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To build the most professional, well-trained and competent team of project and trade leaders, there’s a need to establish a set of expectations for teaching, training and guiding them for continued growth and success. Providing functional training for your construction management and field teams will help your organization lay the foundation for a new era of project execution and grow the next generation of project leaders.
Project and field leaders are clamoring for functional training. Unfortunately, our industry does not widely adopt formalized training and perceived financial roadblocks prevent employees from receiving the training necessary to deliver projects with excellence.
With this in mind, what steps can organizations take to implement functional training programs that will not only set themselves apart from the competition, but also provide their customers with an unparalleled level of service from a highly competent workforce?
The role of functional training
At McKinstry, we’ve spent the past few years focused on developing and implementing an operational excellence program. We’ve done this by understanding project risks, defining and documenting project delivery standards, organizing our knowledge and establishing quality by measuring performance or “inspecting what we expect.”
The operational excellence focus on project delivery processes was intentional to drive out waste and reduce operational risk while providing customers with a consistent experience. Functional training is the vehicle connecting our individual roles to these established standards and repeatable behaviors.
Your construction management and field leadership teams are the keys to project success; they deserve training in a consistent and effective way. You must continually invest in them to ensure they excel at the role you’ve asked them to perform. Without the right training, we risk our people performing to inconsistent standards from previous experiences.
To be operationally excellent, a robust functional training program must provide consistent messaging on your culture and project delivery expectations.
Field leadership training
Functional training has long been requested by our union-represented field leaders. Unfortunately, our industry offers minimal training on their responsibilities, hindering their professional growth. It’s important to recognize that functional training is needed to share the unique expectations of how your company operates.
To understand your field leaders’ wants and needs, interview and survey them to ask what they see as their necessary skills and behaviors, where they struggle, what their critical processes and best practices are, and how the training program can help them. We did this with our field leaders, and the data informed our primary focus areas, such as leadership, problem-solving, communication, project delivery, work planning, safety, technology, supply chain, logistics and corporate services.
By bringing your field leaders’ experience and insights directly into the development of the program, you’re establishing credibility and buy-in.
Before developing your training program, consider documenting your principles and expectations in an operations manual. Leverage the knowledge of experienced field leaders and memorialize their practices for the next generation. The manual serves as the backbone of your functional training.
Functional training delivery may vary from one organization to the next; we have found success in having it led by the superintendents.
Construction management training
A functional training program for construction managers will equip your people to deliver successful projects and support their professional growth by instructing them on industry and company-specific best practices. Developing strong foundational skills with ongoing training sets the expectations so construction managers understand the critical functions necessary to complete complex projects.
It is important that construction managers are trained together with field leaders because they directly influence the quality of information given to the field. At McKinstry, we brought together field and staff teams around the topic of “Scope, Schedule, Budget.” It created a deeper understanding of how each group can show up and support one another.
Consider identifying the behaviors for construction project management success and organizing training by work and labor planning, building budgets and managing costs, owning the design, building trust, customer relationships, and coaching and mentoring to develop your people.
These may vary from organization to organization, but these types of training modules will help you get the most out of your construction management program.
Key elements of a functional training program
It is recommended that functional training is thoroughly supported by company policy and procedure, which is a result of codifying internal processes and standards. Functional training reflects these policies and procedures and frequently includes best practices, acceptable deviations or variations. This approach provides a consistent standard to employees while maintaining a platform for process improvement.
Training can be structured around standard process(es) and provide a user-friendly or improved approach for consumption compared with simply reading policy and procedure documents.
To create a durable and lasting functional training program, it is essential to build a framework and structure to operationalize the program. At McKinstry, our focus areas within that structure are as follows:
• Determine what training is needed. Leverage company goals, job descriptions, safety compliance requirements, employee feedback, and legal obligation, and evaluate existing training content.
• Determine who needs to be trained. Conduct an assessment of who needs what training based on the training needs identified in your surveys and interviews. Company policies, procedures, employee records, performance data, surveys, focus groups and employee interviews are all ways to assess who needs functional training.
• Know how to train adults. Most adults are self-directed learners. They want to learn what they want, when they want and how they want. Adult learners have their own style of learning that includes four key elements: motivation, reinforcement, retention and transference.
Even if structuring functional training programs to meet these elements, you may still run into reluctant learners. To overcome this resistance, try leveraging previous experience, ensuring relevance, allowing for self-direction (learn at their own pace), establishing expectations and providing clear objectives.
• Determine who best to train the learners (train the trainer). Due to the nature of functional training, it will be necessary to have subject matter experts (SMEs) as instructors. You will need to prepare these employees to provide quality, standardized training. The train the trainer program should give insight into the ongoing effectiveness of each instructor and the material provided.
To provide effective training, you need to become an expert at two things: your subject and teaching. We all have SMEs. The train the trainer program helps to bridge the gap to transitioning into an effective trainer.
Functional training provides a quality training path that paves the way for the next generation of project and field leaders. It should help them recognize that they have a predefined learning path, by functional role, to provide the experience and training needed to put them on the proper career trajectory for professional development.
It should, in turn, help you identify strong project and field leaders while also building a support infrastructure for your junior and mid-level project team members. Creating a successful functional training program elevates the adoption of your standards, unlocking employee efficiency and empowering them to perform with confidence.
Jason Engelbrecht is McKinstry’s operational efficiency program director. He’s been with McKinstry for 10 years and focused his career on improving construction safety and operational excellence. Engelbrecht works with a construction operational excellence team, managing and inspiring change by partnering with operations to find solutions that arise within operational efficiency, process improvement, standardization, functional training, risk management and quality assurance.