Roofing is an industry with a history of conservative, even slow changes. No doubt, because tried and true installations are important when considering the risk associated with our work. Looking at the future however, are we locked into processes, teachings, or even installation procedures that are antiquated? Are our businesses suffering? Our theme this month is about the education of our employees. It struck me, that I really value education, because I really value change. I think this makes me somewhat of a Mustang in our Wild West of Roofing.
Education is, for some, a core value. Attendance at our local trade shows is testament to that, with owners and employees attentively taking notes, watching presentations, listening as contractors from around the nation discuss their issues and successes. For others, the thought of education or change brings in fears, feelings of inadequacy or frustrations of wasting time. As we navigate running our businesses, the truth is that the world around us is changing. At an exponential rate, state, federal and local authorities are changing the way we’re forced to do business. Customers are changing their expectations of us. Truthfully, in order to thrive, or even survive, businesses must embrace change, and education is one of the ways to stay ahead of the things that are coming that will disrupt our daily business processes.
Now that you’re fully unsettled, let’s talk.
Large companies can offer full educational or tuition assistance programs allowing employees to take university classes. Management of these programs is difficult. Core learning objectives for employee categories must be created, employees have to either pay up front and be reimbursed after passing the class (leading to a decrease in employee enrollment), or companies must follow up after paying to assure employees have passed the class. A lot of resources devoted here, that most smaller companies don’t have.
For a smaller company such as mine, I suggest adopting a looser version of employee education. While no less valued, our approach is scaled back and more casual. Our resources are low cost or free.
If you see the value in education but aren’t sure what to do, here are my suggestions based on our history:
Employees who continue to learn, ultimately benefit their employer. Education isn’t always tied to Universities. Our company utilizes low cost or free programs while still challenging our employees to grow.
Association membership not only allows contractors to connect with support networks, they usually offer low cost (or even member only) educational opportunities. Classes can be attended locally (for local associations like the BIA or Chamber of Commerce) or via webinars for national associations (NRCA, WSRCA, MSRCA, etc).
Online programs such as Microsoft, SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) offer classes for specific subjects. At Matrix we take classes online at www.udemy.com on a variety of subjects. Just be sure the company offering the classes meets your needs for employee development. Yes, we as owners must put some thought into what we’re hoping to accomplish with our employees as they seek to develop new skills. Is a class on watercolor painting going to advance your employee? Maybe not, but a class on Excel use and new techniques can benefit everyone at your organization in some way.
Local Community Colleges also offer low cost or even free classes.
Manage the Benefits:
After deciding to offer education benefits, set some guidelines to assure outcomes are met.
What budget will you offer for employees? Same for all? Categorically different?
Pre-approve content or applied outcomes - ask for an outline of what your employee expects to learn, and how it will benefit the company. How will it further your company mission?
Follow up post class to have the employee share what they learned. Not only with you the owner/or HR, but perhaps with the organization or others who may benefit. We find that sharing in this manner, really boosts the buy in from all employees and it helps the person who took the class retain or even further understand the content.
Create a learning environment:
As an owner, do you value learning yourself? Are you attending workshops or classes? If you’re not attending, get your butt out there!! Be vulnerable about these experiences with your employees. The benefits of sharing your commitment to growth with employees creates a culture of betterment and success. It starts with us, the owners.
Overwhelming, I get it, but worth the hassle. Think of the damages an uneducated or bored employee can create in your company. If expenses matter, think outside the box for educational opportunities that are low cost. Source other organizations that may offer classes outside of the construction industry. Business is business, meaning there are many similarities between unrelated industries. Lastly, educated employees are happy employees and happy employees stay with you. The value of retaining an employee, training them, and having them move up within your organization is exponential when they stay. Educated companies grow and can withstand industry downturns. If it positively affects your bottom line, or the success or your business, isn’t it worth the time?
Wendy Marvin is CEO of Matrix Roofing. See her full bio here.