Beyond Hard Knocks Part 2

August 1, 2005

Going Beyond the School of Hard Knocks...Continued

By: John Zink

To help you think about education and training issues, below are helpful rules to keep in mind when you are considering education for yourself and your employees. You can also read a more complete feature on this subject at the Contractor Resource Center Library.


5. Don’t Be Afraid of Losing Trained Employees.
Employee training is an investment.

Every investment has risks. It is the fear of risk that keeps the average person from making the investments that have the highest rewards. In the case of contractor education though, the risks are minimal, especially when you consider the potential returns.

Employee training is a great retention tool. An employee who has seen you make a time and money investment to train them will be less likely to leave your company. An employee who does decide to leave still has the opportunity to share the information they picked up from a session before they go, especially if you have a program in place that facilitates this kind of sharing.

Even if your employee quits on their first day back from a session, you will still gain something. A smart, professional competitor staffed entirely with workers you trained is still much better than a sloppy competitor who drags the entire market down with underbidding and poor workmanship.


6. Let Your Employees Choose.
Use training as a reward and encourage reluctant learners.

If you manage your opportunities correctly, training can be used as a reward or recognition of good work. From there, it’s a small step to making training an expectation of working for the company.

Set the example by asking some of your key employees to attend some training programs with you. Quality programs will have your employees coming home and talking with their co-workers. With this peer encouragement, you will begin to see employees coming to you, asking to be sent to educational programs they are interested in. Granting these requests gains you points with your employees—plus, these eager employees are likely to gain more from the educational sessions than the average attendee.

How can you convince a reluctant employee to go to educational sessions? Train those around him or her. Once the majority of their co-workers have had training, the rest begin to fear being left behind and will step up. Similarly, new employees will expect to get the same training opportunities that everyone else has received.


7. Apply the Learning Back Home.
Share the lessons, develop goals, implement the plan and measure the results.

Sitting in a classroom for hours is of little use if the learning is not applied on the job. After a seminar, hold a quick, informal meeting with the people who attended the session to talk about what ideas they got out of the training. Ask how they will change what they are doing as a result of attending. Ask how they will make this change.

The answers should be written down as goals and implementation plans (verbal goals are easy to forget or adapt to reality later). Involve other employees who can help implement the changes suggested or who will be affected by the changes. Then schedule a meeting for a few weeks later to check progress on the employee’s goals.

If you learn at the follow-up meeting that no progress has occurred, then examine the reasons why. Perhaps the seminar wasn’t worth while, or the employee isn’t working to make the changes, or the goals weren’t realistic, or something is stopping the employee from making changes.

Take this last issue seriously. If you have an employee who wants to make a change for the better but cannot due to an issue you can control, you MUST take action. Ignoring the issue will lead to an employee who thinks you don’t care and robs you of the benefits of the changes they would have made.


Quit the School of Hard Knocks
It’s impossible to know how many company owners out there got their initial business education from the school of hard knocks or how many are still learning things the same way years later. With so many excellent training programs available there’s no reason to limit yourself or your employees to a school of hard knocks education.

You have the responsibility of ensuring that your company will be successful and will continue to provide for you and your employees. Taking the time, money and effort to attend and send employees to educational programs is an excellent way to help safeguard your investment and confirm your employees’ faith in the company.

Examine the seminars and training courses available to you and your employees through organizations like the PHCC Educational Foundation and make the decision to seize the advantages they offer.


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