Experience and knowledge are important in construction. When you're working as a team on a project, you need to know that each member of that team can carry their weight and deliver reliable results, so that you can concentrate on your role without worrying about others. On-the-job training is always a part of the construction world, and knowledge without experience is limited in its utility. Given the choice, most people would prefer working with a 20-year veteran with no formal training to an inexperienced kid straight out of a great construction engineering program.
Your junior staff has to get experience somehow though, and how you structure your company to distill that wisdom from your long-term, experienced team members to your newer rookies can be crucial for how efficiently and expertly your project team works, as well as how prepared for the future you are. A knowledge hub can be crucial in the effort to maintaining and passing along the experience and insights your company has gained over the years, as well as developing newer workers to sharpen their skills and become more effective for your project teams.
What is a knowledge hub?
Knowledge hubs can take a lot of forms depending on the industry they're in, but at its most basic form, a knowledge hub is a place for you and your team to store training and insights that may be educational or helpful to other team members in the future. This may start as a small project, but over time can accumulate tons of useful information. While in-person mentorship and coaching will always have a place on any worksite, a knowledge hub can alleviate the burden of explanation that your experienced workers commonly face, while also opening up a lot of possibilities for newer workers to learn and improve without feeling like they are imposing or being afraid that they may ask a stupid question.
Knowledge bases can carry information of all types. Depending on your needs, maybe you only want a knowledge base where members of your team can pen quick notes and instructional guides. Maybe you want it to be more diverse and include how-to videos, sound files, or example images. There are many ways to set up a knowledge base based on what you need to get out of it, and how best to get your team to embrace it as a helpful resource.
The advantages of utilizing a knowledge hub
There can be many advantages to utilizing a knowledge hub over time. In addition to making vital skills and knowledge easier for your team to learn and teach each other, they help the team as a whole by preserving knowledge and experience that may have been in very few hands before. The unexpected happens all the time, and relying less on single individuals for team performance on your worksite protects your entire organization from setbacks after turnover, accidents, or scheduling issues.
Culture of learning and teaching
Less experienced members of your crew will learn a lot in their early days on the job, but how they go about learning will affect their efficiency in absorbing information, their long-term attitude and engagement, and their future with your company. Likewise, your more experienced crew members aren't ever going to be able to get away from giving out some pointers, but it matters whether they feel constantly annoyed explaining the same thing over and over, or proud as they watch the next generation internalize their teachings. A knowledge hub can be a key tool in encouraging newer team members to actively seek out knowledge and experience while also giving more experienced workers a much more satisfying outlet to make a difference in their crews.
Far too often, construction sites consist of mostly "push learning" for newer workers. This is when the worker learning has little or no agency in what they're learning, they're just being told what the instructor thinks they need to know. Alternatively, "pull learning" is when the employee being trained is able to seek out skills they think would enrich their performance. While push learning may be necessary to set a foundation of knowledge to get the job done, pull learning will often instill more passion for improving their skills in new workers. This leads to a far more engaged workforce over time that is eager to improve their skills and efficiency within the team.
It's important to note for more veteran workers who are commonly the ones doing the teaching, this also can help their engagement level as well. The reason push learning happens so often is that your long-term crew members have heard all the questions before and just answer what they think it will be before the rookie says it. Instead of repeating themselves now, they can record one video or write one article that will help workers long into the future.
Retention and recruitment
Retention too often determines the success of construction companies. What you do is hard, and to a degree, there will always be some people who come on board and don't last long. What can really hurt though, is when you lose valuable and experienced members of your team. Construction knowledge is incredibly hard to gain, but for your company, can all be lost with one retirement. A knowledge hub can create a continuity of insights and experience throughout the whole life of your company, no matter who comes and goes. While it may initially seem odd to have someone record their knowledge and experience to be used after they've left, that's what we do as a species. The idea of preserving knowledge is usually attractive to most employees. Everyone likes to leave a legacy and feel that their knowledge will continue to help someone long into the future.
As far as the ones who come onboard that everyone can sometimes struggle to hang onto, having a rich knowledge base available not only gives newer workers a chance to educate themselves and perform better work but also an incentive to stay on your crew and develop their skills. Workers aren't indebted to their employers, and you want to provide an incentive for people to stay with you and grow with you. Providing a resource that can help develop their skills and career on your team gives more incentive for the most motivated workers to choose to stay with you.
Getting started with a knowledge hub
If you think a knowledge hub could help develop your team for long-term success, then understanding what you need is the place to begin. If you've heard a question over and over on the job site, a knowledge base article on that would probably be pretty helpful. First, you can consolidate all of your training materials and lessons your experts commonly need to convey into one place. Once you're ready to get started, enlist the help of a few veterans around the worksite for a few entries. Starting with common and essential information and tutorials is important because if you can get your team involved enough that skills are being both taught and learned on your knowledge base early on, your crew will be more likely to jump on board and actively participate.
Here at LinkedField, we understand that the knowledge and experience of expert construction professionals are one of your company's most important assets. Just like any other asset that holds value, it needs to be protected and grown. If you're interested in how we can help you build a library of construction insights, building experiences, and other information that can be a valuable piece of your team forever, contact us today.