Why providing training that is accessible to all employees, regardless of their learning styles and abilities, is key to success. By Rob Bright

The construction sector is essential to the economy, accounting for six per cent of UK jobs, with roughly 2.69 million people working in the industry. But the industry has faced unprecedented staffing challenges over the past few years following Brexit and the pandemic.

As a result, labour shortages have become a major concern for 95 percent of construction companies. However, research completed by REC suggests that this concern may not just be due to a lack of available employees, but rather the lack of skills they have. In fact, 76 percent of construction companies said a shortage of skills is the main barrier to recruitment and 78 percent said their main concern with their existing workforce is their skill set.

It’s clear the skills shortage is causing major challenges for the industry. So, how can construction workers’ skill sets be improved? The answer, of course, is effective training.

Rob Bright, Founder of Cloud Assess

Effective training is a solution
The most effective way to combat a shortage of skills is to confront the problem head on and increase training. Not only will consistent training help to fill skills gaps, but it will also improve employee satisfaction and, in turn, improve employee retention.

However, introducing effective training is not as simple as rolling out learning programmes for staff. For training to be as impactful as possible it needs to be tailored to their learning requirements as well as the goals of the business.

We’ve all experienced our fair share of training, yet all too often, training is mundane and unengaging. For some under-resourced businesses, training has become a ‘tick box exercise’, with employees asked to complete one-off written assessments in isolation with no opportunity to practice or receive feedback. This isn’t conclusive to continued professional development, especially for deskless workers, like those working in construction.

As most deskless roles are hands-on and practical, the most effective training methods will mirror this, offering plenty of opportunity for workers to learn by ‘doing’ and repeating to develop long-term skills and muscle memory around key tasks. In fact, our own research has found that 74 percent of deskless workers prefer face-to-face training or a hybrid approach over online training in isolation. A hands-on approach to learning also allows assessors to observe the employee’s use of the skill or knowledge in the workplace, helping them to make a better judgement call on whether the employee is competent or needs further training.

Making learning accessible
Offering plenty of hands-on, practical training is a great step towards creating genuine learning outcomes for employees. However, even then, it’s worth remembering that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to learning. Many factors can impact people’s ability to complete training effectively, from having different learning styles to simply having limited time. For training to truly make an impact, employers must acknowledge this and ensure learning is made accessible to everyone.

There are plenty of ways training can be tailored to suit individual needs whilst considering the practicalities of training deskless workers, and employers should always strive to deploy programmes that are flexible enough to allow for this.

Prescriptive training isn’t fun for anyone, especially when it interrupts the flow of day-to-day work, such as having to take a morning off work to sit in a health and safety presentation and complete multiple-choice quiz. Micro-learning, a format of training that offers short, bite-sized lessons, offers a better alternative as it allows construction workers to easily fit training in around their busy work schedules. This training method has been proven to boost learner engagement, and can also benefit neurodiverse employees, such as those with ADHD who struggle to focus on a specific task for an extended period.

Micro-learning can be conducted face-to-face, online, or using a combination of both. Opting for a blended approach will allow employees to learn and demonstrate skills in the flow of work. Plus, when using the right software, employees and assessors will be able to access online content anywhere, anytime via their phone, tablet, or computer.

Boosting employee engagement
Employers must also consider how staff can engage with the training. Whilst e-learning offers its benefits, including efficiency and accessibility, the efficacy is minimal when it’s used in isolation.

So, a blended approach using a range of delivery methods to support the employee in developing the skills and knowledge is essential, especially when considering neurodiverse employees. For example, one employee may have all the skills and knowledge they need to perform their role but is unable to apply that through a written test. Instead, they would need ‘reasonable adjustment’, such as replacing the written assignment with an interview that allows them to demonstrate their understanding.

Getting started with accessible training
The modern workforce is more diverse than ever, so it’s essential your training programme allows for this. When developing a training programme, ask yourself:

  • How could you concentrate the learning into shorter, bite-sized sessions?
  • Does your training programme offer a good mixture of delivery methods using a range of tools to develop practical skills and knowledge?
  • What technology will best help the delivery of blended training and assessment in the workplace?
  • What reasonable adjustment could be applied to help neurodiverse employees demonstrate skills and knowledge? For example, video evidence or interview.

For a list of the sources used in this article, please contact the editor.

Founder of Cloud Assess and a leading expert in employee training, Rob Bright has built a wealth of experience helping businesses in deskless industries create effective company training programmes to maximise employee safety.