Too Busy Too Train?

by George Hedley


Do you wish your field crews and management people were as good as you? Do they often struggle and fail to do things the way you want them done? How long does it take them to master a new task or idea? Would a regular training program make a difference? I recently surveyed more than 2000 contractors and business owners. Over 98 percent stated if they offer more training their people would do a better job.

But, this awareness doesn't lead to action! For field personnel, 51 percent offer only 0-8 hours of training per year. Only 12 percent offer 40 hours or more per year per field employee. For management personnel, 32 percent of companies offer less than 8 hours per year, and only 24 percent train 40 hours or more. Contrast this with the top 500 major companies in America which average more than 40 hours of training per year, per employee!

Why do companies offer more training to management than field people? This doesn't make sense. Construction companies make or lose most of their money out on the jobsite, not back in the office. Quality, service, productivity-all of it happens out in the field! When firms spend more on training in the office, field employees and their contributions to the bottom-line are not properly valued!

No training is draining!

Most smaller contracting and design-build firms don't have formal training programs. Stop and consider the old method of distributing information and blueprints versus today's laptop computers, palm pilots, e-mail, and project websites. In today's high-tech, high-speed business environment, people need to learn and improve 50 percent every four years just to stay even. Maybe your firm is "too busy to train" because you expect people to learn by doing or the trial and error method!

People want to make meaningful contributions on the job. They want to be recognized for their efforts. They need training just to keep up, and additional training to excel. If they don't get the training and tools they need, they won't accept responsibility for the quality and productivity of the work they do.

The two percent investment!

Your company goal should be to provide 40 hours of training per year, per every employee. The total cost will be less than two percent of your payroll cost. And your return will be a five to ten percent improvement in bottom-line productivity.

Getting started is simple. Call a team meeting to select and prioritize 52 training topics. In our company, we cover the same 52 topics each year, plus new topics and innovative ideas. Allocate 45 minutes per week for training. Conduct training sessions in an interactive setting, on the jobsite or in the office.

Training involves doing!

Tell people how to do it, show them how to do it, and then let them do it. Watch the results, coach the participants until they get it right, and recognize those who do a good job. Bosses, step back! Share training duties among your crew, so everyone gets a chance to teach. Assign topics to individuals based on experience and skill. Use outside instructors when introducing new or technical tasks.

Work together to learn together!

Offsite seminars and workshops can be excellent training opportunities as well, but make sure the programs offer more than listening to an instructor. Training that works involves interaction, doing and coaching. A problem I've notice as a speaker and presenter is that most companies hold one big annual meeting for their entire staff. Often the agenda includes informational sessions, but no training really occurs at these meetings. The audience is not participating in the activity or implementing the skill as it is explained. They just listen and try to look awake. And then, back at their job the next day, they continue to do their work exactly as they did before.

Working together to learn and improve each week fosters team spirit and enthusiasm. Give your people weekly opportunities to perform, opportunities to learn, and chances to train others. The return to your company in productivity, quality work, motivation, and staff loyalty will be exponential!


George Hedley owns a $75 million construction and development company and Hardhat Presentations.  He speaks to companies on building profitable businesses, leadership, and loyal customers.  He holds 3-day in-depth "Profit-Builder Circles" open to construction company owners in an interactive roundtable format every 3 months.  His "Profit-Builder System" includes proven tools to always make a profit, build equity, create wealth, win profitable jobs, motivate your people, and enjoy the benefits of owning a profitable company.