My son is 24 years old now, but I distinctly remember teaching him to drive. I spent a lot of time explaining the different components of a car and what they did, then explaining traffic rules and how they work, long before I ever let him put the keys in the ignition. That seems perfectly reasonable, right? I wasn’t about to give him control of an expensive machine, that could cause a lot of damage, and potentially cost me a lot of money, and tell him “Ah, you’ll be okay. Just figure it out!” Letting someone “figure out” how to drive on their own is a very silly concept, and it’s just as silly when it comes to dealing with your company’s internal software and systems. Sadly, it’s something I discuss with client’s every day, and the “Figure It Out” model of training seems to be the prevalent one in the AEC world today.
Listen, I get it. We’re all under the gun to be productive, and the executives want everyone at 90%+ billable at all times. The company is hesitant to lay out money, and down time, for people to get training because they’ve done it before and had limited success for what they’ve spent. There was a day when companies spent tons of money sending their people out for training on their software systems. I remember (many years ago!) being sent for a full two weeks of training on Lotus Notes (anyone still remember that program?) and how to use it for excavating estimates. Two things killed that: first was the housing market bust, which put a careful microscope on “unnecessary” spending (read: ANY spending we could avoid!) The second was the limited return-on-investment those lengthy training sessions provided. At the end of the day, nobody is going to absorb weeks of training in one sitting, and be able to actively make use of it in a production environment. You hit the Law of Diminishing Returns, and there’s just too much information to retain. Both of those are reasonable business concerns, but it doesn’t alleviate the problem of “Just Figure It Out”, which not only doesn’t help you be productive, it actually hurts your profitability.
What’s the answer then? Well, at ZenTek we take a different approach to training. We use online presentations, so employees don’t need to travel and spend days away from work. We also limit our training to two-hour long blocks, so your staff has time to absorb, test, and develop questions on it in real-world practice before they move on to learning more. Take our upcoming “Bluebeam Revu for Beginners” class as an example. It’s a full eight-hour course we developed specifically because so many Revu users are left in that “Figure It Out” limbo. Instead of taking away a full day of your time, we present the class online, in two-hour long sessions, once per week. That way, students can take what they’ve learned and apply it to their actual jobs in bite-sized portions that help them retain the information, and actually increase their productivity as soon as they leave the first session. We then take the beginning of the next class to review and answer questions and concerns students might have run up against in real-world scenarios. That’s the modern concept of learning, particularly when it comes to technology and software. Firms that stay with their “Figure it Out” mentality are losing money, time, and frustrating their best employees. All studies show that the number one thing you can do to retain good employees is provide them with training to enhance their skill set.
Apply the same thinking to your business as you would to parenting – don’t throw the keys at people and let them “Figure It Out”! The long-term consequences of doing that are not going to be pleasant for you, in either scenario!