Beyond the basics: Comprehensive training for a better workforce

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            It’s rare that employees come fully prepared to do the jobs for which they were hired. Skilled construction workers know how to move dirt, build buildings and put pipe in the ground, but do they know your expectations and how you approach projects? With comprehensive training, they will.

            “I’ve talked with many companies that wonder whether training is worth it, considering that in today’s world, most employees only stay with a company for a relatively short time,” said Karla Dobbeck, who founded Human Resources Techniques, Inc. “Training is essential. It keeps employees up-to-date, and it tells them that you value their service to the company. In the end, it may motivate them to stay long term. Look at it this way: The only thing worse than training an employee who leaves is not training one who stays.”

            Dobbeck suggests a comprehensive approach that goes well beyond just training employees to do their jobs. The list should include safety, company policies, compliance and more. Training should be ongoing to keep skills updated.

            “New employees should know about the company – where it came from, how it got to where it is today and how they fit into it,” said Dobbeck. “They should know its history; changes and expansions; the industries it serves; who its customers are, and if they are mainly new or repeat; how it interacts with the community; and more. This gives the employees perspective, and it may tell them why they were hired and how their skills are valuable to the team.

            “The company information should include its corporate culture and policies,” Dobbeck added. “Culture encompasses its community involvement and working relationships. Policies cover everything from attendance to housekeeping, telephone use and those unwritten ‘hot buttons’ that management views as pet peeves but may not be in a handbook. They also need to know basics, such as breaks and lunch periods, as well as more important items, such as how to report grievances, maintenance and quality issues and the overall chain of command. This falls under what I call ‘performance management.’”

Job-specific, safety measures

            Even experienced hires need job-specific training. While their positions may be similar to the ones from where they came, there may be different perspectives on how to approach tasks and projects. Employees must know exactly what their jobs entail and how they relate to others. Added questions to address include: where they will be working and where to find necessary tools; quality information, such as policies and systems; recordkeeping expectations; what to do when customers call or stop by a jobsite; technical terms and phrases that involve how to read and complete paperwork; and terms of equipment usage.

            Construction creates special challenges when it comes to safety, and it’s essential that employees know all your company’s policies. Include information on personal protective equipment, lock out/tag out procedures, hazard communication, emergency evaluation, accident and hazard reporting, and what to do when OSHA is on site. If you use equipment such as cranes, hoist and crane-safety practices must also be explained.

            “Processes and procedures related to equipment have to be part of any training program,” said Dobbeck. “Part of that is planning for transport, loading and unloading practices, mobilization and setting up when you get to the jobsite. Consistency is a key component, because it results in fewer errors.”

Understanding legal obligations

            Employees must also understand their legal obligations. For instance, if they drive trucks, they must be licensed and drug-free. Their status affects more than just them. An accident could affect your company’s insurance rates and safety rating.

            Additionally, employees are responsible for their behavior on the jobsite and in the office. Harassment and discrimination should never be tolerated, and clear definitions of what those constitute are essential. Employees need to understand their roles in reporting, assisting with investigations and what likely management action will result from incidents.

            Dobbeck says that payroll procedures fall under legal obligations, because it’s up to everyone to keep count of their time and report errors. Understanding when pay dates occur is essential as well.

Recordkeeping and assessing

            Part of an excellent training program is good recordkeeping that makes sure everyone gets the same information, according to Dobbeck.

            “Companies should use checklists,” she pointed out. “They ensure consistency and provide evidence of employee training. They also provide accountability and identify gaps in training that need to be filled. Additional effective measures include training guides. Weekly evaluations are good ways to maintain focus, and they’re proven to help avoid unemployment.”

            Finally, businesses must constantly assess the effectiveness of their training practices and hold themselves accountable.

            “Just as they measure employees, businesses should test themselves to see where they may be lacking when it comes to training, so they can improve,” said Dobbeck. “Companies should look beyond just using supervisors to train new hires. They should consider an assigned trainer or auditor. Those individuals should set clear goals for everyone, using ‘carrots’ to incentivize positive behaviors and help employees understand how they can earn raises.

            “Training is one of the most valuable and effective tools for developing a solid workforce,” Dobbeck added. “It must be an essential component of good business practices. A comprehensive program will not only help to ensure employees have the right information and skills to do their jobs, but it’s also shown to be effective in reducing costly employee turnover.”

Information in this article was obtained from a presentation by Karla Dobbeck during an Associated Equipment Distributors Summit. Dobbeck founded Human Resources Techniques, Inc. in 1997.

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