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Estimate Software- Printing software that helps you find the hidden treasure in your business.


Training:

The Neglected Business Tool

By Johnny Duncan

In the busy world in which we work, finding the time just to do the best job possible is hard enough. Finding the time to train employees is even tougher. Unfortunately, the old adage “it easier to do it right the first time than to redo the project a second time” is all too true. Having an ongoing training program in place is indeed a luxury, but extremely necessary to continue to compete in this industry.

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  • While it is important to maintain the Continuous Educational Units (C.E.U.) required to keep certificates and licenses current, it is equally important to identify those specific areas where knowledge and skills are lacking and train accordingly. The result of a weak or poorly designed training program is a poorly designed or mismanaged training session. Some common errors that contribute to a bad training session include:

    • Poor selection and training of the trainer
    • Use of generic exercises that have been designed for one organization and forced to fit into another. (We have all too often seen the same outdated video tapes with the same actors used in the first Starsky and Hutch episode)
    • Over-use of certain exercises, particularly those exercises which are convenient for the trainer to design and administer
    • Lack of respect (for the trainer and trainees)

    The insufficiency of training in the sign industry today will contribute to disaster for your company tomorrow. It is time we fine-tuned our efforts in training employees. We must redirect our focus from traditional development inputs (classes, hours, and so forth) to outputs (performance at individual and organizational levels). In the survey of training professionals at the American Society for Training and Development’s (ASTD) 1999 International Conference, almost 89 percent “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that a shift from training to performance improvement is one of the most important trends in the field.
    One approach to fine-tuning your training is by following three basic, yet important steps:

    • Gathering support from top management
    • Carefully planning the needed (specific) training
    • Implementing the session

    Gathering support
    It is important to have support throughout the organization, from the most senior level of management to the immediate supervisor and to the trainers themselves. This makes it clear that program design is not exclusive to the trainer. The timely involvement and support of all relevant parties results in better programs with better prospects for success. With more people involved, the more fine-tuned and focused the training will be.

    With the support from management, the trainer should carefully consider the audience. The trainer must create an environment where learning is welcome. This includes consideration of the facility itself. Too often training occurs in the “working quarters” of the organization and participants become too relaxed or distracted by their surroundings. In order to enhance the learning experience, consider a meeting facility apart from your organization, free from distractions. In most companies work-load of the organization may impair the ability to take the training elsewhere. This is why it is necessary to seek the blessing of management in advance before conducting the training to allow for coverage of the work during the training session.

    Planning
    In planning, the trainer must consider that learning is driven by the need to perform and plan the training exercises with this in mind. If the learner senses that the training is not relevant (or at least not perceived to be) he or she will tune out the trainer. To make learning meaningful, the learner must recognize the need to perform the skill being taught. This can be accomplished by utilizing the most recent incidents or events (i.e., neon installation, high-rise project recently completed, etc.) and incorporating them into the training.

    Implementation
    After the support is obtained and the planning is refined, the implementation of the training can begin. In our business, it is very important to remember that the learner is an active participant in learning. Though that sounds obvious, it is often forgotten and many companies stick to their own selfish agenda. The passive atmosphere of a lecture in a seminar room does not engage the learner to integrate skills required for the job. Lecturing has its place, but months after the training session is over, the employees may not be relying on lecture notes. The practical training with involvement of the learner is what counts. The training manager should use training techniques that build how-to skills that are highly relevant and immediately applicable. Research indicates that people act themselves into a new way of thinking rather than think themselves into a new way of acting. Allow the participants to have hands-on application in the process.

    Be careful when implementing the training that the process follows your organizational policies and guidelines. For example, in a well-planned defense against sexual harassment in the workplace, education and training should be given to all personnel explaining the company’s harassment policy, how it works, and also provide a clear understanding of what the law considers to be sexual harassment. Education and training must be combined with a written policy that defines sexual harassment in clear, understandable terms, and that states unequivocally, that these acts will not be tolerated.

    I believe that it is a fundamental responsibility of organizations to create an environment of continuous learning and development. However, it is up to the individual employee to take ownership of his or her career development. The above average sign industry employee has these characteristics: they take responsibility for themselves; they are enterprising, determined and persistent; and they do not sit around waiting to be helped. Take the initiative. Begin taking an active role in your company’s training. Volunteer suggestions for training in the areas that you feel the weakest. You can follow the same steps as your training facilitator or manager: Gather support from your supervisor to conduct a training session; plan the tools you will use and the procedure you will take to execute the training; and finally, implement the session. Do not procrastinate or wait on others. Use your company’s valuable resources of the training department or those provided by industry associations and trade journals to develop your knowledge, skills, and abilities that will pay great dividends throughout your career.

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