Digital Builder Ep 30: How On-Demand Training Transforms Productivity in Construction [Barton Malow] 

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Many construction training initiatives don't always provide the most engaging or productive experience. Training sessions can take hours, and they often fail to adequately support team members when it's time to go out there and do their jobs. 

If you feel that your training efforts could use a refresh, you'll want to read and listen to what our latest guests have to say. In this week's episode of Digital Builder, we explore how firms can modernize their training programs and better equip team members with the information they need to execute their roles successfully. 

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On this podcast episode

Brian Popis, Senior Transformation Engineer, and Nick Bobbitt, Business Transformation Manager at Barton Malow, sat down with us and shared how they transformed their onboarding and training processes to promote flexibility, skill building, increased efficiency, and staff retention.

We discuss:

  • Why traditional training initiatives no longer serve the needs of today's workers
  • Actionable steps to help firms modernize their training programs
  • The future of on-demand training in the construction industry

The challenges of having traditional training initiatives 

The evolution of Barton Malow's training strategy is an interesting one. Like most companies, the firm's initiatives aligned to the traditional manual, static, and lengthy training activities. 

"When I was first hired, a large portion of my job involved traveling from site to site and providing process training for various software for different project teams," recalls Brian. 

He says it wasn't a centralized process, and they often "looked at each project individually, versus thinking holistically about the company." 

Nick adds that in the past, the team relied on static materials such as printed manuals and PDFs, which didn't lend themselves well to ad hoc questions down the line. 

"It's just really kind of a disjointed effort," he remarks.

Naturally, these manual and disconnected processes raised several challenges. There was the issue of cost, for one. Traveling from site to site takes time and money. 

Then there are challenges with scheduling and logistics. As Brian points out, getting 15 to 20 people in the same place to sit through a training session is difficult. 

"It's not even just the effort of getting to the place you must go to provide that training. There's also the fact that people will miss it or ask you to re-explain things. It creates a lot of complication, especially when traveling halfway across the country."

Another issue? Having to update static training materials as things evolve. 

"These days, SaaS products are changing. You've got to be able to update that content and account for those changes that have been happening," says Brian.

Switching to on-demand training to rapidly integrate and expand new software systems

All of the above challenges certainly prodded the teams at Barton Malow to switch to more modern training methods. 

"One of the catalysts that led to that change was the adoption of BIM 360," explains Brian. "But to make that transition effectively, we needed to be more efficient with our training. So we started looking at the concept of on-demand training. 

He says a big part of the switch involved a shift in mindset. 

"We've adopted the idea of training being not just a one-time event, but more so being a library of content that people can revisit whenever needed."

From there, the team at Barton Malow implemented bite-sized video training that are organized by persona and project task. 

"Not everybody needs to know the same information, so we have trainings specific to field team members, those who are processing things like RFIs, submittals, and so forth," says Nick. 

Getting started with on-demand training programs

As for how they started implementing their on-demand training programs, Brian says they used focus groups to gather feedback. 

"We'll grab a cross-section of 5 to 10 people and ask them to go through each training. We would use that to make an initial round of improvements before something gets deployed officially."

Brian continues, "Then after that point, each training requires you to provide feedback at the end. We can then use that to iterate and make changes.”

How on-demand training impacts the company as a whole

Implementing on-demand training has a positive impact not just on individual employees, but on Barton Malow in general. 

For starters, the company now has more insights into the effectiveness of its training initiatives. 

"There's a lot that we couldn't measure in the past with in-person training. I can tell you from personal experience that our performance is better, and we're getting to more people involved in training," says Nick. 

"There's a lot that we couldn't measure in the past with in-person training. I can tell you from personal experience that our performance is better, and we're getting to more people involved in training."

- Nick Bobbit, Business Transformation Manager at Barton Malow,

Technology adoption has also improved. According to Brian:

"Over the last couple of months, we've been working on a tech adoption scorecard, which allows us to use this training information and look at it in tandem with the actual usage of our program. So we can view how folks are adopting new platforms and how effectively they're being used." 

Finally, on-demand training has paved the way for better standardization across the company. 

"One of the most important and beneficial aspects of this on-demand training is the fact that we are able to standardize our processes," says Brian. 

"By having a platform that has a standardized approach to our processes, we now see that our projects are starting to look more similar."

This ultimately leads to better project outcomes. Having standardized processes means there's less confusion around how things should be done, so teams are much more productive. 

How to develop a training program and create an actionable feedback loop  

Ready to implement on-demand training in your organization? Begin by defining your goals and objectives. 

As Nick puts it, "I think it all starts with the 'Why,' right? Why do you need to make this change? Is it because you're low on resources to go travel in person? Is it financially related?"

Determining these factors from the get-go will set you on the right path. 

And when it comes to content creation, Brian recommends producing easily digestible content. "It's been a big success for us to focus on concise and consumable videos," he adds.

The language that you use in your training program is also essential. For instance, using the phrase "Knowledge Check" instead of "Quiz" helps convey that you're not trying to test people; the purpose of a check at the end of the training is to determine whether the learner got the necessary information. 

Finally, Nick emphasizes the importance of having feedback loops because they help you make continuous improvements to both the content of your programs and how the info is presented. 

According to Nick, things like formatting and content positioning can impact your program's success. So, ensure you're gathering input that helps you optimize the learning experience as much as possible. 

The future of on-demand training 

When asked about the future of on-demand training, Nick believes we are mainly moving towards a self-service set-up.

"The biggest component is just turning things into a self-service product. Instead of having to call a subject matter expert and ask questions or set up a meeting, teams can find information quickly and move on to more important tasks," he says. 

Brian, for his part, sees on-demand training as a catalyst for the adoption and expansion of technology. 

"On-demand training allows us to integrate and expand new software systems rapidly. So what traditionally might have taken a year for us to onboard on, we'll now take successively take less and less time as we use on-demand training, which is awesome."

Related to that, Brian adds that on-demand training helps them leverage their software company partnerships more effectively. 

"For example, with Autodesk, we participate in beta releases or have good conversations with the customer success team. We're more aware of what's coming down the pipeline; therefore, we can start staging our on-demand training to be ready for changes in the future."

Brian continues, "That means a new functionality doesn't have to sit there unused for two or three months; we can launch as soon as something is available. And I think that's going to have a huge benefit to not only us, but to other construction companies as well."

New episode every two weeks

Autodesk's Digital Builder podcast is hosted by me, Eric Thomas. New episodes go live every two weeks.

For more actionable insights you can implement in your training programs and to hear the complete discussion with detailed examples of on-demand training done right, be sure to catch the full episode of Digital Builder.

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Eric Thomas

Eric is a Sr. Multimedia Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk and hosts the Digital Builder podcast. He has worked in the construction industry for over a decade at top ENR General Contractors and AEC technology companies. Eric has worked for Autodesk for nearly 5 years and joined the company via the PlanGrid acquisition. He has held numerous marketing roles at Autodesk including managing global industry research projects and other content marketing programs. Today Eric focuses on multimedia programs with an emphasis on video.