You’ve probably heard tradesmen, foremen, or superintendents say, “You either got it or you don’t.” But when it comes to construction safety and productivity, you don’t have to have it—you can learn it through proper training.
The benefits of properly training new employees are well worth the time and effort. You can form and mold that new trainee to fit your company culture. They can become great employees and remain loyal to your company, which helps minimize employee turnover. I believe more employees would “get it” if they were properly trained upfront.
Knowing what you want from a prospective employee can go a long way. Overall, a good prospect is one who has a desire to make the job a career, has some spring in his or her step, has excitement in his or her voice, is easily teachable, and has a good work history. Keep in mind, these traits may not be displayed in the first interview. A referral from someone you know can be helpful.
Training Action Items
If you want your new employee to be the best, provide the best teacher you can. I was fortunate enough in a large company to manage some of the best tradesmen in the industry. When a job required custom doors to be hung from scratch, we had the best people for that particular job. I would arrange my schedule to work beside them and learn. Roof, stairs, concrete, welding, and even managerial skills—I learned from working beside quality tradesmen who were terrific mentors. Make sure the trainer not only knows the skill, but is good with people and excited about the company. A mentor’s attitude toward the company often rubs off on trainees.
Teach the basics before the shortcuts. When we say shortcuts, we are speaking about a simpler and faster way to complete a task—not about compromising safety and quality. Teaching the basics of a task before the shortcuts can help a trainee develop his or her own creative ways to save time.
At times, you may have to write down directions or instructions, but do it only when necessary. People learn in many different ways—visual, hands-on, reading, even storytelling. Knowing when to write down instructions or have your trainee take notes is important. Giving your new employee a stack of papers all at once can be overwhelming. It’s best to provide the right instructions at the right time. Learn how each trainee wants to learn and try to structure lessons accordingly. It will not only help new employees learn faster, but they will respect you for working with them.
Providing the proper tools and equipment for the job will eliminate some problems. A new trainee needs to feel comfortable. The wrong tool, drill bits that are dull, personal safety equipment that does not fit, or the wrong type of ladder can frustrate an employee and make learning a struggle.
Start one task at a time. Some trainees may have to grasp one task before moving on to the next. They may not tell you this, so watch for signs of frustration.
Start safety training early on. Develop a safety attitude early. Having a mindset that all workplace accidents can be avoided can condition trainees to stay on the offense and be aware of their surroundings. Also, they will be more forthcoming in bringing any issues to your attention or addressing possible hazards before the problems arise.
Be patient and don’t micromanage. Expecting someone to master something in days that took a veteran many years to master is not practical. Let the trainee experience things on his or her own. Knowledge opens the way, but it’s experience that brings understanding.
Confidences goes a long way. We all need confidence when doing something new. Give trainees praise for a job well done. If a mistake is made, you may want to share one of your own mistakes to lighten the mood.
Paint a bigger picture of the benefits of learning new skills. When I wanted to become a carpenter, I was told that a carpenter should build a house every two years on the side—live in it, sell it, and then build the next one. Using your sweat equity, your fourth house would be free and clear of a mortgage. This gave me the strong desire to learn as much as I could to self perform the work. I learned the entire process of building a house. This method truly works!
Evaluate progress and reward if expectations are met. Noticing and acknowledging things like attitude, being on time, going the extra mile, creativity, working well with others, and learning fast can encourage trainees and help them improve.
When you hire new employees, you may be a key mentor and aid in the development of their careers and help them learn skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives. Showing that you see value in your new employees will not go unnoticed. You never know, someday one of them may be the president of your company.