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CAD from Home, Part 2: Training

CAD Manager's Column: With many employees continuing to work from home, making sure that your team continues to grow, use standards, and work as a team becomes even more important.

I recently started the CAD from Home series of CAD Manager’s Newsletters with the focus on what it takes to survive the new COVID-19 normal of remote CAD workers. Our last installment covered workstation strategies and specs under the preface that CAD at Home begins with the workstation you use.

In this edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, we’ll continue the series with the next most important component: Training. I’ll strive to give you actionable tips and strategies you can use specifically for a remote workforce. Here goes.

CAD from Home, Part 2: Training

Image source: Mathias Rosenthal/stock.adobe.com.

Why Training Matters

Ever since I’ve been a CAD manager, I’ve advocated training. And, most of the time, management agrees that there should be training. Sometimes though, I hear things like “We can always train later when we’re not so busy” or “Now that we’re not busy, we can’t afford a training budget.” I’ve come to reject these excuses and make the case that training is the bedrock activity that allows for overall organizational improvement to occur.

So, how should we address the topic of training in today’s strange CAD from Home environment? The quick answer is that we must sell the concept of training in the right way and then deliver fast results tied to noticeable improvements. Let’s see how.


Pay Now or Pay Later

The saying: “You can pay now or you can pay later,” is 100% valid with respect to training. Training is simply the prevention of errors that would otherwise require support, money, and time to fix after the fact. It really does boil down to the fundamental question — Would you rather prevent errors today or fix them after they’ve occurred?

Of course, training has been complicated by the CAD from Home trend but the good news is there are ways you can approach training that makes the process easier than you might think. It turns out, if you show people the right way to perform a given task, then they are more likely to achieve correct results and make fewer mistakes. Plus, consistent training yields consistently better results over time. But, how do we sell the need to train to senior management? Like this:

Strategy 1: Tell everyone from your boss to your users that training will be ruthlessly focused on the prevention of errors and workflow improvement. Keep repeating this mantra until people buy in.


Where is the Training Sweet Spot?

OK, so now that we know we need to recommit to training in the age of COVID-19. What should we focus on to get the most obvious benefits? This valid question requires some detailed thought. There are many topics for training but in the age of the remote worker these merit specific consideration:

Standards compliance. We can agree that proper use of standards increases efficiency. We can also agree that lack of standards compliance causes errors and costs money, right? These agreed upon concepts make a great case for conducting training that focuses on standards.

Project coordination. When everyone is working from home — including the client — project coordination becomes far different than when everyone is at the office. The reality is that these situations are constantly evolving and will never be truly standard until post COVID-19. So, frequent communication in the form of training becomes the only way to deal with the rapidly changing environment.

Training as an FAQ system. If several people all experience the same problem with a software tool or project coordination issue, why not use a periodic training session to focus on these issues? I call this FAQ Training and find that scheduling it on a weekly basis for 30 minutes yields great results. If no questions come up for the week, you can always cancel the meeting but this way you have a fixed training session each week that everyone commits to. At first, be prepared to drive the agenda, but over time you’ll see users start to suggest topics.

Record everything. One thing I believe in firmly is: Never give the same training twice! By recording your FAQ Training sessions you’ll have a library of recordings you can edit into short clips for a training library.

Strategy 2: Be sure that any time you have training that you’re either evangelizing standards, making projects run better, or solving user problems. Be sure to record it all to reap even greater efficiency later. Follow up and tell your boss you’re doing all this work!


Training Dos and Don’ts

With 30 minutes per week to run your training sessions, you’ll need to be highly focused. Over the years, I’ve compiled a list of Dos and Don’ts for training sessions I’ll share with you here:


  • Reach consensus on the best weekly time slot. Don’t just schedule training according to your convenience, but at the best time for all concerned taking into account other weekly meetings, time zones, etc.

  • Make training sessions as brief as possible. This means know what you’ll cover, have your examples ready, and do a preparatory run through so everything will be organized and delivered in as compact a manner as possible. If you can do training in 20 minutes rather than 30, so much the better.

  • Tell attendees anything they need for the session. Will they need their CAD application open to participate? Will they need to have a specific spreadsheet open? Etc.

  • Take attendance. You may find that those who complain the loudest about the lack of training are the people who don’t show up. And, now you’ll be able to prove it.


  • Allow training to become a chit-chat session. Start on time, on topic, and stay on topic.

  • Allow complaints about customers or management. Training is about how to work with software systems and execute projects — it isn’t a gripe session.

  • Run training just to run training. If you don’t have anything to cover in your weekly session, cancel it and give the time back to your team. This way users will trust and know that training is worth their time.

With remote training, it is easy for people to zone out or have a break in their concentration, so these Dos and Don’ts are even more important than they are in a live training environment.

Strategy 3: Demonstrate that your training is topical and high quality, and that you’re respectful of everyone’s time. This way users and management alike will see your commitment to maximizing productivity and minimizing wasted time.


Build Teams via Training

I mentioned above that training isn’t a social hour, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build social camaraderie via training. By bringing more people into the training community you can build an esprit de corps as users feel pride in being better trained. But, how can you do this? Here are some strategies I’ve used with great success:

Stress the simple. As you train always explain that you’re trying to make tasks simpler, reduce rework, and get everyone’s job done faster with less stress. Some might call this appealing to user’s sense of laziness, but I prefer to think of it as productivity. Your team will grow and training will be taken more seriously when users feel training makes their job simpler.

Get power users to help. Use your high-level CAD achievers to help develop and deliver great training content. When users hear from more experts than just you, they receive a more diverse view of the CAD environment which will keep them more interested over time.

Have the boss sit in on a session. Why not ask a project manager, department director, or senior management team member to sit in on a training session once in a while? You’ll show them how great your training is, how business-focused you are, and you’ll get the bonus effect of users knowing the boss may be there so they really should attend.

Find a video champion. If somebody on your extended team is good at video editing, enlist them to help you create short videos from your sessions and put them in a training library.

The result of all these steps is a well-purposed training program that involves a wide variety of users and management team members who will become your training ambassadors to help you grow your training program over time.

Strategy 4: Transition your training into a broader team focused on efficiency that includes users and managers of all levels. The best way to be sure your training program can continue is to build a wide audience.


Follow Up with Cheat Sheets

I don’t know about you, but my desktop monitor has a number of Post-It notes and small cheat sheets that I use to remember key pieces of information. I often make my own printed cheat sheets with command key-ins, macro names, file paths, and the like. The simple fact is that these cheat sheets help me manage all the minute details that are hard to memorize.

So, if your training sessions present new commands or standards, doesn’t it make sense to send everyone a quick cheat sheet? New title block name? Client contact for a given project? New dimension style standards? Cheat sheet them. Of course, you could send the information out via email and hope everyone keeps track but small cheat sheet documents are easy to print and easy to tape to your monitor. I’ve had great success with these over the years and still find that they work great as training follow ups.

Strategy 5: Highlight the value of your training sessions by sending out follow ups (like cheat sheets) to show what you accomplished and why users should attend. Think of this as another way to market training. And, be sure your boss is cc’d as well.


Summing Up

CAD from Home due to COVID-19 isn’t always the easiest thing to deal with but it should not reduce your focus on running a great training program. Hopefully the tips and strategies I’ve provided will help you craft a time- and cost-effective program that all your users will find valuable.

Until next time.

Read more about CAD Management on our CAD Management Resource Page


Robert Green

Robert Green performs CAD programming, standardization, and consulting services globally. He is the author of Expert CAD Management: The Complete Guide. Reach him via his website (greenconsulting.com/).

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