Training for improving service quality at Honda

This case is about Honda American Motor Company which tries to improve quality due to blended learning approach. They split it in three different phase.

1. Phase one: The first phase takes place online. For two to three weeks, learners access a series of online modules that introduce the logical processes for effective problem solving and decision making. Learner progress is essentially self-paced, but since the content is driven from a Web server, the instructor can follow the progress of each learner and provide on-going encouragement and support. During phase one, learners are also asked to identify situations to which they intend to apply the techniques so they can focus on these situations when they attend the workshop. This powerful combination of initial learning and preparation for applying the concepts to real-life issues ensures the following phase will not only be efficient but also build deep understanding and significant motivation to use the ideas on the job after training.

2. Phase two: The second phase takes place at the workshop. Guided by the instructor, learners spend two days deepening their understanding of the concepts, discussing best practices and additional techniques for problem solving and decision making, and practicing on detailed case scenarios. Since skill transfer and results occur most rapidly when starting with the learner’s on-the-job issues, a significant portion of the session is spent working on the problems, decisions and plans identified in phase one. Simultaneously, learners receive coaching and feedback from the instructor and one another. Learners leave the session ready to fully apply the concepts and with a plan in hand to move successfully from the workshop to consistent use of the concepts back on the job.

3. Phase three: The final phase takes place back online. In the three weeks following the session, learners resolve the on-the-job issues they began to work on during the workshop. They document for instructor review, feedback and approval the specific techniques they used to resolve the issues. During phase three, learners have access to a host of online support tools and information. They can contact the instructor with questions at any time. The goal of this phase is to ensure use of the learned concepts and build confidence.

Advantages of Honda’s blended learning approach
Quality of individual output is improved.
Employees have the same way of thinking and working -> Makes it easier to work with manager and all the co-workers. Deep understanding and strong motivation from the employees
Personalized support
Reduce their time away from the job
Take advantages of expanding technology capabilities and infrastructure Assure tangible transfer of skills
Format which best support the overall emphasis on growth and quality


After the presentation of our case some questions have been asked by the students of the class. We have discussed about them and tried to bring some explanations. There were different kinds of questions.

The first kind was about the learning model itself. The main questions were the followings:

1. How can you measure the quality improvements? Overall and in figures?
2. Is the learning time too short?
3. Can you find in the library some video clips?
4. Is it not to theoretical this learning system?

For the first one we think that it is really difficult to measure in term of figure this kind of program. Indeed it is not a small part of Honda’s employees that are training but the whole company. In addition it is not a program for the short term but for the long term. The global quality of Hondo production will increase due to the learning program that means that the customers will be more satisfy. In the long run they will come back to the company to buy their next car. It will take years to quantify the real impact on the turnover. However it is possible to conduct some survey to the customer to know if they think that the quality has improved. The company can also check if the time to make a car decrease or if there are less failure with the production. For the second one we do not think that the learning time is too short. 6 weeks is enough for this time of training. Moreover it is not because you have done it one time that you cannot do it anymore in the future.

With a short training you can be focused on the main point and do not lose time on secondary information that the employee will never use. For the third one we do not know if it is already available on the intranet of Honda. But it can be a really good idea if it does not exist yet. People prefer to watch somebody explaining something (and see how it is working) than only read it in a book. The last one if one of the most important question for this kind of program where you mix theoretical and manual learning. Where is the border between too much of one or the other? At the first view it seems that two days of practice is not enough. However when the employee start is manual formation he has already learned lots of information. So the trainer will not lose lots of time to explain easy and obvious things but can be directly focus on the main important information that the trainee must learn.

The second kind of question was more about the employees and their interaction with the learning program. The following questions have been asked to us:

1. How can you motivate the employees, with which kinds of incentives?
2. What about the learners who are not ready after phase 2?
3. What are the interactions among the employees?

By participating into an important process in order to improve the quality of their company, the worker feels involved and useful. Indeed, it’s not sufficient for the most part. Regarding to the low wages that the workers can perceived, a money incentive can be a real motivation to make them want to learn. Moreover, they can motivate them by establishing in the company policy, a rule that explain that if the worker is efficient and provides good work quickly, he can whether be promoted or get bonus in the end of each month.

The answer of the second question is quite simple. Indeed, the instructors can easily evaluate the learners by watching him doing the job. If the learner applies the method perfectly, the instructor will give him the permission to go to the next phase. Otherwise, according to his level of difficulties, the instructor will send him either in the first phase or remake the second phase.

Employees interact each other every time (within the company, lunch breaks…), but also on the intranet through forums or instant messages. Thus, they can talk easily about working problems, or for instance, share tips and solutions about technical problems. Every single solution is directly saved into the database. Lot of communication channels allows workers to interact easily each other.

How does Honda doing compare to its competitors?
First of all it is a really complex process to compare sales and figures with quality management. As we learned during the lecture there is no guaranteed effect between sales of products, Stock price progress and quality. Therefore it is even challenging for Managers to analyze the effects of quality improvements. In ours point of view there is one obvious point how to compare it. The annual recalls of Cars.

Toyota US 2013 (Toyota US, 2014 & Reuters, 2014)

Cars Sold: 182’152

Cars Recall
“Nearly 19 million vehicles globally from late 2009 to early 2011 due to unintended acceleration claims.”

Honda US 2013 (IBT, 2014 & Reuters, 2014)

Cars Sold: 135’255

Cars Recall
“Between 2008 and 2011, Honda was forced to recall about 2.8 million vehicles
after finding a defect with driver-side airbags supplied by Takata.”

« Honda (2.8 million), Hyundai-Kia (2.2 million) and Ford Motor Co. (1.2 million) rounded out the top five in terms of vehicles recalled in 2013. »

To conclude, this system of training in three phases has many advantages. It permits to all employees to feel involved in it because it is not only a theoretical learning system, to have a personalized support and a control at each phase permit to really evaluate their progression. Furthermore this system of training allows them to reduce their time away from their job. We have analysed some questions about this system such as the measurement of the quality improvement because we can’t really quantify the real impact on the turnover now. The project is on the long term and it will take some few years to measure the satisfaction of the customer, if they will buy another car of this brand or not. The other questions were about employees and their interaction with the program. The money is not the only motivation for employees; they are also motivated by the self-satisfaction (increase their knowledge, promotion, or belong to a company of quality). This program permits the skills transfer also, to discuss of problems on the intranet (forums) Despite some “issues” such as measuring the efficiency right now of this system or the non-guarantee of effect between sales of product, stock price progress and quality; Honda is the company with the lowest annual recalls of cars.

IBT, 16.04.2014 Reuters, 16.04.2014

Toyota US, 16.04.2014