May 1, 2006
"If you don't use it, you'll lose it." Sound familiar? This may not be the case for riding a bicycle but it has reigned true for me personally in other areas. Once upon a time, I was at the head of the class in rudimentary Spanish and also in sign language.I wouldn't be able to talk my way into or out of a conversation in either of these categories today. And that is unfortunate.
I didn't continue to use those skills, so I "lost them."
The same goes for many aspects of our lives, including our jobs and careers. Learning and honing a skill can be the difference between getting a job or losing the opportunity for one. Maintaining and improving upon skills can equally be the difference between keeping that job and losing it. And of course, learning new skills-or not-in our dynamic world can mean advancement-or complacence.
So what are you doing personally to advance your job or career in land surveying? What are you doing professionally? Managers, owners and supervisors: what are you doing to enhance the work status of your employees?
In our monthly online quick poll in March, we asked visitors to POB Online to rate the training status of their firms (see the full poll and responses on page 2). Because of stories I've heard for a number of years, I feared the worst response. Thankfully, it was better than I thought it might be. The "Never" category received 24 percent. That's still pretty high. But the other three poll options, frequently, occasionally or only for new hires, received 36, 28 and 12 percent, respectively. Again, not great but better than I thought. I would hate to compare these numbers to other professions, though.
The bright side to me is that there are examples in the profession to emulate. Several come from manufacturers who place tremendous importance on training efforts for their employees and their dealers. Manufacturers, after all, have driven much of the advancement in the surveying profession. Topcon, for example, holds three-day "Boot Camps" for 200 dealers each year; Trimble's annual dealer meeting takes its sales force outside in the dirt, sand and mud and treats them to fitting "grub" in "mess tents." TDS reports that the feedback they've received after a training session overwhelmingly indicates that product training has an immediate positive impact on the work of surveyors who take the courses. These training events are exhilarating and information-packed-the focus is on improving technical knowledge for customers to increase sales and potentially beat out the competition. Sound like a goal of your company's?
Armed with efficient product knowledge, these dealers aid their customers in making equipment decisions for the better of their businesses. From there, the upward slope continues-firms excel in business, growing in size and service offerings, increasing productivity and profitability, gaining and retaining both valued clients and employees, and sometimes even winning awards. In various professional newsletters, stories and news clips highlight recognition and awards presented to firms for the "Best Places to Work." These firms are recognized for their dedication to employees in the way of benefits, advanced technology, and overall leadership and commitment to clients and services. High on the list of honor for these companies is their dedication to employee training, enhancing workplace practices, and providing professional development opportunities and initiatives.
I think training could be kicked up a notch for many surveying and mapping firms. As new blood enters the profession, consider the approaches to work of different age groups. For example, consider findings that show today's youth as having a different approach to work compared to the youth of a couple of decades ago. Train each individual appropriately and you should create a solid business you can be proud of-and one that makes you some money!
As a new homebuyer, I recently encountered a land surveyor conducting a mortgage survey of the property. I of course asked him if he knew about POB magazine. His "no" response deflated me; he wasn't aware of any of the national magazine resources available to him. I know his company receives a subscription to POB since I've talked with the folks there before. My guess is that someone, perhaps in management, isn't passing along the publication to his/her employees. I encourage owners and supers at companies to continue POB's high pass-along rate of subscribers (108,800) by supplying their monthly publications to all levels of employees. Likewise, I encourage employees to inquire about POB and other resources to enhance their work knowledge.