Better Training

Aug 15, 2005

There’s a lot of interest in training in A/E/P and environmental firms. But, there’s also nearly as much money and time wasted on training in these same firms. I’ve been both a provider and participant in a lot of training over the past 25 years in this business. And I think it’s time for companies to get “back to the basics” as it relates to the training they’re providing their employees. Here’s some of my thinking on the subject: Know WHY you are doing the training in the first place. This sounds obvious, but is often forgotten as overzealous human resources managers rush to meet the ever-present employee demands for “more training.” “More training in what?” is what I want to know. And why are we training them in this? And how does this help the company? And is this something they are deficient in skill-wise? A lot of training that companies provide wouldn’t be offered IF the principals answered these and other questions. Have a willing participant for the training. I’ve often imagined that this is the difference between a high school and college student. The college student is there because they want to be. The high school student is there because they HAVE to be. Teaching someone who doesn’t want to be taught is a waste of time. I would put a lot of the technical people firms want to make into project managers or marketers in this category. They don’t want to be there! Why waste your time? Get someone who actually knows the subject area to provide the training. Wow— can I sure recall a lot of situations where this was a problem! I remember the first time I had to teach a class in financial management for design firms about 20 years ago. I didn’t know much— certainly less than most of those in my seminar class— but there I was, filling in for someone else from my company who agreed to speak at a professional society meeting and who actually did know the subject! There are a lot of cases of this. People teaching classes in marketing who never sold a thing. People teaching project management who were horrible PMs. People teaching time management who can’t get anything done. People teaching design who can’t design anything. You get the idea. Be sure whomever is doing the training is a qualified expert in the subject area, NOT just someone who is willing to speak. Be sure you know what the trainers are telling your people! There are many cases where trainers directly contradict the mandates of the managers the trainee works for. For example, a business-development trainer could easily advocate the use of misrepresentation of who they are and why they are calling a potential client to get past a suspicious switchboard operator or assistant. You, on the other hand, may consider this completely unethical, and would never do it even if it did result in leads you wouldn’t get otherwise. You need to know what your people are being taught. Make the training fun and memorable. Too much of this training is pathetically boring. Don’t accept that! Make it experiential. If it’s a class, provide food and drink. Keep the boredom down and the material will be more memorable. Use one-on-one training everywhere you can. People learn best by closely following someone who knows what they are doing, who takes the time to show them how to do it and why they are doing it they way they are. Shadowing an effective business developer is a good example of this. Sitting in the same room every day with a PM who knows how to handle clients and subconsultants is another example. Please don’t forget the many opportunities that exist for this type of training every day in your firm. Some common sense would go a long way to making training in A/E firms more valuable. Have you looked into the training your firm is doing lately to see if it makes sense? Originally published 08/15/05

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.