The “construction challenged” employee comes in various shapes. Some are challenged due to having never worked in any construction specialty before. Others may be challenged in the U.S. or Canada due to their inability to speak English. Still, a growing number of potential labors appear to lack a desire to learn.
Whatever the source for the new employee’s flavor of challenge, contractors must do all they can do to provide every new employee training, or they risk seeing their quality plummet, safety take a nose dive and profitability drop to new lows. So, what’s a contractor to do?
1. Create strong visuals for learning. Take good pictures and videos of your workers performing work processes. Also, create videos of each of the hand tools and equipment your company uses and how to properly use them. Review these pictures and videos with new workers to ensure they are seeing things the way you want them to.
2. Incorporate hands-on learning. Putting a picture into a laborer’s head is a great beginning. The real secret, however, is getting the employee’s hands actually working the tool or equipment or following the correct work process. Most of our construction workers today are hands-on learners so it will be wise for you to create a demonstration area at your office or yard. Have your new workers demonstrate their techniques under the careful eyes of those craftsmen who know your company’s preferred techniques and standard operating procedures.
3. Provide personal coaching. You may want to pair your construction challenged worker with one of your better skilled workers for the first 30 days. Time spent this way early will gain you a more profitable return later.
4. Turn new workers into trainers ASAP. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Not really if you think about it. Most of us don’t perfect our efforts until we are pressured to teach someone else. Then, all of that learning and experimenting must be brought to a final closure as we are counted on to help someone else along.
5. Be patient, listen and answer questions … repeatedly. No secret here, but it takes great patience with the construction challenged worker. Learn to “count to 10” or to chew a straw when training; remember, you will not win over a new employee or encourage him or her to improve if you are constantly yelling, swearing at them or taking over their efforts. Most new workers just have not had any familiarity with thinking mechanically, much less working that way.
Build these five tips into your training efforts and you will produce better workers faster. It might take hard work and consistency, but your company’s future success depends on it!
Brad Humphrey is president of Pinnacle Development Group, a consulting firm committed to the construction industry. His newest educational resource for contractors can be found online at TheContractorsBestFriend.com.