3 Reasons Your Crew Isn't Trained Well

Construction workers at work

Every business has problems. But sometimes, you’re facing more than your fair share and wonder what’s causing them.

Today, we’ll recap the biggest problems Dirt World businesses face due to lack of proper training. Then we’ll talk about what causes them. Once you know why things are going wrong, you can find ways to make it right. 

Let’s get started. 

First, the top six business problems caused by poor training 

First the unpleasant part. The six most common business problems in the Dirt World due to poor training are: 

  1. High turnover
  2. Machine downtime 
  3. Machine lifetime
  4. Rework and mistakes
  5. Low productivity
  6. Job safety

These six issues affect every aspect of your business. They slow down jobs and decrease revenue. They hurt communication. They make it hard to steer the company. And they keep you so busy stomping out fires you don’t have time to plan for the future.

If any of these problems sound familiar, sit tight. They may be daunting, but you can solve them.

So, what causes these business problems? It all boils down to training. When your team members and team leaders don’t have the proper training, your company will struggle every time.

Improper training comes from three reasons your crew isn’t trained well: not making training a priority, not dedicating time to training, and an inadequate training program.

Next, let’s look at what they are and what causes them.  

1. Training isn’t a priority

When you’ve got work to do, it’s easy to shift into go mode and want to get it done. So you’ve sent any warm body out into the field to make things happen. But what does that do for your business long term? Well, we’ve outlined that above, but you’ll lose money, your culture will suffer, your brand reputation will tank, and ultimately you won’t be able to grow your business well.

Training is a big deal and must go to the top of the list. 

Leaders don’t prioritize training

Training is one of the foreman’s responsibilities. However, foremen have many job responsibilities, and some are more urgent for day-to-day business. That can leave training out in the cold. If you want foremen to prioritize training, you must prioritize it first.

Set aside time to train them, and set clear expectations for how they train others.

Seasonal work takes priority

When the weather’s right, you’ve got to roll. Training drops way down the priority list during the busy season. Unfortunately, that’s also usually when you hire more people to get the work done—putting untrained or incompletely trained crews into the field can create more safety hazards.

Classroom training depends on rain days

In the Dirt World, you gotta move dirt while the sun shines. But relegating classroom training to rainy days creates problems. For example, crews may end up with long gaps between training sessions since you could have a very dry busy season. 

It also sends the wrong message. When training depends on the weather, you’re telling employees that training is nice to have, but it’s not that important. That’s just not true. Workers need training, rain or shine. As a leader, it’s on you to schedule time for training—just like you would anything else.

Training happens once—then never again

The Dirt World is in the details. Workers can’t use a machine at peak performance after one training session. They may not remember how to read stakes and set up laser levels perfectly after one lecture. 

Your employees are smart. They’re also learning, whether they have 10 years on the job or 10 minutes. So have a little patience and give them regular training. 

2. No time to train 

Some people think training slows down work. In a way, that’s true. You do have to take time out to train your employees properly. That can be tough to do when you need people out in the field producing.

However, if you don’t take the time to train them, you’ll spend even more time correcting their mistakes, repairing the machines they broke, and filling out workers’ comp paperwork. Sounds awful, doesn’t it?

This goes hand-in-hand with making training a priority. You can’t do one without the other.

3. Ineffective and inadequate training

You make time for training, and that’s great! But are your employees getting the most out of the training you offer?  

This one might be tough to swallow, but some training programs don’t reach their full potential.

Let’s cover some of the most common obstacles that keep leaders from training their teams. 

You haven’t onboarded new crews properly

Onboarding is training people on what’s expected of them on the jobsite. The onboarding leader explains safety protocols, use of the equipment, and anything else new workers need to know to succeed on the job. 

Thorough onboarding takes a few days, but most business owners need new hires to start working now. They often save time by cutting onboarding short (or skipping it altogether). However, it’s worth the extra few days to train those new hires right, rather than to throw them in to sink or swim. Onboarding and proper training helps them start producing great work sooner.

Foremen have few to no training materials

Most foremen move up from other positions in the Dirt World. They know how to do the work but probably not how to train others. They have to learn how to be effective trainers. If you send them into the field with few or no training materials, you’re feeding that foreman—and everyone they supervise—to the wolves. 

