There is a growing trend in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industries to train project managers (PMs). Reasons include the obvious goal of improved performance – both qualitative and financial. Other reasons are grounded in the many challenges faced by firms today to grow and retain staff, and develop future leaders for eventual leadership transition.
There are many different forms of “Project Management Training” being offered in the AEC industry: online training, classes, seminars, bootcamps, etc. Most of what's offered to your project leaders and management teams is being grouped into this overall bucket of "Project Management Training" but it isn't all the same and won't all add the most value to your firm.
Project Management Training is a broad term so when you are looking to purchase or sign up for training, it is important for you to first determine what skills you are looking to teach your staff and to understand the different types of training on the market. Not all training is focused on the same skills - some courses teach technical Project Management skills and others will teach Business Management skills.
What is it you want to accomplish? What do your managers need to learn? What will yield the most results for your firm? Should the focus be on learning skills or do they need more than that? Do they also need to shift their perspective or change their mindset?
Choose the right option to ensure you get the most value from investing in AEC Project Management Training
To choose the best program for your firm, consider these questions and information first:
What are your expected outcomes?
Having an end in mind for the PM training is essential to selecting the best program and getting the most value from it. Do you expect behavior changes? What career path or eventual leadership position do you want to groom your PM's for?
In addition to the critical knowledge that PMs must possess, such as timesheet practices/management, do they also need to learn about marketing and business development, controlling scope creep, improving cash flow, managing client relationships and more? (See Developing Superstar Project Managers to help understand the gamut of written and unwritten Project Management responsibilities.)
Which is better? Group or Individual Training
Should you train individuals or a group? Different training programs are more conducive to groups rather than individuals. Which is better? Do you expect wholesale change to occur in your organization or are you just hoping to build individual knowledge, skills and abilities in a few people?
Factors such as cost for the courses and travel, time out of the office, and expectations about PM performance improvement should guide your decisions.
You can send one person to a seminar or Project Management bootcamp and they complete the session and are done. But what happens when they come back to the office? Whether or not they use the knowledge or implement change in your firm is often left up to that individual. Also, what follow up reinforcement do they get to implement or continue newly learned best practices?
It can also be valuable to think about how you will roll out the training. What type of training and support do you need to ensure the best results? Do you need to define new metrics to assess new skills? Do you need to evaluate processes and identify or share best practices?
If you train a whole team, you can reinvent your culture into an environment where every employee is held accountable to ensure the firm’s financial success.
What is your budget/price point?
As alluded to above, the true cost of training is not just the cost of the training courses. You must also consider the costs of travel, time out of the office and loss of billable time. Some courses are one day, several days or offered online. If you're training a group, you may be able to defer costs by bringing the training in-house. What are you planning to spend for each PM? Do you really understand the cost of an off-site bootcamp / seminar vs. using an online system where you can usually train a much larger group for the same price point?
How much time will you commit to training?
Since the true cost of training, and often the results, can be impacted by how much time is committed, how do you get the most value for the time invested? Would your team see better results if they could participate in a course spread out over a period of time? Do you expect them to do some of the work on their own time after hours to save costs? What type of flexibility do they need in their schedules?
Your staff might appreciate options that don’t require travel, time away from their families, and other inconveniences. Understanding your staff's needs in this regard is paramount to their commitment and success with the training.
What topics are important to you?
Understanding the daily challenges and expectations of your PMs is critical to providing training that makes a significant difference in their skills and performance. Many PMs in the A&E industry learn from the "school of hard knocks" over many years. Not every training program teaches the same topics, so it is important to outline where your PMs' skill sets may be weak and focus on training that will add the most benefit to their development and performance. Doing a thorough assessment before selecting a program could be useful so your managers get training they really need and will stay committed to.
Considerations for training topics might include everything from financial management to proposal practices, contracts, controlling scope creep, effective scheduling of resources, cash flow and client relationships. Understanding your firm's needs and PM’s level of proficiency is critical to finding the right training solutions.
How will you measure the success of the training?
Measuring the results of training is critical to knowing if your firm got value for its training investment. It can be difficult to measure the results of training and correlate specific financial or other metrics with the actual training program. Without a clear expectation of improvements to behavior and performance, it will be impossible to realize significant measurable gains in productivity, communication, use of systems, and adherence to best practices.
Does each course focus on specific and measurable behavior changes that can be documented and reviewed on a regular basis? For example, if you're training PMs on scope creep and recovering extra services, how will you measure a change? Good metrics that would provide insight as to whether the training is working might include increases in change orders, increases in revenue from extra services tracked separately or adherence to company policies. Each indicator of business improvement can and should be tracked if possible.
Transparency and focus on key metrics such as your win rate, utilization, project profit margin, and accounts receivable / days sales outstanding can provide new levels of accountability and help track progress as training programs are implemented.
Once you’ve answered the questions above and determined your main criteria for selecting training, we encourage you to learn more about the Find the Lost Dollars: AEC Business Management Online Training Program for A&E firm project leaders. This program is based on the best-selling book Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Firms, and provides 10 one-hour online courses devoted to critical business topics for today's busy A&E manager. We offer the unique approach of putting an entire team through the program together and reinforcing desired behavior changes through group discussions so that changes in behavior will happen through accountability to each other and by commitment of firm leadership.
The Find the Lost Dollars Online Business Management training is designed to turn your project managers into business leaders!
“All of the team members of the Environmental Health & Safety Division of Hillmann Consulting went through the Find the Lost Dollars AEC Business Management Training Program in late 2015. Our profit for this department was only at 2% and we needed a way to get all of our staff on the same page to increase our profit margin without increasing our rates. After the training, we immediately implemented many new practices that changed our culture and transformed our profitability. We improved billable utilization rates, improved time management procedures and ensured everyone on the team adhered to policies that improved profitability. Our January to September year-to-date profit is now at a stunning 20.87%! Having our team go through the Find the Lost Dollars Training Program has made an incredible difference for us, with an increase of profit of over $200,000 in less than a year!”
– Geralanne Maglione
Learn how Hillmann Consulting, LLC, a 100-person environmental consulting firm in New Jersey, put its entire firm through the Find the Lost Dollars Online Business Management Training Program and improved its culture, systems and processes to focus on profitablity.