Pre-job training will give your employees the knowledge they need before they need it.

My client, Dick, sent his 24-year-old plumbing foreman down to Orlando for me to train and relate the top management strategies for running his business. Ray started with Dick at age 18 and worked his way through a four-year plumbing apprenticeship program. His ability and effort moved him up to the top of the company’s jobsite management team, so we were preparing him to do likewise with the entire company operations.

Dick told me that the young man was definitely a superstar, but he did not produce good documentation or job-to-office communication. He also wanted him to learn about estimating, project management, cash flow and finances, as well as taxes and depreciation schedules.

I picked Ray up at the Orlando airport and we talked on the way back to my home. There was no doubt in my mind that this guy was a superstar. Thankfully Dick had the foresight to provide my expertise and guidance before he dumped those top management responsibilities on his back. Ray did not know or even care about all of the intricate details of running a profitable construction company. He knew only that the more work he produced each day meant the more money the company would make. That much was a fact! But what he didn’t realize was there is much, much more to the story.

Not Just What, But Why

Ray and I began by discussing the crucial importance of thorough and on-time jobsite documentation. I explained how this daily documentation would give him a professional image as well as respect from the office, the customer, the design and inspection teams, and the other trades. Since he was very cost-conscious, I also explained how a couple of minutes of his time each day could save hours, days and even months of office time collecting money and fighting unnecessary arbitration and court cases.

We discussed these items along with the potential cost and waste of time for not doing them:

  • Using a job log (journal or diary). This is regarded as a daily entry into a legal document in arbitration or litigation similar to a captain’s log on a ship. Most companies use a preprinted list of these pertinent questions to assure thorough documentation:

    1. Number of employees, where they worked and what they were doing.

    2. Problems or delays.

    3. Visitors.

    4. Rental tools or equipment on-site.

    5. Materials received.

    6. Verbal orders, promises or commitments.

    7. Weather.

    8. Inspections, testing, utility hook-ups, etc.

    9. Injuries or accidents — OSHA’s form 301 must also be completed and sent to office if employee went to a doctor.

  • Extra work orders to your company or to another trade. Document labor and material used each day and get approval and signature of responsible party.

  • Fill out company time sheets and cost codes daily to prevent wasted time or mistakes by trusting your memory. Always turn time sheets and delivery tickets in to your office on time.

  • Update as-built drawings the same day that you make any changes from the original drawings.

    Ray was totally amazed and agreed how important all of that is, as well as assuring me that he will make certain that all of the company’s foremen get the same message.

    “Why didn’t Dick explain this before he made me a foreman?” Ray asked. “He told me to do all that paperwork but never told me why he needed it. I always worked my butt off to please Dick and be the best plumber. I certainly would have been his best documenter if he had only told me why he needed it.”

    Ray went on with his O.J.T. (on-the-job training) where very little was explained to him before he was knee-deep doing it. The classroom curriculum was not paced with or presented before he was exposed to the actual work. In many cases, those valuable lessons came more than a year too late.

    Pre-Job Training

    He also commented how much he appreciated Dick’s foresight to send him here to learn all of the details of running a business before he jumped into that driver’s seat. Since Ray brought up the O.J.T. being too little, too late, we looked at the P.J.T. (pre-job training) solutions for training the firm’s future apprentices:

  • Every new employee, job transfer or promoted employee is assigned a 90-day mentor. Those valuable do’s and don’ts and whys will pave the road and keep that protege on the right track. You can use any willing employee (such as the one who recruited the new hire) familiar with the company policies and the work being performed.

  • Every apprentice is assigned to a willing master to learn the trade. This training team cannot be separated. If you need them on a different job or location, they must go together. That master must be trained to assure the apprentice is performing actual craftsmanship rather than doing menial grunt duties. Training involves four steps to teach each task:

    1. Tell him. Explain what you want him to do, how to do it and why it is important. You must also explain quality! A craftsman never improves the quality of his work. You begin with quality, no matter how long it may take to perform it; you only improve on speed.

    2. Show him. Either do it yourself and let him watch or get someone else to do it.

    3. Help him. This is where the actual hands-on training takes place. We call it role reversal. You give the plans and tools to the apprentice and the master becomes the helper.

    4. Watch him. Now he is trained and ready to work.

    As we covered theses four steps, Ray realized how this would also be ideal for him learning how to run the company.

  • Make certain that each apprentice has the proper tools to do the job. Be sure they are sharp and that he has been trained to use them efficiently and safely.

  • Establish a skill inventory for every employee showing exactly what skills, tools and equipment he or she is qualified to perform or operate. This is extremely important for determining how much training is happening.

  • Use your critical path man-days job schedules to provide lead-time for training specific skills. We call this precertified.

  • Provide after-hour task training at your fabrication shop or on the jobsites.

    Ray was fascinated with this program and assured me that his apprentices would get P.J.T. rather that that O.J.T. myth.

    Next month we will continue with my P.J.T. mentoring on the critical functions of moving up the management ladder.