CAD Training: The Best Practices For Herding Cats


What are the real-time challenges and issues that you must manage when trying to establish CAD standards and training in a hybrid office environment?

Developing CAD standards, and the implementation thereof, are challenges unto themselves. The training of CAD users, although a separate activity, must be coordinated with CAD standard development and implementation.

Without a plan that encompasses both challenges together, the best efforts and intentions will ultimately fail. Getting buy-in from management is usually challenging enough. Minimizing the chance of failure is in your best interest early in the process.

How does the hybrid work environment affect your efforts?

Having a hybrid office attendance policy creates a whole new dynamic. You will need to rethink your plans and how to successfully implement them. The WFH (work from home) option for many offices now embrace is both a blessing and a curse at the same time.

The unavailability of personnel, be it for daily work activity or the ongoing development of personnel and their training, will, unless well managed, be an issue. I realize that I am not saying anything that has not been discussed at length already.

Your first challenge comes when management looks at the potential ROI (return on investment) they will see from your proposed plans. They are very aware of the challenges that WFH policies bring, and the inefficiencies that come along with these challenges.

As your standards and training plans will require at least some time together in person to be productive, you will need a solid understanding of how to efficiently plan for the various types of activities that you need to handle.

All invested people will need to be available when developing processes and discussing plans that will affect them (or their direct team members). Not having all your key personnel available to establish and discuss activity that will affect not only the invested people but potentially the entire company, can create delays.

Meetings will by default become more challenging to coordinate the higher the attendee count, and scheduling online meetings makes things more complicated.

While online meetings are an option and a viable alternative to in-office attendance, the availability of personnel when WFH is often not ideal. People will adjust their work schedules to accommodate family activities as required. As anyone with kids will tell you, schedules are fluid.

One person may work their time during the day to fit their schedule, while another works in the afternoon or evening. Both people are legitimately working. However, trying to get them both into a required meeting together can be a challenge.

Accommodating multiple people’s schedules when they potentially conflict is a bit of a dance yet has become the new normal in business today.

The inclusion of key players in early Planning and research is critical to the successful integration of hybrid work cultures and standards implementation.

Standards and training will by default require research and establishing a plan of action. The real challenge comes with the unavailability of key people, due to either working from home or being so buried in work because they are the only people available to handle the in-office concerns.

As schedules and timelines will vary between people, there will need to be a solid plan for communication between the WFH group and the in-office personnel. This will require all the key players to be vigilant in keeping up to date on recent activity. Do not be surprised when this is the hardest part of the challenge.

Establishing an online messaging system (chat group or similar) to provide real-time access for all involved parties becomes a basic requirement. This will provide a way to allow people with different schedules to share their concerns easily.

Management, however, will want some justification for the hours charged for this activity. A dedicated time for all parties involved to meet (online is easiest) should be regularly scheduled with management in attendance. This will achieve several things. First is that management will get a good feel for the team's progress. Additionally, management will be reliably available to the team members.

Management, for their part, is interested in the ROI of standards and training. That is the language they speak ($$$$). People being remote or in the office is secondary to them. It will be up to the people responsible for establishing the standards and training to get the details right. Remember, their first impression of your proposal is what will be remembered.

Good planning and inter-team communication from the start will set up a smooth road to travel as you move forward. Stick to your plan and be ready for the unexpected to come up. Do not let a detour or roadblock dissuade you from your goal. Even with teams that are working in different locations there can and will be success if you keep pushing forward!

Keep striving for your end goal.

If I could tell you what would work in your specific situation, I would certainly do so. The reality is that each organization has its own set of challenges. The investment level of management in organizing and creating a workable plan will determine your best path and plan as you move forward.

If upper management is supportive of the drive to develop a corporate protocol, the efforts of mid-level managers will have a better chance of gaining traction. As a CAD manager, you are likely to be tasked with developing training procedures and supporting standards in this role.

Your first concern will be getting people together in person. This builds a sense of teamwork among people. Without a team mindset, WFH employees will often see no reason to work on developing any plans or practices that are outside of their interests. The WFH policy has reinforced the perception that one does not need to collaborate with others for several years now. People are more open to change and working together towards a common goal when a real result is evident and they, as individuals, feel valued in their participation.


The core values of standards and training have not changed with the upheaval of the working environment. Corporations will still need to develop standard protocols. Your CAD operators still need training.

You, however, will need to rethink the methodology that is used to implement these goals. When you have limited time available in which to propose a new process, or train people, efficiency is key. You need to fine-tune your approach, incorporating all the tools you have available.

Determining what can be best accomplished remotely, yet effectively is now your priority. Training of CAD operators is possible remotely; however, not efficient or as productive as in person. Getting a clear picture of the mindset of those you are teaching is critical to being successful. Power users (mentors) and experienced people will be obvious and become valuable training partners. Train first in person and provide a support online chat for users to communicate afterward.

Establishing standards (protocols) that are driving corporate-level activity is another thing. Online meetings are quite functional for this. As things get defined, reduce the number of attendees and work on details. Things that can be explained in a document are easily handled online (remote users will not be interrupted from their work) at much less cost in time and resources.

Final thoughts

As a last thought, I leave you with this; CAD standards and operator training will come down to the people you work with. Some will follow quickly, some not so. Your corporate standards and operator training must be adaptable, flexible, yet focused effort. It will evolve with the working environment and your co-workers. Feel free to fail, usually multiple times. You get better by learning from mistakes and not giving up when things do not go as planned.

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