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Preparing for a strong economy

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Experts suggest that the construction economy will continue to improve -- a good problem to have, but it also means more jobs to staff. From a training perspective there are a number of steps contractors can take to be ready for the upturn. It may come as a surprise, but preparing for a strong economy is a lot like preparing for a weak economy.

Back to basics The first thing you need to do is to look at your company's vision, mission and goals. Confirm they are current, and that goals continue to be met. The vision and mission of your organization are the foundation upon which the company will build; without which, the company has no real direction. Operating without direction may work for a while, but when times are tough or ironically, when things are booming, the company can be thrown into a crisis. Too much work and too little work are just different sides of the same coin. Both can have a devastating effect on an organization. Since construction is a very cyclical industry, the only way to stay successful is to make sure that your company has a solid foundation.

Look inward Ask the question: "What would happen if this year if our volume declined by 50 percent?" Determine the answer in terms of management, personnel, work force and training. It is logical to assume you would look at every aspect of the company's operation to find ways to function and remain in business as efficiently and as effectively as possible.

Take a journey of self discovery In order to make sure that your company is operating efficiently, you must look at every position to ensure it is necessary to achieving goals of the company. You must also ensure that individuals in each position are properly trained in the duties and responsibilities of the position. It's imperative that every person in the company is as productive as possible.

Ask tough questions Here are a few questions you can ask: * Does your work force communicate well with each other? * Does your work force understand the vision, mission and goals of the company? * Does your work force know how to use the tools of their trade/position? For some this might mean a piece of heavy equipment while for others it might mean properly using a computer -- both have an impact on the efficiency of the company. * Does your work force have good customer service skills? * How do people move into the positions they hold? Are they formally trained or did they "work their way up?" If no formal training exists, did they have informal training or mentoring available? * Do you require jobsite supervisors to have human relations training, supervisor training or team leadership training? * Do your job supervisors know anything about proper documentation? How do they measure progress on the job?

Addressing the gaps You can ask the same questions about every person within the company. Once you do this, you may discover that there are gaps within your company that you never imagined would be possible. If this happens, you can make one of two choices. The first choice is easy. Just ignore everything and hope for the best. Unfortunately, that choice will prevent your company from ever reaching its true potential. The second choice is more difficult and requires work, but ultimately will help your company reach true potential. Document the gaps in knowledge and skills and develop a training plan to address those gaps. With proper training at all levels, efficiency will increase. The training plan must be proactive and should address concerns. In addition, it must be applied to all new employees as they come on board. The training plan has to be part of the corporate culture.

The other side of the fence Now that you have a plan in place to improve the efficiency of your company's operations in tough economic times, you can ask one more question. That question is: "What would happen if our volume doubled this year?" To answer this question, you should use the same processes noted earlier. Make sure that the skills and knowledge of your work force are consistent with the vision, mission and goals of the company. Continue to ensure that the company is operating in the most efficient and cost effective way. Where there are gaps, train. When new employees are hired, make sure a training plan is in place.

Your training partner ABC can serve as your training partner. By providing apprenticeship and craft training, trade specific task training, management training, project management training, supervisory skills training, team leadership training, safety training, and a variety of other types of training, ABC can help your company adjust to changing conditions. No matter which side the economic coin lands on this year or five years from now, you will be ready.

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