construction team on site

No Train, No Gain


Do you sometimes wish your project managers and field crews were as good as you? Do they often struggle or fail to do things the way you want them done? Are your people as efficient and productive as they should be? Do your employees sit and wait for you or their boss to make simple decisions for them? Or, do your people constantly improve, try new ways to do things, and pro-actively make changes and master new tasks?

Human nature is to stay put and do things the same way as they have been done before. For example, how do you drive to work? The same way every day. People don’t like to change and therefore won’t try new ideas on their own unless they have no other choices. Improvement requires people to change. Most people want to do better, learn new things, and grow. Training is the best method to encourage and make your people change and improve.

Are you too busy to train?

As construction companies grow, the owner often takes on more work than he or she can handle alone. So, they hire some help to assist them. Then as the crew size grows and daily job pressures and responsibilities mount, the owner has difficulty finding enough good help to delegate accountabilities and tasks to. Owners know they should train their people, but they don’t take the time to do it. They become too busy to train and instead try to be at every jobsite or meeting on an ongoing basis or all the time. What should these overworked managers do? Most continue to try to stay involved, keep making all important decisions themselves, and stay in control of almost everything. This never works, as projects slow down waiting for the boss, and employees are held back and not allowed to grow. This causes field productivity to decrease and jobs costs to increase. And, then, good employees leave for better opportunities. What’s your decision regarding investing in training?

Productivity in construction is at an all-time low compared to other industries. The average construction field worker only averages between four to five hours per day doing productive work. The other lost hours are spent waiting for their boss to show up to tell them what to do, looking busy, correcting other’s mistakes, looking for tools or materials, or working with the wrong tools or equipment.

Most small and medium-sized construction companies don’t have formal training programs. Consider the old method of distributing project information via blueprints versus today’s laptop computers, tablets, e-mail, and project websites. In today’s high-tech, high-speed business environment, people need to learn and improve just to stay relevant. Maybe your firm is too busy to train because you expect people to learn in a vacuum, or by the trial-and-error method, or from their previous boss at their last company. People want to make meaningful contributions on the job. But if they don’t get the training and tools they need, they won’t grow into productive team players.

Training involves doing

You can’t afford not to train. The first way to start an effective company training program is to do it during regular working hours as a mandatory priority for everyone. Dedicate at least 30 minutes to training employees every week. This only amounts to 2.5 percent of your total payroll cost. An organized training program will improve your bottom line significantly more than 2.5 percent.

Determine the 25 most important weekly training topics for each employee category to know. For example, field concrete workers need to know how to form a building slab properly, where to install slab expansion joints, how to install steel embeds and anchor bolts, and how to fill out a timecard properly. Design learning sessions for each area and repeat them every six months to reinforce the basics.

Conduct training sessions in an interactive format, versus the old classroom style where the teacher tells the students what to do. Think coaching versus teaching and telling. Coaches explain, use examples, and get people to do exercises to encourage real learning. In group settings, select different people to lead your weekly training sessions, so everyone gets a chance to teach and be responsible for an area of workmanship. Assign topics to individuals based on their experiences and skills. Get people to stand up, participate, use tools, install materials, use equipment, and do it until they get it right.

Work together to learn together

Offsite seminars and workshops can also be excellent training opportunities. But, make sure your training programs offer more than listening to instructors. Good training involves coaching, interaction, doing, and feedback. There are a lot of poor examples of training programs where the agenda includes training sessions, but no real learning happens. Some companies try to do all their training at one big annual meeting for their entire staff. The audience watches boring technical presentations or a company manager reads information to the group. The audience doesn’t participate in activities or provide input and, therefore, doesn’t learn how to implement any new skills being taught. They sit there, listen, and try to stay awake. And then, back on the job the next day, they continue to do their job exactly as they did before.

Meetings can be an excellent training opportunity if organized properly and then combined with effective, ongoing company-wide training sessions. To round out and improve your annual training, be sure to include interactive training, feedback, fun, motivation, rewards, excitement, and recognition.

To get started, form a company improvement committee that meets monthly. Task them with the responsibility to design your ongoing company training program. Let them develop your training ladder, topics, schedule, and format for implementation. By involving many of your key employees in this effort, everyone will get onboard and make this program a success.

Business - Commercial Construction Industry

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This article contains general information only. Sunflower Bank is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, before making any decisions related to these matters, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.