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> FACTS

Leadership training is most important offering

How does your firm compare with other firms offering training programs? Check out the following data, reported by the Engineering Business Institute, to see if your firm is on par with industry leaders.

Last year, firms budgeted between $100 and $6,300 per professional staff member, with a median of $1,420, to support these types of initiatives. For administrative staff, the budgeted amount was between $100 and $4,100, with a median of $1,099.

But, you may wonder, does training matter to employees? When employees of civil engineering firms were asked to rate what is important to them when choosing a company to work for, career development/training opportunities was the second most important consideration following compensation.

Based on results of an industry-wide employee satisfaction survey that asked civil engineering firm employees how important various workplace offerings are to them and how satisfied they are with their firm’s offerings, the following conclusions were made: Civil engineering firm employees feel that leadership training/development opportunities and tuition reimbursement are the most important training-related offerings. They are not as satisfied with their firms’ formal mentoring programs and the budgets for earning professional development hours or continuing education units as they are with tuition reimbursement programs and brown-bag training seminars.

> FIRMS

Timothy Haahs trains for individual success

One firm that takes an exemplary approach to staff training is Blue Bell, Pa.- based Timothy Haahs & Associates, Inc., a 21-person firm that specializes in the planning, design, and restoration of multi-level parking structures. Timothy Haahs spends between $40,000 and $50,000 each year for staff training, including in-house seminars and short courses, and offsite training for PDH or CEU credits for its engineers.

That equates to approximately $2,000 per employee, well above recorded averages.

And not only are the company’s training programs designed to enhance its staff ’s k n owledge and abilities, but Ti m o t hy Haahs tailors specific leadership development training for every new engineer employee. Employees are encouraged to get more involved in projects and tasks that interest them, the firm says. And by providing them with mentoring and on-the-job training, as well as motivation for personal career growth, employees are encouraged to see their full potential.

"President Tim Haah’s management style is based on providing all employees with the tools—physical and otherwise—to develop individually, and contribute to the firm’s growth," one of the firm’s principals told Structural Engineer.

> FEEDBACK

Make employee development a priority

Training seems to be the buzzword of the moment, and rightfully so. Strong employee development and training programs have proven to be a highly effective recruiting tool, ultimately driving down recruiting expense while also improving overall retention rates and increasing productivity.

Training comes in many shapes, sizes and costs, from brown bag lunches—that cover topics such as project management and technical issues—to seminars, conferences, and elearning. If your firm is considering launching an in-house training program, keep the following things in mind: Tie the program to the strategic business plan. Your firm’s objectives and directions should be reflected in the training offered to employees.

Establish a task force. A group of people who will champion the effort and get a pulse of what is important to employees is critical when launching a new training program.

Establish a manageable training goal. It does not have to be overly aggressive. Do what is manageable for your firm and realistic for staff to attain. A training goal will help hold people accountable for the on going success of their career.

Make training a priority. Even on a limited budget, firms still can provide training.

The most important thing is to make employee development a priority. Popular, low-cost alternatives include online programs and webinars. Another option is on-site training with senior employees as the instructors.

Project management, leadership development, and marketing/business development are some topics that can be covered by firm leaders.

Some additional external training resources that your firm can use include business simulations; on-site training; off-site seminars, workshops, or conferences; online training; videotapes and CD-ROMs; webinars; and professional organizations and association offerings.

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