7 Steps to Creating an In-House Training Program
The Tale of the Two Construction Workers.
Do you have a moment? If so, let me share a quick tale with you, a tale with a slight twist to the original story line.
Peter and Simon were construction workers. More specifically, they were demolition experts. They had recently been hired at Demo Express Inc. for their proficiency in deconstructing buildings. Their new employer had just received a large contract for the partial demolition of a nursing home. The nature of the project required the men on site to be sensitive their surroundings.
Both men were set-up at the project site on separate areas of the building. Their scopes of work were identical. Each man was given the same equipment.
Peter and Simon were very competitive employees. They each set out to prove their superiority over the other. They were going to show their superintendent who was the better employee and the better demolition expert.
As the day progressed, Peter was noticing that Simon was disappearing every hour for a short amount of time. Peter began to think that he was pulling ahead of Simon. As the day progressed, Peter grew more and more confident that Simon must be falling further and further behind in total work completed.
The end of the day came and the superintendent rolled in to check the status of the project. The superintendent started his review of the completed work with the Simon. Peter relaxed assuming that he had completed much more work than Simon.
The superintendent came into Peter’s work area for the final inspection of the day. The superintendent proceeded to show his disappointment in Peter’s quantity and quality of the work he had completed. When compared to Simon, Peter had fallen very far behind despite the fact that he continued to work hard throughout the day without a break.
What Peter did not realize is that Simon was not taking breaks during the small amounts of time that he walked away from his job. He was, in fact, performing essential functions which ultimately made him more productive. He was speaking with the superintendent confirming that his understanding of the scope of work was correct. Service was completed on tools throughout the day to ensure that they were working at optimum performance. And if Simon was unsure of how to do something, he was using his company’s in-house training program in order to assure him that he was moving in the right direction.
The moral of this story is that working smart is equally important as working hard. Working hard without knowledge, skills and abilities is tantamount to running into a brick wall. Do it long enough and you may bust through, but you will be bruised on the other side. By equipping your employees with skills and knowledge through training, you will empower them to work smarter and more efficiently.
Seven Key Steps to Create an In-House Training Program
As The Tale of Two Construction Workers illustrates, working smart is a pre-requisite to working hard. Working smart along with working hard allows employees to sustain their efforts longer when compared to just simply working hard.
“Train up an employee in the way they should go, and when they have been with your company a long time they will not depart from it.” – Construction Proverb
Many leaders in the construction industry realize the value of an in-house training program in their businesses. In its most simplistic form, training helps businesses meet compliance requirements as imposed by third parties including OSHA, government (federal, state and local) and insurance companies.
Training also helps businesses control operational costs. It can help improve employee efficiency, reduce employee turnover by improving morale, and it can help improve customer satisfaction. All of these positive benefits will lead to an improved bottom line.
Why then, don’t construction firms train their employees more effectively? For some, it is that they are not aware of how to, or are overwhelmed by the thought of, setting up an internal training program.
The following are seven key steps that can guide a company through the process of creating an in-house training program for their firm. These key steps act as guidelines and recommendations. They can be adjusted to meet the conditions that are unique to each individual company.
What business are you in? This may sound like a simple question, but it is actually more complex than most business owners think. Construction companies have a tendency to be pulled away from their core competencies by the demands of their customer base. Some companies start out with a generalized focus in order to gain market share, but then begin to specialize after a certain period of time.
By defining your core business model, you can better define the in-house training program that will be required. Training may be required for your employees according to the greatest area of risk exposure.
Example – if you are in the home remodeling business and work primarily in kitchen and bath areas you will have one set of requirements. However, if you occasionally replace residential roof systems you have now exposed your company to additional training requirements (e.g. fall protection, etc.) that would not have been required under a kitchen and bath remodeler business model.
Ask yourself these questions:
• What are all of the different scopes of work that your company completes on an annual basis?
• What are the profit margins for those scopes of work?
• If you are required to offer training for those scopes of work are they still as profitable after adding on the training costs?
There are two primary categories in an in-house training program. Compliance training and training for non-compliance issues. Depending on where you conduct business and what type of business you are in will determine what is considered compliance training.
Compliance training requirements are those topics on which employees must be trained in order to meet a third party requirement. OSHA requires certain types of training in order for employers to be considered in compliance. Federal, state and local governments can require specific training. For example, certain states and cities can require harassment training. Insurance companies may also require training in order to meet underwriting conditions on their policies that they issue such as defensive driver training.
Non-compliance issues generally relate to improving the overall performance of the business. These issues may be related to a specific product installation technique, proper equipment operation or a soft skill such as leadership training. Establishing a minimum threshold for training in these areas is subjective. The business owner will need to determine the minimum levels to which they want their employees to be trained. These levels can also be adjusted based upon the various job descriptions in the company.
Ask yourself these questions:
• Do any areas of my business expose the company to third party compliance training requirements?
• Who are those third parties (e.g. OSHA, insurance companies, etc.) who may require certain types of training for my business?
• What are the minimum performance standards to which the company wants all employees trained?
• Do different positions within the company have different training requirements and/or performance standards?
There are just as many training resources available to contractors as there are topics on which to train. The process of vetting new training resources can be a daunting task. With new resources becoming available almost every day, the options can seem overwhelming. Companies typically do not starve for the lack of training options; they normally drown in the options.
Training resources come in many different forms. Among those are On-The-Job Training, eLearning, and traditional brick-and-mortar classes, each with its benefits and drawbacks. In some cases, the course content may be restricted to only one format because of the required method of delivery.
