Getting serious about training your people

Jul 04, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 10.10.44 AMMy extensive observations on the AEC business tell me that the only training most of us do is catch-as-catch-can, luck-based training. There's no structure or thought or meaningful budget applied to it in most companies in this business (with a few exceptions). Yet it is so important! It's not like it's easy to just hire the people you want and need who already know everything they need to know to perform the way you want them too. You HAVE to train people to get the workers you need to run and grow your business. Here are my thoughts on the subject:
  1. You need to get involved personally. This isn't one of those areas where you can just get out your checkbook. You have to do some work. As the founders/owners/top managers/best people at what you do in your firm, YOU have knowledge your people need.
  1. Not everyone wants to learn. The best people, however, do want to learn. If you find, as you get into your training effort, that certain people don’t want to learn, you need to get them out. They will undermine all your training efforts with everyone else. Not being willing to learn is unacceptable and a good reason to cut someone from your team. Get 'em out!
  1. Office layout/seating is crucial‎. People, ideally, should be physically located near those who are supposed to be training them. There are just too many "teaching moments" lost when that is not the case. Walled offices with closed doors are your enemies to effective training!
  1. Take people with you when going to job sites or visiting clients or regulators. This is how I was trained in how to sell A/E/P services. My "boss," the company president, just asked me to go along with him. I learned a lot watching him. And he told me in no uncertain terms to be quiet unless he asked me to say something!
  1. Real world projects versus theory is crucial. I think too much training involves general concepts and theory, and not enough on practical problem-solving for real world situations. As a result, the training doesn't seem relevant. Why not solve real problems and train people for future generations at the same time? But to do this, the trainer has to get involved and poke their nose into specific project situations. You cannot expect your people to bring you these every time on their own.
  1. Use your best people – not your worst – to train. So many companies dole off training duties to those who are the least busy. Huge mistake! The busiest people are the best people. You need them doing it – not your worst people. Your trainees need to emulate success, not mediocrity. And while you're at it – get some diversity going. Using more women and people with different ethnic backgrounds may bring a different perspective to things that could help with creativity.
There's a lot more to this topic. Your thoughts? Send them to me at

This article is from issue 1151 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here for to get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

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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.