Sep 27, 2021
Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go
BY Sandy Lender
Welcome to another letter from the editor where it takes a minute to get to the point. This one includes an introduction to my best friend from high school, who has zero connection other than me to the asphalt industry. I’m going to leave her name out of this to protect her identity, but rest assured, she’s awesome.
The pandemic of 2020 forced employers to try e-learning for workers, and the variety of online platforms have enjoyed a mixed reception into 2021. Ask any grade-school teacher and they’ll tell you people learn in different ways. My best friend is a Catholic school teacher who has shared anecdotes with me that would make you cry at the effort it takes to discipline and educate a mix of 26 fourth graders from varying socio-economic backgrounds while they’re in the same room with you. Yet in 2020, she successfully corralled her class to sit in front of web cameras in their own homes and learn math. (Of course, she taught all the subjects, but it boggles my mind that anyone could teach fractions to fourth graders over Zoom.)
To educate a person successfully, you must understand how that person best takes in information. As my BFF shared with me, you assess whether that person is a visual learner, an audio learner, a tactile learner, a mix of those and so on. She can give a verbal presentation with visual aids while the kids pass an object relevant to the discussion around the room to stimulate their brains, and you better believe those kids retain the information.
In our industry, we have the incredible luxury of giving presentations that can include visual and tactile aids. You can take your workers into the field—or to the plant yard—and show them how to operate a paver, wheel loader and so on. If putting a new hire on a breakdown roller makes you nervous, OEMs like Bomag, Caterpillar, CM Labs, Volvo, and others set up construction equipment simulators in their trade show booths, dealerships, training facilities, and/or at your shop to help you train your workers on machines before putting them in the field. Check out the story of the Myers Mobile Training Center from our September 2018 issue.
The good news here is you don’t have to rely on one person from your crew showing new hires how to do a specific job. The options for training new employees in this industry accommodate any number of learning styles and those options are reflected in the annual training directory supplement.
As a side note: My BFF succeeded in teaching her imprisoned students despite the obvious health and mounting mental pressures on them; meddling alternating with ambivalent parents; and ever-changing technical parameters, privacy settings, and challenges on a school’s e-learning platform. She did this on a teacher’s salary, too. Who do you think bought ring lights and microphones for teachers last year? It wasn’t our taxes. It was the teachers bowing to the pressures of parents who reported them to their principals for having “unprofessional lighting” compared to the millionaire influencers seen on YouTube.
I digress for a reason. Your employees view the training materials you offer with the same judgmental eye as the parent-with-no-more-social-activities who is sending scathing e-mails to the school principal.
Maybe I’m overthinking your employees’ penchant for judging the delivery of information, but the idea of making a good first impression is solid. When you onboard a new laborer, you don’t hand him the last guy’s torn and soiled safety vest. You give him a new one. You show him how to do his job with clean tools in good repair, not with a rusty lute, caked with material and splintering at the handle. You know which of those scenarios gives him a good impression of your company, which makes him pay attention to his trainer. And you offer him information in whatever format will stick because you need workers who know what they’re doing, know how to do it safely, and will stay with your firm for the long term.