Finding the right fit

Feb 13, 2022

Justin Smith, SE, PE, MBA

Training is an investment with big payoffs, so do your research when determining the best fit for your firm.

Training and development for your team is a powerful tool to target when assessing your firm’s recruiting and retention strategy. Training opportunities can increase knowledge, teach people new skills, improve motivation, and encourage people to stay with your firm (e.g., Bibi et al., 2018; Ozkeser, 2019). This not only supports the employees but also the organization, as the combination of reduced turnover and increased engagement of skilled team members increases the efficiency and productivity of the firm. Employee training and development is becoming increasingly sought after, according to Zweig Group’s Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report, with it being the highest ranked benefit by survey participants two years in a row.

Not all training is equal in its quality and impact; choosing high quality trainings that work toward the goals of the individuals and firm is critical. When speaking with stakeholders across firms, we hear similar feedback on what type of trainings are truly useful – engaging trainings that include skill development, active participation, and support for how to apply the skill back in the office (outside of the training room). Although many trainings provide great theoretical information, many do not provide actual tangible skills that can be used, and even fewer tailor the application of skills to the actual needs of the organization. Both organizations and employees want to see the knowledge and skills learned translate into everyday work. The majority of training experiences and opportunities out there are described, like learning how to hit a golf ball by simply detailing the process rather than providing an actual golf club, tee, ball, and feedback as they try swinging for the first time. A simple description of a topic does not translate into how to do something and definitely does not translate into actually doing it.

So how can we fix this? The first step is choosing the right training and doing research on which program will be best for you. Finding the right fit will help you achieve your goals, as well as those of your firm.  Here are a few questions to guide you in this journey of finding the right training and development opportunities:

  1. What are your training goals? Ask your team what training they are interested in and determine if this fits within your evaluation of the organization’s training needs. Consider potentially limiting factors such as time, money, resources, and change orientation.  Are there options available in the market that speak to your unique needs? Oftentimes custom in-house trainings that hit all of your firm’s identified needs are the best way to ensure training has the best return on investment. Many are concerned these programs cost more. However, figure out the cost of multiple trainings that you need to touch on the areas identified and compare this to the cost of custom trainings. It could be more cost effective, have a better return on investment, and most importantly be more impactful for your organization.
  2. Will my team leave the training with knowledge of skills that have been shown to work? Much like learning to golf, effective training blends expanding your knowledge of the topic, skill development, and practice – and, more importantly, practice with support and feedback! Most training presents information in lectures and leaves attendees able to pass a declarative knowledge quiz, but does not actually change behavior or skills used when they return to the office (e.g., Turk et al., 2019). Seek out opportunities that blend all three pillars for maximum results. 
  3. How strong is this training? It’s all too easy to create beautiful websites with great marketing these days. When it comes to your people, the stakes are too high to take chances on something that does not have outcomes to back it up. Do your own research. Ask the trainers for feedback, data, and testimonials. Great programs have raving fans in your industry that are eager to talk about them.

Training is an investment with big payoffs. Do your research to determine what will be best and do not rule out any options right away. Keep in mind that what is best for one AEC firm might not be the best for another – and that’s OK, as long as it’s providing what you need. Fit is more important. The optimal program strikes the right balance of understanding your unique needs with thoughtfully designed experiences that are focused on developing skills and shaping the behaviors that are best linked to results. Taking a step forward in supporting training for your organization will help differentiate your firm from others and support an environment in which employees want to work. 

Justin Smith is an advisor at Zweig Group, specializing in project management and leadership development. He can be reached at

Zweig Group's Project Management Seminar is a one-day training course that covers the critical focus areas every AEC industry project manager should be familiar with. The seminar is presented in lecture, tutorial, and case study workshop sessions. Attendees will leave armed with a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics, skills, and techniques successful project managers must have to flourish in their role. This seminar will be in Tampa, FL March 10 and 11. Click here to learn more!

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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.