Adding Tacos to Your Training Program

Nov. 12, 2013

For many, winter weather produces a slack time in the schedule…a time for snowmobiling, ice fishing, skiing, or just kicking back and enjoying the downtime. Whatever else, it is also a great time for engaging in professional training, both for ourselves and our workers. Time was when nearly all training meant travel, hotel costs, and time away from home and family; but the Internet has changed that in the form of online sessions commonly referred to as webinars.

While there are costs involved, they are usually minuscule compared to those associated with onsite programs. And there are other advantages as well, high among which is the fact that you have access to the materials for future reference no farther away than your home computer. Grading & Excavation Contractor‘s weekly newsletter includes information on webinars as well as a host of other features of value to your business, such as news items and discussions. To receive it, go to our website,, and sign up.

Training Comes in Many Forms
Earlier this year, during my lunchtime walk, I came upon a work crew digging up and replacing water and sewer lines serving an athletic club. I was watching with fascination the skill of a compact excavator operator exposing the old pipes, when a roach coach pulled up, honking vigorously that it was time for lunch. Deciding to take advantage of her invitation, I loaded myself up with some of Maria’s Hot Stuff and found myself standing next to the crew boss, a fiftyish giant named George, who was munching on a chimichanga.

After I told him what I did, we chatted of a bit before he ushered me over to where the members of his crew were savoring the last bites of Maria’s finest cuisine and relaxing before going back to work…or so I thought.

“OK, guys,” one of the diners said in a loud voice, “listen up.” With that, the speaker held up what was obviously an unserviceable safety harness for everyone to see and proceeded to deliver a five-minute talk on the proper care and use of the equipment. After succeeding in getting the crew’s attention, the presenter settled into his subject. By the time he had finished, the rest of the audience and I knew more about the life and times of safety harnesses than we would ever need to know. It was, despite the chorus of obligatory disparagements, a job well done, and I said so to my host.

“Not bad for a rookie,” George allowed, explaining that the presenter had only recently been promoted, and the lunchbox training talk was part of the process for developing his leadership skills.

“Eric made a couple of goofs, but, yeah, by and large it was a good start.” With that he excused himself to go over and review the presentation with the young man while the subject was still fresh in their minds.

“I take it this is a standard process when you promote people,” I suggested when my host returned.

“Yep,” he prefaced his explanation, “It accomplishes several things at once.

“For starters,” George explained, “the responsibility for conducting training forced Eric to rethink all the training stuff he’s listened to in the past. There’s nothing new in what he just said-he’s heard it a dozen times in the last year-but I can promise you that the difference between what he knows about the subject today and what he knew last week is night-and-day.

“That’s important to his self-confidence, of course, but-even more important both to him and us-it establishes a distance between him and the people who up to last week were his buddies.” Here George looked over at the crew busy picking up to return to work. “It’s an important part of the weaning process,” he concluded.

“When we think about training, it’s easiest for us to direct the bulk of our attention to the most skilled tasks our people are asked to do…and this is reasonable, since these jobs most often have the greatest impact on productivity and thus our company’s bottom line. ”

If you look on training as one of your company’s primary activities, with webinars and lunchtime sessions you can have the benefits of high-priced programs that lead to increased performance at every level without becoming a strain on your budget. Are we talking magic here? You bet!