The Importance of Staff Training

Two of the greatest pressures on businesses in the building sector are profitability and obtaining and retaining exceptional staff.  Great staff are a key influence on profitability and ‘continuing professional development’ or CPD is a critical part of getting the best out of those staff as well as attracting and retaining new staff.

These issues are not unique to the construction sector and many of the lessons learned from other sectors including the accounting profession are equally applicable to construction.

Historically accounting graduates would start their first job fresh out of university full of theory but with no experience, then leave New Zealand for their big OE after 3-4 years as soon as they were qualified.  The accounting firms had to structure their training to quickly get the best out of those staff while they remained in New Zealand.  The university graduates also understood this and selection of their preferred employer was often based on which firm had the best staff training.  The best practice applied to meet these issues equally applies to the building and construction sector.

Some of this best practice includes:

  • Have a documented formal training programme.  This assists in recruiting the best staff and distinguishes you from others.  It gives the staff a clear road map of their development plans and your expectations for them to develop.  It includes internal and external training courses, formal and informal training.  Once you start writing it down you will be surprised how much training is provided by you.
  • Ensure training is relevant and timely. Training is best done just before it will be applied in practice. This means it is relevant and applying in a practical situation reinforces the learning. Avoid standardising training and putting all staff on a similar programme, often resulting in staff not doing training that is relevant to them or doing it too early in their career resulting in it being forgotten.
  • Use training to encourage staff to take an interest in and be motivated in their own career development.  Staff who feel they are progressing are usually more motivated and will perform better and strive for improvement more than staff who are not encouraged to develop further skills.
  • Don’t forget the non-technical staff training, often referred to as soft skills.  Early in everyone’s career they are taught the technical knowledge necessary to do their job but once the basic skills are learned, staff start moving towards more senior positions, usually involving some type of management such as staff supervision, job supervision, project management etc.  People are promoted to these positions based on proven technical ability but often they have had no training in the new skills needed for their new role.  Skills to be taught include staff management, motivation, communication, customer service, marketing etc.
  • On-the-job training is a critical component of employee improvement.  On-the-job training is getting the employee to work alongside others while doing a new activity or a new aspect of their trade.  It ticks all the boxes for relevance, just in time, being practical and getting immediate feedback.
  • Don’t be afraid to use external training providers.  It is often cost effective as it does not tie up your own staff as much and it introduces fresh ideas and fresh perspectives to your organisation.
  • Incorporate the training programme into your staff performance appraisal process.  The performance appraisal is an excellent opportunity to identify further training requirements and expectations as well as reviewing the effectiveness of recent training.
  • And finally build continuous self-improvement supported by appropriate staff training into the organisation culture so the whole team are focused on improving their own abilities and the output of your organisation.