically. So the introduction prepares them for being part of a well renowned team.
This temp-to-hire process can be view as a filtering system for those who decide this particular line of work isn’t for them, which allows for others who find it’s a “good fit” an opportunity to be successful in the overall temp-to-hire program which take 15-24 months on average to complete depending upon some of the factors mentioned above.
Those who complete the criteria (attendance, KPI expectations, curriculum tests, and evaluations) are placed in the hiring pool to become a full time team member. This way when a temporary candidate goes through this process they fully understand the expectations of what it takes to “live” the Toyota Way (Value and Principles) and put into place Toyota Business practices (8 step problem solving).
This program to my knowledge is very rigid, yet easy to do if you are willing to understand that people are the most important asset in an organization and the determinant of the rise and fall of one. So if you don’t start with your future leaders in mind then you are failing as leadership. A Japanese trainer once told me that as a leader at any level that 50% of your job is to develop your people. Developed people can practice problem solving to see abnormality at a glance, when that capability is there we can start to move the pendulum to process versus results. So the training of the temporaries in the temp-to-hire program and the expectations we have of them has a great relationship to the lean principles of respect for people and adding value to our products and services through developing better systems. That starts with developing people.