Different factors will affect the decision of which training resource to use for the specific topic for which the employee is being trained. Factors include the proximity of training, the time frame needed for the training, cost as well as whether the format is a good match for the individual receiving the training. Each company should consider these factors as well as any factors that are unique to their business and industry.
Ask yourself these questions regarding selecting training resources:
• What training is required? And what training resources are available to help the company meet that requirement?
• What are the costs associated with the training? Remember to include indirect costs such as labor costs, travel costs, etc.
• What is the expected return for your training investment? What are you expecting to get back for the company?
• What are the costs associated with non-training? Costs may be drops in efficiency or for compliance training the costs may include potential fines.
Step 2 established a minimum threshold for training requirements. This is a combination of compliance training as well as non-compliance training that the company expects each employee to achieve. This can be adjusted further by determining the performance and training requirements for each job description or position within the company.
The next step is to measure each employee against this standard. This can be an objective measurement. Does Joe have this training? Does Susan have this certification? These are simple yes or no questions. Some areas are more subjective in nature. These require the manager to evaluate the level of proficiency of the employee. It is a judgment call in some situations as to whether the employee should be required to undergo training to improve in those specific areas.
If the evaluation requires a subjective measurement of an employee’s skills, it is best to establish a scale where the employee can see how they are measured. This can simply be a proficiency rating of 1 through 5. Be prepared to discuss the rating with the employee and provide feedback so that they can understand how they can improve on that scale.
Ask yourself these questions about assessment?
• Is there a third party minimum requirement that can be assessed quickly in order to determine if the employee meets the training requirements? (ex: OSHA 10 or 30 hour)
• What scale will be used to evaluate and provide feedback to the employee if the skill being evaluated is measured subjectively?
• How often will the employees be evaluated? Annually or bi-annually? Is there a greater frequency of reviews when the employee starts with the company?
Thomas Edison is credited with saying “Vision without execution is hallucination.” Up until this point, the in-house training program development process has focused on how to determine which training will be implemented and which employees will receive that training. So the next logical step is to implement the training programs as outlined. Without implementation, the process to this point has not added any value to your company.
Training can be implemented in multiple ways. Typically most business leaders think of training as an interruption to the course of a normal business day. However, if implemented properly the training can be done in conjunction with the day with little to no interruption to the general flow of work.
“Learning Occurs at Output”
Methods of delivery for training do not have to automatically interrupt workflow. On-the-job training allows employees to be trained while work is taking place. This is how many individuals have been trained throughout history in apprenticeship programs. Allowing employees to learn and then immediately implement the skills that they have learned reinforces their knowledge and helps them retain those skills.
eLearning can be implemented at project sites. Technology such as the Construct-Ed platform allows employees to stream learning content directly to project sites. iPads, Droids and other devices give employees unprecedented access to learning content on demand. They are now able to use eLearning resources as a reference library to reinforce skills that they have learned.
Offering training after evaluation shows employees that management and leadership are serious about training and building employees. Employee morale and productivity will increase as a result of training.
When implementing the training program ask yourself:
• Which skills or knowledge is a priority to get into the hands of your employees?
• Which method of delivery is best suited for the content that needs to be trained?
• How can we train so that the employee has the opportunity to quickly put into practice the skills that they have learned?
You cannot improve what you cannot measure. In order to see the effectiveness of an in-house training program, the program’s results must be measured. Determining what to measure is a call that the business owner must make. It may be unique to how the company operates or the product or service that the company delivers. The measurement scale may be objective or subjective or a combination thereof based upon the needs of the company.
The risk is in choosing the incorrect method of measuring. In determining the effectiveness of training, an incorrect method of measurement may be in counting the total volume of training completed. This measures the volume of the training, but gives no indication as to how the training affected the performance of the employees.
For example, if a construction company measured the volume of safety training completed annually, but failed to measure the impact on the safety performance of the company they would miss a critical relationship between the two. If the company spent 1,000 hours training a staff of 100 employees, but the recordable incident rate increased it could be argued that the training resources were ineffective.
Measuring the effectiveness of a training program allows employers the opportunity to test and then adjust training programs in order to meet the demands of the current external environment of the business. By adjusting the contents of a training program, the business owners can then more effectively navigate the headwinds that they find themselves fighting on a daily basis.
When determining the best methods for measuring results of a training program ask:
• What are the key elements of the business that are most critical to future success?
• Are objectives standards available or will subjective standards need to be developed?
• How will data be accumulated for analysis?
Feedback and communications between employees and managers is critical. The lines of communication do not move in one direction, but instead need to allow for feedback in both directions.
Employees need to be able to provide feedback to managers and leaders as to the quality and effectiveness of the training program and content. Managers need to provide feedback to the employees on their implementation of the skills and knowledge that they learned.
The feedback process can simply be an informal open-door policy where the employee can openly share about the training and the content that was learned. It can also be more formalized as part of an annual or bi-annual performance evaluation. Most likely, it will be a combination of multiple channels of communication. It will be unique to the company and to the culture of that company.
When creating a system of feedback ask:
• Do your employees feel comfortable offering feedback on the training they have received?
• How often will employees be engaged with the purpose of providing two-way feedback on training?
• Will feedback on training be incorporated into a more formalized event such as a performance evaluation?
The process of implementing a formalized training program within a company can appear to be an overwhelming process. There are many moving parts which must be coordinated. The task of implementing a training program leads some to avoid the process all together. However, doing no training in the current construction business environment is not an option for most.
The best solution is to start small and build on each success. Make small investments to start. Realize small success stories and then continue to build your program.