Success Fundamentals: Training and Education are Essential for Company Growth

By Andy Hill

Providing continuing education for your employees is important for both their personal development, as well as the growth of your company. This has certainly been true for us. Our founder, Tom Hill, emphasized this belief while he was with Harmon and carried it with him when he started this company in 1999. As he says,  “I was always involved in athletics and you learn very early that if you don’t focus on the fundamentals 100% of the time, it will haunt you. I took that life lesson with me when I coached and taught for two years, and eventually into the glass business, as, in any business or occupation, fundamentals are the key to success.”

Continuing Education

One of the best ways to make sure your team is up to speed on the changes and developments that are happening in the industry is to create your own training program. We started ours, which we call GSI U, in 2016. It includes a rotating schedule of lessons taught by our leadership and upper management, vendors and suppliers. Some of the topics we’ve covered include accounting, fasteners, storefront vs. curtainwall, caulking and aerial lifts. These courses are  for any team member in the office across all departments, from newbies to veterans. The more employees are cross-trained, the more the team can work collaboratively.

One class we offered that was important for all employees was on the handrail code. We brought in engineering partners to give a very detailed explanation of the new International Building Codes (IBC) for installing handrails. They also explained how the City of Chicago had tweaked the IBC for its own building code. This course was not only important for sales and operations, but for the whole company because it helped everyone become familiar with the codes.

You can also offer a “glossary day,” also important for both new and seasoned employees. You can use a course like this to go over and review glazing terminology. It can include topics such as the definitions of the different types of glass, the various methods for creating glass, common acronyms on architectural and shop drawings and more.

Hit the Road

Your classes and continuing education courses don’t all have to be done in your building. Lessons outside the office can be some of the most valuable and memorable. We once organized a road trip to Wausau, Wis., that included a diverse staff of 12 employees spending two days visiting several key suppliers in the area. Taking your employees on plant tours allows them to see the process in which raw materials are manufactured into the finished product.

Developing an internship program can also help build the industry’s future generations. Internships give students exposure to learning a specialty trade outside of the general contracting curriculum that is normally taught in college studies. In addition to educating your own interns, you can also extend those programs to others in related fields and trades, such as offering intern classes for local general contractors.

Remember also to educate your own customers. Invite them in for open houses and give tours of your facility. One idea is to host a Gemba Walk. This provides an opportunity for staff to stand back from their day-to-day tasks, and walk the floor of their workplace to identify wasteful activities.

We did this last year, and invited general contractors, subcontractors and architects to join us, giving them the opportunity to see how we incorporate Lean principles in our shop fabrication process. It’s also a way to empower crew leaders — those who are experts at their respective stations – to educate and demonstrate their skills.

Andy Hill is the CEO of Glass Solutions Inc. located in Itasca, Ill.

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