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No Train No Gain!

By George Hedley

I played water polo in high school and college. After summer vacation, our two week training camp would start in early September. It was tough. Twice a day for two hours per session, we would swim laps, pass the ball, practice our skills, shoot goals, lift weights, and work on our offense and defense techniques. When I first arrived at camp, my ball handling and was always rusty. But, as I trained, I got better and actually improved over my level achieved the previous season.

After our skills returned to a competent level, the coach would show us new ways to improve. We practiced new skills until they became easy. The coach would constantly watch us practice and give us feedback on our progress. Often he would get into the water to show us how to do the moves better. Throughout the season he would repeatedly teach us more strategies to make us better players and a better team. By the end of every season, we learned lots of new skills and tricks to use during the games to help us outwit and outscore the competition. He always built winning teams with near perfect records using this relentless pursuit of perfection.

Is your company getting rusty?

Your construction business is exactly like my experience with competitive sports. Without on-going training and practice, people get rusty, out of shape, and don’t improve to the next level. People get used to doing the same old things, the same old way, at the same level. Training helps them grow and expand their ability to work at a faster pace with more proficiency and excellence. Every season, I would swim faster than the previous year, and my 100 yard freestyle time would improve at least 5% as a result of the on-going training schedule. Your people can get faster and better too by using an on-going training program.

Should you invest in training?

Do you wish your field crews and management people were as good as you? Do they often struggle and fail to do things the way you want them done? Are your people as efficient as they should be? Do your employees sit and wait for their boss to make simple decisions for them? Do your people constantly improve and try new and better ways to do things? Do your people like to make changes and master new tasks?

Human nature is to stay put and do things the same way as they have before. For example: how do you drive to work? – the same way every day! People don’t like to change and therefore won’t try new ideas on their own unless they have no other choices. Improvement requires people to change. Most people want to do better, learn new things and grow. Training is the best method to encourage and make your people change and improve.

Are you keeping up with your competition?

I recently surveyed more than 2,000 contractors and business owners. Over 98 percent said their people would do a better job if they provided more training. But, this awareness doesn’t lead to action! The following survey results show how much training per year per employee companies actually perform.

Field Employees

51%       0 –   8 hours training per year

20%       9 – 16 hours training per year

19%     17 – 40 hours training per year

10%     Over 40 hours training per year

Management Employees

35%       0 –   8 hours training per year

25%       9 – 16 hours training per year

20%     17 – 40 hours training per year

20%     Over 40 hours training per year

Fortune 500 Companies

80%     Over 40 hours training per year

For their field, 51% of companies don’t make any training a priority and only 10% of companies invest 40 hours of training per year. Surprisingly, 35% of companies offer less than 8 hours training for management personnel per year. Contrast this with over 80% of the top 500 major companies in America who average more than 40 hours of training per year per employee!

Most companies surveyed train their management more than their field. This doesn’t make sense as construction companies make or lose most of their money on the jobsite, not in the office. Quality, service, productivity—all of it happens out in the field!

Are you too busy to train?

As construction companies grow, the owner takes on more work than he or she can handle alone. So he hires some help to assist him. Then as the crew grows and daily job pressures mount, the owner has difficulty finding good help to delegate responsibility to. He knows he should train his people, but doesn’t have time. He is too busy to train and too busy to be at all the jobsites all the time. What should he do? Most continue to try and make all the decisions themselves and control everything. This never works as the employees are held back and not allowed to grow. This causes field productivity to decrease and jobs costs to increase. And, then good employees leave for better opportunities. What is your choice about training your people?

No training is draining!

Productivity in construction is at an all time low compared to other industries. The average construction field worker only averages between 4.8 to 5.5 hours per day doing productive work. The other three hours are spent waiting for their boss to show or tell them what to do, looking busy, correcting other’s mistakes, or working with the wrong tools or equipment.

