BOWA Builders recently hosted its 50th in-house employee training session. The idea for the Virginia company’s quarterly “lunch and learn” sessions began with education for the production department but has expanded to include the design team and, in the last few years, invitations extended to select outside architects, home inspectors, and construction managers as well.

Doug Horgan, vice president, best practices, works with the production vice president, the COO, and the customer service department to set the agenda based on lessons learned from company projects. He invites a guest speaker, such as a subcontractor or a manufacturer’s rep familiar with the training topic and creates a presentation using BOWA’s photos. Recently, BOWA’s best tile sub spoke about bath tile waterproofing techniques.

Tailor-Made Training

For Horgan, planning the meeting is the most valuable part of his job, he says. “Where else do I get to have that type of impact on so many people in our company? My mission is to reduce construction defects. They’re a drag for our customers — and they’re expensive.”

Past sessions have covered various concrete, masonry, roofing, insulation, plumbing, electrical, and paint topics. Code updates are of particular interest, since BOWA works in three jurisdictions. Horgan has also covered exterior weatherproofing for roofing and masonry installation where “the smallest mistakes can cause the biggest consequences.”

The advantage of hosting an in-house meeting rather than sending employees out for training is, Horgan says, that the company can concentrate on specific topics relevant to the type of jobs it does and its particular climate zone.

BOWA hosts the two- to three-hour midmorning sessions at its office. Each includes a company-only segment to review financial performance and safety and a 30-minute catered lunch. Attendees include production managers, site supervisors, and project managers who first go visit their jobsites, then come in for the session, and then return to check jobs.

Vice President Best Practices

The company created this title for Doug Horgan a few years ago, reflecting BOWA’s view that quality and training should be a preemptive strike. “I don’t show up at the end and say you did this wrong. I come out to jobs to discuss what we will be doing next week,” Horgan says. He researches installation techniques, offers advice, and sends the team drawings and videos. “These are complicated jobs, and the people running the jobs have lots of priorities. The role makes it possible for those doing the work to do it.”

Tips on Training Sessions

Choose topics based on your specific job types, callback issues, and major changes (code updates or new materials/techniques). Ask supervisors and managers for suggestions.

Create an informal atmosphere where your employees are “willing to interrupt with questions,” Horgan recommends.

BOWA found that including a break for food gave the team time to interact, which builds camaraderie.

Review your jobsite schedules and check with your field crews for the best timing for the training. BOWA started off with 4 p.m. training, but switched to midday, Horgan says, because it’s “less disruptive of the jobs and of people’s personal lives — and traffic is usually less hassle compared with morning or late afternoon.”

An hour is a long time to sit for a session or a management meeting. Consider breaking the sessions into segments to help employees stay focused.

Consider a few sessions at a jobsite, especially for topics on exterior details, so your team can see the best practices in-person.

—Nina Patel is a senior editor at REMODELING. Find her on Twitter at @SilverNina or @RemodelingMag.