Employee Training — Make it a Habit

by [email protected]lagroup.com

Creating a training program for a company and sticking to it can be a problem if you don’t know where to begin. This month NARI has asked David Callahan, CR, Callahan & Peters, Inc., Glenview, Ill., to share his advice on employee training and how to make it a habit.

In the remodeling industry, things change fast, so employee training keeps you on the cutting edge — not only technically, but legally as well, especially as laws change from state to state and on a federal level, like the new EPA lead-paint rules. It’s also important from a quality standpoint to make sure that your people in the field are top-notch and that their trade, mechanical and craft skills are up to speed in order to deliver the best product that they can.

“In our company, we’re strong believers in continuing education and continuous improvement,” says David Callahan. “For us, employee training takes a lot of different forms.”

There are seven main areas that Callahan & Peters, Inc. cover in order to make sure their employees are always up to speed.

1. Trade Associations
Callahan says the first step is to join a trade association. Between the national and local levels, they belong to four. “Through our trade associations, NARI for example, we take advantage of the certification programs,” adds Callahan. “There are four of us here that are certified remodelers, we have a certified lead carpenter, and I’ve taken the green training class, so we take advantage of NARI certification program.”

2. Publications
It’s important to keep up with what is going on in the remodeling industry according to Callahan. The best way to do that is to subscribe to and read industry publications like Qualified Remodeler.

3. Monthly Safety Meetings
“In-house, we conduct monthly safety meetings for the field crew run by our production manager,” explains Callahan. “In those monthly meetings he has his own agenda like checking the contents of the crew’s work buckets, making sure things are resupplied, and then he also has a topic for each month to educate the employees on.”

4. Educational Library
Callahan’s company keeps an in-house library that everyone at the company has access to with books ranging from business management to how to build a set of stairs. The company will also occasionally buy books in bulk and hand out to everyone to read like, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

5. In-house Seminars
“We conduct in-house seminars,” says Callahan. “For instance we conduct a monthly green remodeling seminar in-house. For those, everyone gets together for an hour and meets in the design studio. Sometimes there’s a PowerPoint presentation and other times it’s just a lecture format, but I pay for their time and buy lunch. We occasionally bring in outside suppliers or subcontractors to put on a seminar. A recent example, last year Kohler came in and talked to everyone. We also have a library of outside sourced seminars. Employees can go to any computer station and download what they want to watch then or take with them on their iPods.”

6. Trade Shows
Whenever a trade show is in the area, Callahan sends his employees to the show for a day. This lets them see firsthand what is going on in the industry and get more education and training.

7. Encouraging Education
“Occasionally we’ve had someone come to us who wanted more education in a certain area,” adds Callahan. “One of the guys said he wanted to work on his electrical license and I ended up buying about an $800 program that came with tapes and education materials. If someone wants to do something that is job related and will make them a better employee, I’ll buy into that.”

To get started in creating a company education program Callahan suggests joining a professional association like NARI first and foremost. The resources of the association and the ability to network with other contractors will be needed to be efficient. It is also a good idea to look at what other companies are doing for training and see if there is something that can be used.

To make education a habit, Callahan says, budget for it, schedule it and delegate it. “My production manager knows that education is important to me,” explains Callahan. “At our meetings I ask him about it and make sure that it keeps happening. If you don’t budget it, schedule it or delegate it, it’s not going to happen.”

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