Establish a Training Program for Your CAD Users, Part 1

10 Oct, 2012 By: Robert Green

You could be doing more to help your users — and yourself — with training that prevents repeated mistakes.

As I continue my current round of travels, speaking to CAD managers around the country, I’ve noticed that many CAD managers do not have a training program in place to help their users more effectively apply their CAD tools. The reasons for this omission vary, but the end result is the same: untrained users who keep making the same mistakes over and over.

In this edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll begin a series that makes the case for training, provides strategies for convincing your boss to fund it, and gives you the tools to improve your training game. Here goes.

Why Bother with Training?

The conversation all starts with this question, doesn’t it? After all, if the value of training were obvious to everyone, you’d already have your training program. But this isn't a perfect world, and you know your boss will ask you, “Why should we spend money on that?”

Because you will be questioned about the value of training, it pays to prepare your arguments ahead of time. Here are a few benefits of training that most management teams understand:

  • It improves standards compliance. If you have trouble getting people to comprehend and follow standards, it is either because they don’t understand or are just plain stubborn. Training takes care of the first problem by demonstrating proper standards usage, while exposing stubborn users for what they are.
  • It can help you implement custom procedures. In order to automate redundant procedures such as plotting, symbol insertions, filing, archiving, transmittals, etc., you’ll need to create custom programs and procedures. And for users to benefit from these procedures, you’ll have to show them how to use your tools.
  • It's an essential part of overcoming software obstacles. If users have trouble performing certain software tasks, you need to intervene by explaining the problem and detailing how to work around it.
  • It saves time and money. If you train users in the correct way to use your software, it stands to reason that they won’t make as many errors and will save time. And since we all know that time is money, you can see that training will lead to savings if done properly.

At the end of the day, the only reason upper management will approve training is because it is in their interest to do so. Make it easy for them to see the benefit by focusing on improved efficiency and cost savings in your discussions.
Outline Your Program

Let’s assume that your boss sees the wisdom of your training proposal and approves your request to establish a training program. Now the fun begins! To get your training program up and rolling, you need to perform some basic planning and analysis tasks to ensure you’re on the right track. At a minimum, you should determine your plan for each of the following points:

  • Topics and outcomes. What will you teach, to whom, and what will the results of the training be? Example: A one-hour course on project plotting standards for all CAD users to eliminate deviations in final printed and PDF documentation.
  • Savings estimates. As a result of achieving your training outcomes, how many man-hours will your company save on an annual basis? Example: If you observe 20 hours per month in lost time due to plotting errors, that would annualize to 240 man-hours per year.
  • Cost estimates. How much it will cost to prepare the training (your time), and how many man-hours will be expended on users? Example: a two-hour training class for fifteen users would consume 30 (2 x 15) man-hours of training time. If it takes you 10 hours to prepare for the class, then the total man-hours associated with the training would be 40 (30 + 10) hours.
  • Data sets / handouts. What example files and training documents will you need? Decide on the specific topics you want to cover in your classes so you can rough out your training documents. You can finish/polish them later, but it helps to have a good idea of what you’ll cover early on.

Do the Math

Next, prepare a financial justification for your training classes:

  • State your topic
  • Calculate the savings you can achieve
  • List the costs of preparing for and delivering the classes
  • Divide savings by cost to determine your ROI (return on investment).

Here’s an example:

      Course Topic           Savings (hrs/yr)      Costs (hrs)      ROI 

      Plotting standards               240                          40          240/40 = 6

Do this for each training module you hope to conduct, and start building a master spreadsheet to keep track of everything.

Now Pitch It!

Now that you know what you’ll teach, why you’ll teach it, how much you can save, and the ROI you can achieve, it is time to take your ideas to management and get your program approved. Here are some hints for delivering your training pitch:

  • Use a spreadsheet. It looks professional. Managers are familiar with spreadsheets and will have more respect for a training proposal presented in a management-friendly format.
  • Quote the numbers. Make sure to show your ROI calculations, with the highest ROI values at the top of the list to illustrate what your priorities will be as the training program kicks off.
  • Keep it short and simple. A single-sheet Excel file is elegant and easy to read. A multiple-sheet document is less likely to be read, and detracts from the great ROI impact. Don’t let an overly complex writeup deter your boss from reading your numbers.

Summing Up

Now that you know what to do to get your training program planned, it is up to you to do the homework, analyze the savings potential, build your spreadsheet, and pitch it to your management team. Only by going through this value-based process can you convince management that training is really worth it. And based on my experience, I can tell you that nobody will do the planning for you!

In a future issue of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll continue the training program discussion with some tips and tricks for creating your handouts and delivering your training like a pro.

Click here to read "Establish a Training Program for Your CAD Users, Part 2."

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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