Develop Exceptional Employees – The Toyota Way

One book, I regularly refer and read for my learning is “The Toyota Way Field Book” by J L Liker and David  Meier. There are few chapters in the book, which describe excellent processes with regard to people development, be it’s employees, leaders or suppliers and partners. A few learning from these chapters are describe below for the benefits of my readers.

Toyota’s philosophy and belief in people development is as below:
 “We Don’t Just Build Cars, We build People”

Toyota, genuinely believes in cultivating it’s people. It is with this belief, the company has been investing in people and developing them with a long term objectives for return.  If  you make little investment in resource/people. it will provide little return. The Toyota Way is centered on the philosophy that people are the greatest asset. Toyota leaders are fond of saying they “build people, not just cars”. What they are saying is that in the process of building cars and improving the process, people are learning and developing. Toyota uses the analogy of a garden to describe their belief in people. The soil is tended and prepared, the seeds are watered, and when the seeds grow, soil is maintained, weeded and watered again until finally the fruit is ready. This image of Toyota is one of dedication, patience and caring. You must be dedicated to seeds (people) for the entire time.

It is also true that employees will fulfill the expectations that you have of them. When we work with companies, we can usually tell immediately the quality of people in the facility by simply asking the manager. We may hear comments such as ,”We have trouble getting good people here, or “We don’t pay enough so the quality of our people is low.” Often we hear terms like “babysitting” in reference to employees. Surely these are signs that there are bad people working there. The thing is, it is the manager who is bad !  If the manager believes that the people are not good, they will live up to that expectation only.
Fortunately, we also visit companies where the manager proclaims, “We have really some good people here. We are very fortunate. “When we walk with this manager,  you can sense the pride in the people and what they accomplish. Of course , this manager does not live in a ivory tower, nor is he/she living in some fantasyland. It is just a different perception of the situation. The work is not more glamorous, the pay not significantly higher (if at all),nor the benefits, yet the people are “good”.

Growing exceptional people goes beyond just providing better pay and benefits. You can throw all kinds of perks at people and still not create the proper environment for them to blossom. If you are manager, the key is what you must be tended and the seeds nurtured so they bear fruit that will provide sustenance and survival for you.

Toyota makes very systematic efforts by selecting the right people thru’ their rigorous selection process. They select and pick up people from schools and colleges which they patronised for years.

They selection process targets the following skills for team members right from associates level:

Job-fit motivation, meeting membership, meeting leadership, initiative, ability for the work, adaptability, problem identification and problem solving ability, work tempo, communication skills. It is then followed by activities for assimilating new members into their culture and job instruction training to develop exceptional skill levels. Once the member is ready thru’ these training process, he/she is then placed/ allowed to do his/her job for which he or she is selected. Managers take personal responsibility for training and development of their team members. They engage employees in regular training, in Quality Circles activity, Suggestion Programme and regularly track their performance and provide feedback for improvement.

Toyota strongly believes in developing and nurturing people with a long term perspective, hence it is a very robust company in terms of process and globally a strong brand and in business for more than 100 plus years.

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