Why Should a Company Train Its Personnel? Part One

L. Douglas Mault

December 2008

This is the first of two articles dealing with this key topic: training.

Whenever construction is strong, it seems almost impossible to find and hire all of the properly trained and qualified people needed. And, even if construction in your area is a bit below normal, it can be equally difficult to find them. As it turns out, there is no such thing as a perfect world wherein we’d find and hire only the absolute cream of the crop.

The reality is that people need initial training and recurrent training in virtually every aspect of their job. Whether it’s driving a forklift, using a computer, reading blueprints or even answering the phone, few people come to a job with all of the knowledge and skills they’ll need to be successful.

The fact is that no reasonable owner, executive, manager or supervisor would let someone operate a forklift, log onto the company’s system, do a take-off without either being sure they’ve been trained or providing the training they need. And, as technology advances, the need for review and recurrent training is obvious.

When people are well trained the company has fewer errors, fewer accidents, lower costs and, one would reasonably anticipate, higher revenues and margins.

So, we’re faced with many training obligations and opportunities. Why train anyone? Do it for at least these three reasons:

•They may have minimal or no knowledge of what the job requires.
•They may know how to do the job but don’t know how to do it the company way.
•Because they are the company—the company can only be what the people are.

Let’s face it: Each of your companies has a "way to do things,” and you want your employees to not only do it right but do it your way. Bear in mind that in many situations a given employee may be the only person your customer regularly deals with face to face.

As mentioned above, you’re not going to put someone on a piece of equipment or allow them access to the IT system without proper training. Yet we move people into supervisory or management or key skill positions with little or no consideration for whether they have the knowledge, skills and abilities to be effective and to deal with all the things they face in that position.

When they are moved into such a situation, they’re usually concerned that they don’t know much, if anything, about supervising people or process. All too often they’re told "don’t worry, it’s just common sense.” The problem with common sense was pointed out by Winston Churchill when he said, "The problem with common sense is that it is not all that common.”

Machinery and equipment don’t have moods and attitudes and personal issues and illnesses. When a piece of equipment breaks or fails, we simply repair it or replace it. It’s not quite so simple with people.

To that end, here are just six of the two dozen things a supervisor, manager or skilled worker need to know:

• How to build positive work attitudes.
• How to communicate effectively.
• How to translate policy into action.
• Basic principles of human resource management.
• How to give and follow directions and instructions.
• How to develop and support employee cooperation.

Once you see and understand just how much people need to know, the need for training should become self evident.

L. Douglas Mault is president of Executive Advisory Institute, Milwaukie, Ore. He can be reached at (888) 428.3331.