Training only covers one skill at a time

Most training sessions only cover one skill set or topic at a time. So you might spend one rain day talking to and about operators. That’s great for them, but laborers and pipelayers are bored to death. It’s difficult to train everyone on everything at once.

You don’t use training software

Many folks in the Dirt World think training software is too complicated, but it’s not. (Trust us, if we can figure out how to make this stuff, you can figure out how to use it.) Or that implementation will take too long. That’s also not true.

Training software is a great tool. It standardizes training so your crews learn the right things at the right times. Many software programs let you choose courses based on job or topic, so crew members can do the training they actually need. With BuildWitt Training, we also use microlearning; so crews can watch a lesson during a few minutes of downtime. Boom. Done. 

Classes are too long

Think back to when you were in school. You spent hours each day listening to one lecture after another. If you were like most kids, you probably tuned out a couple of classes. (Maybe more than a couple if you’re like some of us!) 

It wasn’t because those classes were unnecessary. It’s just that no one—kids or adults—can listen to somebody flap their jaw for hours straight. It just doesn’t happen. With long-format training classes, your employees will likely tune out and miss some of the important info they need. 

Toolbox talks are boring

Since they’re in the field, you’d think toolbox talks would be more exciting than classroom training. But when the foreman lectures the crew or rubber stamps the “training,” it bores your people to tears. They’ll listen for what they think applies to them, then tune out. To change that, ask these six questions for an engaging toolbox talk.

The training manager can’t standardize onsite lessons

Some training has to take place on-site, and training managers are invaluable for making that happen. Unfortunately, they’re often stretched thin trying to address training issues all over the jobsite. It can be challenging to standardize lessons for the whole crew alone. They need help from other leaders.  

Training materials are outdated

Things evolve rapidly in the Dirt World. Technologies improve, and processes change—and that’s the way it should be! That said, training materials don’t always get the memo. If your crews have old, outdated training materials, they won’t reach maximum productivity. 

Training materials are boring

We’ve all been in training seminars where the speaker had too many PowerPoint slides with too much info. They bulldozed through the material, even though no one understood it. They stood in one spot, looked down, and talked at us—not to us. Likewise, we’ve all seen boring training videos that use bad narration, stupid cartoons, and nonsensical examples. 

Your crew isn’t in a college lecture hall; they probably wouldn’t be in the Dirt World if they wanted that. They aren’t in middle school, either; they don’t want oversimplified videos. They need practical, engaging training. 

You can’t learn everything in a classroom

Good, engaging classroom training has a place in the Dirt World. However, your employees aren’t working in a classroom. They’re working in the field. They need training in the field, where they can see and try things firsthand. With only classroom training, it’s harder for crews to carry that knowledge to the jobsite.

Training videos aren’t credible

It’s mind-blowing how many training videos the Dirt World uses that weren’t made by or for the industry. Training corporations may know the basics, but their teams have likely never been to a jobsite. Sometimes, they give impractical advice—but how would they know when they’ve never been on the business end of a shovel? It’s hard to take those guys seriously. 

Training materials lack recall mechanisms

Recall mechanisms are sayings, acronyms, and other devices that help you remember what you’ve learned. For instance, many workers use the acronym SLAM—Stop, Look, Assess, and Manage—to remember how to handle safety issues. 

Some recall mechanisms may sound goofy, but they help your crews remember what they need to and when. Without recall mechanisms, your team may forget some of their training and make more mistakes.

Training materials and classes are English-only

The Dirt World has a diverse workforce, with men and women from all over the world. Many workers grew up speaking languages other than English. It’s easiest for people to learn in their native language, but most training materials are only available in English. That puts up a barrier and keeps you from fully training your crew. 

Solving training problems

Training problems lead to other workplace issues, like lost productivity, machine downtime, worker injuries, and more. That’s why it’s important to identify which training problems impact your company the most and work to solve them. 

Now that you've done that, it's time to discover some of the best ways to train your crew better so you can help your employees and your business grow.

The Beginner's Guide to Training for Retention and Recruitment will teach you how training can help you attract new talent and develop your people so they want to stick with you for the long haul. Plus, you'll learn practical ways to improve your training program (and measure your ROI so you know it's working). 

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