Knowledge Deficits in Manufacturing and Their Effects on New Employees
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The purpose of this study was to explore the learning experiences of new employees and the influence that knowledge deficits have on their performance and on safety within an organization that is experiencing a massive loss of knowledge due to downsizing, attrition, and turnover. There were three research questions: (1) How does knowledge deficit influence the learning experiences of new hires? (2) How does knowledge deficit influence the performance of new hires? (3) How does knowledge deficit influence safety in the organization?
The study was addressed from an interpretive paradigm. A qualitative case study methodology was used to examine one department in a south Texas fortune 500 company that supplies alumina to the organization’s global production system. The global production system is the largest network of refineries and smelters in the world. Primary data sources were in-depth interviews with 10 hourly production workers and internal documents.
Findings revealed that knowledge deficit had a negative influence on the learning experience and performance of new employees. This, in turn, resulted in a negative influence on three of the organization’s key drivers – people, profitability, and knowledge. Knowledge deficit also had an influence on the safety in the organization even though the leaders of the organization put safety first in all of their decision making processes. Also the corporation has been recognized as having best practices in safety.