Tuesday 24 October 2017

Training within a minimal budget

I recently was asked how to approach training for a smaller firm with a minimal budget for in-house training. 

This is a common issue with smaller firms who don’t have the budget (both time and $$) for training, yet it is critical for their success and continued viability in keeping up with the competition.

Training can be challenging for smaller firms, there is a fine balance in the need and cost of educating your staff for the benefit of the company, however, if you do not have an education strategy for your staff you are inhibiting your firm's growth potential. 

Education strategy does not necessarily need to be onerous and expensive, a balance needs to be met between the needs of the staff and the economic impact, there is a huge amount of benefits to educating your staff including:
  • Staff satisfaction which equates directly to staff retention
  • Efficiency in production
  • Utilization of assets (your expensive software)

Here are some suggestions for an economic strategy towards training.

In-house training: Look for a champion who can take up the gauntlet of improving the skillsets of the office. This individual typically is passionate about the software and wants to improve the process using the software. This champion will be the go-to person for finding the information and facilitate sharing the knowledge, he or she does not need to be an expert…yes, you read that correctly.. they only need to know the basics and where to get the information and have the skills to share the information, once the information is passed on the users will quickly become the experts which you can then draw upon to share their knowledge with any new or less experienced staff.

Make everyone a champion: Look for people who have existing knowledge or expertise, for example, an individual Revit user may have a great understanding of the use of Schedules. Have this person do a short presentation or develop a handout on the topic, you can utilize the existing wealth of knowledge at your disposal.

Keep it current and mix it up: On-demand training is crucial to address a projects immediate needs, select topics that are in need of for current projects, survey your team to see what challenges they are facing and create a session with brief handouts around their needs. When you don’t have any immediate needs go a little “off script”, have a presentation from someone outside of your typical scope such as someone from Contract Administration or Accounting to talk about their aspect of the project delivery process. The sharing of this knowledge helps us all understand why we have to do certain things (like timesheets, ugh!) and it keeps it interesting.

Online resources: There are many online resources available for eLearning from companies that specialize in application training to simply pulling together a selection of uTube videos or web links as a resource for specific topics, if someone comes to you saying they are having difficulties completing a task, for example, Revit roofs, you can direct them to a series of Blogs (ahem) and uTube videos as a resource. You need to be able to direct people to support themselves, even though you may have an “in-house” champion your staff needs to be able to find answers themselves.

Team building: Spend time once a week on team building, this could be as simple as 1 hour a week discussing project challenges. What you will find is that other people will be able to provide their experience or knowledge with the rest of the team, this helps build respect and comradery with your team.

Training and education is a combined effort and involves everyone from management to interns.

Show appreciation: We all appreciate it when we get a pat on the back, you can do this by periodically providing lunch for your staff that attends the training sessions… and use that time to share knowledge. You also get a better rate of participation when lunch is provided. Recognition of individuals for their efforts is also a reward in itself.

Prioritize your staff’s time: Many AEC offices are approached by suppliers to come in and provide lunch and have the opportunity to present their product. Evaluate what is more important, maybe limit suppliers Lunch and Learn in favor of internal training, evaluate which suppliers you want to present to your staff and set a limit to balance your staff’s time between knowledge of products and internal training.

The number one key to success in training your staff is giving them permission to learn, production staff (everyone) feels an obligation to be productive and when we learn a new process or application we get frustrated because of the additional time it takes to accomplish a task that we typically can do in less time. Management needs to give their staff permission to learn and voice the understanding that immediate efficiency will be impacted while learning is taking place, that they accept that cost in the understanding of the overall long-term benefits. Management needs to give their staff permission to learn.

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