Letter from the President - November 2017

“The only thing worse than training an employee and having them leave, is to not train them and have them stay.” I think of this quote,attributed to motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, when I’m creating orupdating a training program. Employee training can be a big investment, and fear of turnover can sometimes tempt us to put off that investment. But if you don’t train people, and they stay, have you really gained anything? I don’t think so.

Now that you’ve decided you need a training program, where do you start? Most of us aren’t trained as educators, so the concept of “putting together a curriculum” might be a daunting one. Instead of trying to build a start-to-finish comprehensive program, I tend to put software training topics into two buckets. The first bucket is for “how the program works.” This covers picks-and-clicks for the actual tools and features built into the software. The second bucket is “how we use the software.” This bucket holds all your firm’s best practices—which of the several ways to accomplish a task you’ve decided should be standard. Each bucket requires a different approach.

I like to delegate the contents of the first bucket as much as possible. There’s little need for me to write picks-and-clicks training, mainly because there’s so much of it out there already, and much of it is actually written by professional educators. When you consider the breadth of information available from publications, discussion forums, blogs, and conference archives, it’s hard to justify spending your own time essentially reinventing the wheel. (And that list doesn’t even include the built-in help files or services available from third-party training providers!)

But if you’ve been using Autodesk products for any length of time at all, you know that one of their characteristics is the many, many ways that are available for getting from point A to point B. Depending on the end goal, one way may be more appropriate than another—even if none of them are “right” or “wrong.”

Let’s say you have a Revit section that shows a steel beam connection. Do you: A) model the connection elements in 3D; B) use a detail component; C) use detail lines and filled regions; or D) any of the above, depending on the situation? As much as I would like the answer to be A (and we’re getting closer to that all the time!), D is closer to reality. So I need training materials that explain the pros and cons of each option and guide the user to the best choice. I’m sure you can think of dozens of similar examples from your own work. And it’s these topics that fall squarely in the second training bucket—the ones that aren’t in the help files and that you can’t delegate to an outside provider.

Before you can think about how to train people to follow your standards, you need to document what those standards are. (How to decide what the standards are is a topic for another letter.) Often that begins with writing down the desired end result. That gives you something to rely on for your own reference, and to show others when they question how things should be.

Once you know where you’re going, you can decide how to get there. Depending on the situation, there may be One Right Way, or there may be multiple paths to success. At our firm, some things (model setup, for example) are prescribed—you must do it this way. At other times, the user must choose (you should see our decision matrix for how to create openings in floor slabs). Whichever way it goes, once you’ve written it down, you can tie it back to the picks-and-clicks training to teach people how to achieve the appropriate end result.

I’ve been writing this month about the “what” of training programs. (I’m pretty sure if you’re reading this, you’re already clear on the “why.”) In a future letter, I’ll write about “who” and “when”—my thoughts on how to schedule and follow through on training.

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