Most smaller construction companies don’t have formal training programs. Consider the old method of distributing project information via blueprints versus today’s laptop computers, palm pilots, e-mail, and project websites. In today’s high-tech, high-speed business environment, people need to learn and improve 50 percent every four years just to stay even. Maybe your firm is too busy to train because you expect people to learn in a vacuum, or by the trial and error method, or from their previous boss at their last company.

People want to make meaningful contributions on the job. But if they don’t get the training and tools they need, they won’t accept responsibility for the quality and productivity of the work they do and they won’t grow into productive team players.

The two percent investment!

To improve productivity, your on-going company training program must provide a minimum 40 hours of annual for every employee. The total cost for an effective training program is two percent of your payroll. (40 hours / 2,000 hours per year = 2%) Don’t you think you can improve your productivity more than 2% by investing in an ongoing training program? Studies show the return on 40 hours of annual training can be 5% to 15% improvement in productivity. At a 5% return, your training program will save 100 hours per employee per year. WOW! That’s real money!

Training Cost

Employee Cost: $35.00 / hour

Training Cost @ 40 hours / year: $1,400

Productivity Improvement

Total Hours / Year Worked: 2,000 hours

Productivity Improvement @ 5%: 100 hours

Productivity Improvement: $3,500

Net Cost Saved Via Training: $2,100 / year

At 10% improvement will save $4,100 and a 15% productivity improvement from an effective training program will return $6,300 per employee per year.

Training involves doing!

The first decision to start an effective training program is to do it during regular working hours. You can’t afford not to train and it must be a mandatory priority for everyone. Every week, spend 30 to 45 minutes training every employee on every jobsite and/or department.

Getting started is simple. Call a team meeting to select and prioritize your 52 weekly training topics for each company department. List the top 52 things you must do perfectly to build a great company. These are your top training topics. Management how-to topics can include timecards, change orders, cost reports, purchases, contracts, proposals, estimates, negotiating, customer relationships, selling, or financials. Field topics can include safety, installation methods, material handling, equipment operation, tools, blueprint reading, layout, or goal setting.

Bosses, step back!

In our company, cover the same basic topics each year, plus new topics and innovative ideas. Conduct training sessions in an interactive setting versus the old classroom style of teaching where the teacher only tells the people what to do. Think coaching versus teaching and telling. Coaches show how and give feedback. In a group setting, select different people to lead the weekly training sessions, so everyone gets a chance to teach. Assign topics to individuals based on their experience and skill. Get people to stand up, participate, try the tools, use the equipment, and do it until they get it right.

Work together to learn together!

Offsite seminars and workshops can be excellent training opportunities as well, but make sure the programs offer more than listening to an instructor. Good training involves interaction, doing, coaching, and feedback. A problem I often see as a speaker at several company meetings every year, is the agenda includes training sessions, but no real learning happens. Some companies try to do all their training at one big annual meeting for their entire staff. The audience watches boring technical presentations or a company manager read information to the group. The audience doesn’t participate in activities or provide input and therefore doesn’t learn how to implement the new skills being taught. They sit there, listen, and try to stay awake. And then, back on their job the next day, they continue to do their job exactly as they did before.

I also speak at a lot of great annual meetings and conventions where effective learning takes place. Annual meetings can be great training opportunities when combined with the weekly training sessions. Use your annual meetings for real training, feedback, fun, motivation, rewards, excitement, and recognition.

Working together to learn and improve each week fosters team spirit and enthusiasm. Give your people weekly opportunities to perform, opportunities to learn, and chances to train others. The return to your company in productivity, quality work, motivation, and staff loyalty will be exponential. The end result of an on-going and effective training program will be no pain and lots of gain!

About the Author

George Hedley is a professional business coach, popular speaker and best-selling author of “Get Your Business to Work!” and “The Business Success Blueprint For Contractors” available at his online bookstore. He works with business owners build profitable companies. E-mail: to request your free copy of “Winning Ways To Win More Work!” or sign up for his free monthly e-newsletter. To hire George to speak, be part of his ongoing BIZCOACH program, or join one of his ongoing Mastermind Peer BIZGROUPS, call 800-851-8553 or visit

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.