Keep Ahead of the Learning Curve, Part 2

11 May, 2011 By: Robert Green

You've got your training plan in hand, and now you need to show management why funding that training is a smart financial decision.

In the previous issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I challenged you to come up with a learning plan to keep yourself technically current — and more valuable to your company. If you haven't thought about your learning plan yet, you may want to take a look at that column before proceeding.

In this issue, I'll show you how to prioritize your list of learning objectives in a way that'll get your boss's attention and convince him or her to approve your training plan. Here goes.

Getting Started

In order to get the training process rolling, you have to identify your company's training needs, then try to align your learning objectives with those needs. In my example case, I related the story of "Lois," who needs to bring Revit into her company, but must become more knowledgeable about the software to do so. In evaluating Lois's company's needs, we determined that the following Revit-based objectives were critical:

  • Being able to send/receive Revit-based files to/from various clients
  • Having a plan for eventually using Revit on in-house projects
  • Having to control the expenses associated with Revit implementation.

To meet these needs, I recommended that Lois pursue the following training objectives:

  • Acquire specific skills to send/receive Revit files to/from customers.
  • Acquire more general Revit skills that would be key for the company's future usage of the software.
  • Study how other companies have implemented Revit to learn what works — as well as what doesn't.
  • Study how to best train company users so adoption of Revit will go as smoothly as possible.

The payoff for the company is that Lois will be able to meet its Revit needs, while the payoff for Lois is her greatly expanded knowledge of Revit — and her enhanced value as an employee.

Selling the Training

Now Lois finds herself in the position of having to demonstrate that her learning plan is worthwhile for the company financially. Oh sure, her plan seems reasonable and sounds beneficial, but how can she prove it? Furthermore, how can she make getting training a priority?

The short answers to these questions are:

To justify costs:
You must compare the cost of training with the cost of operating under the status quo. I frequently sum this up by explaining, "It is cheaper to train someone to solve our problem than to keep having the problem," or by asking the rhetorical question, "Why is it that we can't afford to train, but we can afford to keep messing up?"

To get priority: You must show that training should be completed promptly, so the company can reap the financial rewards of the training as quickly as possible. To get management's attention, you might use phrases like, "The sooner I know what I'm doing, the sooner I can solve the problem."

Training only makes sense if the time you spend on it pays you back financially. Remember, time equals money!

Lois's Example

Let's say that Lois has gathered some information about the financial impact of not being able to send and receive Revit files reliably. Here's what she's learned:

  • Every month, Lois receives three Revit files from a client of a three-story building project. The files must be processed to yield AutoCAD drawing files before she can work on them.
  • Lois has to send the files to a consultant, who performs the processing task and provides her the drawings she needs. This process costs $150 per month.
  • Sometimes the consultant can't complete the drawing translations quickly enough, and consequently work on the project is delayed. On average this happens three times per year, and the delay forces Lois to work 10 hours of overtime at 150% of her normal $40/hour labor rate.

So here's what we know about the financial problems associated with the lack of Revit knowledge at Lois's company:

  • $1,800 dollars is spent on outside consultants per year (12 months x $150/month)
  • $600 dollars is spent on overtime for Lois per year (3 incidents per year x 10 hours per occurrence x $20/hour overhead differential)

In summary, Lois's company is spending $2,400 per year simply dealing with Revit-to-DWG translations.

Quantifying the Training

So now that we know what the annual cost of dealing with the Revit translation problem is, we've got to figure out what training Lois will cost. Here's the information we've gathered:

  • Lois can attend a custom half-day class with a local reseller training specialist to learn how to perform the translations. This class will cost $1,000 to set up and attend.
  • Lois will be gone for a half-day to take the training, which will cost $160 (4 hours x $40/hour)
  • Lois will put in her own time to work through example problems and make sure she understands the translation process.

Therefore, the total cost of training is $1,160.


So what is the impact of Lois pursuing the training? We need to look at a multi-year scenario to answer the question. Here's how to compute a return on investment (ROI) for each year:

  • ROI = Savings / Costs x 100%
  • For year 1: Savings = $2,400 and costs = $1,160 so the ROI is 206%
  • For year 2: Savings = $2,400 and costs = 0 so the ROI is infinite.

Now, in reality, the training should be averaged over a two-year period, which is usually about the time span you can assume that the software won't change too much thus requiring new training right? If we computed a two-year average ROI we'd see this result:

  • Two-year ROI = $4,800 in savings / $1,160 in costs = 413%

Or, put another way, $1,160 invested in Lois today will earn the company $4,800 over the next two years.

The Boss's Perspective

If Lois takes her learning plan and ROI computations to her boss, several interesting things are going to happen:

  • Her training will most likely get approved.
  • Her boss will want the training to get under way sooner rather than later.
  • Her boss will understand that Lois isn't just asking to go to training because it is a topic she personally wants to learn about, but because it's knowledge that will help the company perform better.

When all is said and done, Lois will be a better-trained CAD manager whose boss holds her in much higher regard (and values her more) as a result. And isn't being better trained and having more job security a great combination?

Prioritize Your List

I hope that seeing this example case has helped you imagine how you can financially justify your own training requests. I realize it takes time to collect the data and really analyze your own situation, but I promise it'll help you get the training approved.

As you compute the ROI (return on investment) criteria for your training requirements, always tackle the highest-ROI training items first so you can get the best payback for your company. And as you list your training priorities based on ROI, make sure your boss knows you're doing it that way — he or she will be impressed with your judgment and business savvy.

Summing Up

Now that you know how to craft a learning plan and sell it to your management, what are you waiting for? Get going on your financially justified learning plan — and reap the career benefits of doing so.


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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