Train or Die!

I have been deeply involved in recruiting in helping to build a construction renovation company.  Anyone that is looking for help knows how difficult the current market is for finding talented help.  There is simply not enough qualified and experienced candidates for the positions that are open.  

In past years, finding new help was rather easy.  There always seemed to be sufficient candidates in the labor market seeking employment opportunities.  Often these positions would be filled by word of mouth referrals or employment ads and we would interview, select the best candidate and then simply get them plugged in.  Today, the labor market is stretched extremely thin.  Rather than finding a great candidate, we are often stuck with settling for what is available.  

The bad news is that, looking forward, I believe this tight labor market will not change.

So what is the best solution to this problem?  Companies need talented folks, often with specialized skills.  If you are able to find experienced candidates, they will likely bust your compensation structure.  Or they may come with serious baggage.  Or they may be someone elses problem that they jettisoned.  What do you do?

I believe that we are moving into an era where training and mentoring will be the most important focus of a successful company.  We must have the programs and a company culture in place to train, prepare and raise up talent from within our organizations.  We cannot rely on simply seeking new help from the traditional labor market.  Most companies have some training protocol for new hires and existing employees.  I believe most of these programs will fall far short in this new normal.  Most organizations will need to shift the entire company culture to place valuable time and resources on training and mentoring to grow, or just even sustain, their businesses.  Here are a few areas of focus:

Written Policies and Procedures

In order to teach you need a textbook or a place to store information.  Additionally, all team members need to be conducting themselves in a organized and cohesive manner to ensure best results.  I used to coach basketball and the players would often get out of the offense and start to freelance.  When this happened, I would call time out and get them to huddle up and tell them this: If you continue to get out of the offense I cannot help you win the game.  You will be on your own.  You may win or you may not.  If you don’t follow the plays I have no way of really analyzing what we need to do to win.  I can’t help you. It will be a free for all and I will become nothing but a spectator.  Same is true without written policies and procedures.  In order to train and mentor you need the approved and best practices documented.  Verbal teaching is great but they will only remember part of the instruction.  They will forget.  Documenting all policies and procedures is a beast.  At a previous employer, I coordinated, wrote and edited a 600 page policies and procedures manual that included all processes of the company.  In order to complete the task, we divided it up by each departments and I edited the content for clarity and continuity and we used the same format for each procedural element.  This is a big job, yet it is absolutely necessary to provide structure for training.

A Complete Shift Of Culture To Training

Training must be constant and be present up and down in the chain of command.  The excuse that you don’t have time to train needs to be abolished completely.  Everyone is a trainer.  All team members must stop and take the time to teach, explain, model and mentor.  This can only be accomplished by reinforcing and believing in the true value and importance of training starting at the top of the organization and then emanating down through all levels of the organization.  Every person must teach and help to lift others up.  Abolish the typical HR training responsibility and spread the responsibility across the entire company.

Model Successful Behaviors

Bring your assistants and new recruits to higher level and sensitive meetings and strategy sessions so they can see how you handle different situations.  I didn’t realize the power of this until later in my career.  My team members would let me know later that they learned a particular technique by watching the way I handled some tough situations.  It may not be the most efficient way by having extra bodies and it may change the dynamics of the room a bit but these situational opportunities are infinitely valuable.  A quick debrief after will also assist in cementing these learned strategies in their memories.

Formal Training Programs

Many companies have training programs that are generic and really lack the proper amount of focus to their particular operations and issues that need to be addressed.  Training should focus on real company issues that are real, reoccurring and causing damage to the company.  Focus on the areas that will bring the greatest results.  Training should not be developed by the training department or HR.  They can help coordinate, but the best training is designed by each department to handle specific issues.  This will provide actual, positive and scalable results.  Developing training is not easy.  Just putting on a video and having a little multiple choice test is not enough.  Training must be precisely targeted.  Training should stretch you.  It should be difficult.  It should make you a little uncomfortable.  Role playing exercises are extremely effective.  Develop scenarios of problems with characters and have them act out ways to respond to the problems.  Leadership training is also extremely valuable.  The most successful businesses are led by accomplished leaders and most folks leadership skills need serious help.

Create A Cohesive Team Environment

The best training companies have strong company cultures where everyone is working together with clear goals and expectations.  A previous employer called me a cheerleader for the company as I understood the importance of this characteristic.  If you have a cohesive unit, they will naturally help and teach each other.  If the goals and expectations are clear, there is no question what the next step in required skills for your career path or any hesitancy in exercising these new skills.  Leaders need to build strong bonds and reward behaviors that help to strengthen the group.  There is no force greater than a team that cares for each other and works together for a common goal.

These are a few of the major items that will help to foster an environment of continual training.  As a life long learner, I have experienced the power in mastering new skills.  I have personally witnessed the power of learning new skills and the associated resulting career advancement.  Additionally, I have been rewarded with gratitude from former team mates who learned specific and valuable skills as I took the time to teach throughout my career.  Don’t let this opportunity go to waste.  You have a captive audience in employing your team.  Take every opportunity to teach and stretch your team so they will grow and mature into tomorrows leaders.  You really have no choice.  Training is no longer an option. The plug and play days are gone.  Move on to the new normal of raising up your leaders from within your organization.  Train or die!  

So what do you think? Have you also experienced this tight labor market? Do you have a success story or solution you would like to share? Please click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

About Joe Passkiewicz

Joe Passkiewicz is a management consultant working in the construction industry and lead contributor of Leading By Serving, Leadership is for Everyone.

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