Poka-Yoke: Mistake-Proofing Your Hiring Process

Poka-yoke (ポカヨケ) [poka yoke] is a Japanese term that means “mistake-proofing.” A poka-yoke is any mechanism in a lean manufacturing process that helps an equipment operator avoid (yokeru) mistakes (poka).

People are inherently unreliable and flawed when compared to machinery or robotics. People will make mistakes. Workers will forget to assemble parts or fail to notice simple quality issues. Fortunately, there are ways to take the human element out of the manufacturing process without removing the human. 

Poka-Yoke is a Japanese manufacturing term which loosely translates as “mistake-proofing.” Invented in 1963 by Shigeo Shingo as part of the Toyota Production System, it describes any set of manufacturing processes that attempt to identify defective components or systems at the earliest possible stage.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]There are two primary types of poka-yoke: those that stop a person completely if an error is detected and those that give an alert or a trigger and then rely on the operator to correct the mistake on their own.[/perfectpullquote]

How do you apply poka-yoke to hiring? Thankfully, there are many ways this manufacturing process can mistake-proof onboarding and retaining employees.

Pre-Screening Requirements

Many companies have pre-screening requirements such as drug tests, criminal background checks, skills assessments, required work experience and employment references. Smart software can help avoid these crucial items being missed during the hiring process. Either an alert is made if a step has been missed or even better, it simply won’t allow someone to be finalized in the system without all of the proper steps having been completed. Additional examples may be requiring specific certifications such as a tow motor license. Many companies utilize staffing agencies with strong systems for this reason in order to outsource this important pre-screening. Agencies often have very sophisticated software that mistake-proofs these steps for the staffing coordinator.

Determining a Best Fit Candidate

Ensuring an employee is making an ideal choice in accepting a position is another way to mistake-proof a hire. Touring a facility before offering a position allows applicants a chance to decline the position prior to “trying it out” on the job. Clarifying the desired wage, benefits desired, work location, shift preference and communicating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required also allows informed decisions. Making this a part of a standard hiring process and verifying this information prior to making an offer allows for a greater chance of making a good hire the first time.

Hiring Paperwork

The more times someone touches something, the more likely there will be an error. Most traditional processes require a new employee to manually fill out an application which another employee then enters into an electronic system. Having an applicant complete their necessary hiring paperwork electronically and then feed it directly into the employment records precludes the need for someone else to re-enter the information and reduces the risk of error. Particularly, having an applicant enter their own banking information for direct deposit puts the onus on the worker to check their information carefully. Required identification can also be verified and entered by an authorized employee into the I-9 form and then stored electronically in the cloud using an authorized service provider, eliminating the possibility of misfiling or failing to complete this important document.

Employee Retention

Keeping employees happy is the best way to keep employees. Paying them correctly and consistently is a key aspect of employee satisfaction. Applying poka-yoke to timekeeping is easy if you avoid re-entering information. Companies that use staffing agencies are often at higher risk of payroll errors since the agencies rely on time being reported by their clients.  Having employees sign in, then logging their hours, entering this information into a spreadsheet, forwarding to the agency who then enters it into their payroll system is a sure way to guarantee occasional errors. Keep your agency and your temporary employees happy by having them use an automated timekeeping system. In addition, electronically feeding this data automatically to the staffing provider keeps employees happy by ensuring they are paid in an accurate and timely manner.

Legal Ramifications

Many companies who utilize the services of staffing agencies have turned to Vendor Management Systems (VMS) for assistance in ensuring across the board compliance, accountability, and tracking. A VMS will not only drive pricing consistency from staffing agencies but also ensure systems are uniform. Many companies have also learned the hard way that conducting a background check or credit check can lead to trouble. Laws require adverse and pre-adverse letters to be sent to candidates who fail these checks. Failure to do so can result in hefty fines and criminal action. Utilizing a third-party or a staffing agency allows companies with expertise to manage these for you.


Poka-yoke methods can help keep manufacturing processes at the highest quality and at maximum efficiency.  Applying these “mistake-proofing” techniques to the hiring process can make a manufacturing business (or any company) just as efficient with human capital as they are with other aspects of their business.

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We’ll provide the right temp, temp-to-hire, or direct-hire candidates that align with your company quickly and efficiently.