Crosstrain for success By John S. Ball III

Training for a variety of tasks isn’t just for the Olympics anymore

We’ve talked about crosstraining before but there are a few points that need emphasizing. As discussed previously, crosstraining offers a foreman versatility. If a member of the crew cannot be on the jobsite, having another member of the crew trained to step in and do that job, and do it well, can be a projectsaver.

Think of it this way: Training for just the pommel horse event at the Olympics could leave a team member weak in the area of vaulting. The same is true for the paving team. If a lute operator is able to take over on the back of the screed at a moment’s notice, the crew is that much stronger. And believe me, getting a perfect 10 matters to your company’s bottom line.

But crosstraining shouldn’t be employed merely to have more than one person proficient at a post. By offering crew members new positions and training them for those positions, a company allows the crew member to grow. By offering an employee a new post on the paving crew, the owner is showing belief in that employee. The owner is offering a chance to grow and expand in the road building industry. But if upper management doesn’t commit to training, it will not happen on its own at your company.

There are many aspects to training your crew. Once you master the training of each different post of the crew — laborers, lute persons, rolling crew, paver operators, supervisors — you have some choices in further training. Refresher courses are always a good idea, but getting your crew members so proficient at their jobs that they can train their replacements is your goal. Don’t think they’ll want to train their way out of a job? If the result of being replaced is moving up the ladder of success, you may find them more receptive to that idea.

Take it one group at a time,
one level at a time
Let’s look at the rolling crew as an example. The owner should first clarify all the positions on the paving team, then separate the individuals or groups for training. If there are five roller operators in the rolling group, find the strengths of those five people. As they practice their art and grow in skill level, they can venture on to the next step, which can mean moving up the paving crew ladder. For compaction, there are four phases, or types, of rolling for each person to master — static, rubber tire, finish and vibratory. As a crew member becomes proficient at each one, he or she can move on to the next step, or, the person can stick with what he or she likes best and become an expert in that area. In training, the degree of expertise that a person wants will dictate whether or not the person moves on.

Train them to train others
You can train crew members to get you through the day, or you can train them so that they can, in turn, train someone else to take over their positions as they move on. If a crew member is ready to move on, he or she has to make some decisions when a new position arises. Here are some questions to ask when the company offers you a new post.

1. Do I want the job? 2. What is the job description, and what is my focus going to be with that job? The foreman or owner who can explain the degree of responsibility and accountability the new post holds will find a worker more in tune to the job. 3. How will my performance be evaluated?

So many times in the road building industry, we don’t offer room for advancement to newcomers. It can be a rewarding and exciting experience to go into a new job. You often get a raise in pay once you’ve mastered one challenge and are going after another. In the asphalt industry, you can either move around to new positions or stay with one job and master it.

Go for it
Attitude is the factor that will affect success in both the training and mastering of an art. The newer folks who come on board usually have no idea what asphalt’s about. There are many degrees or levels of how capable a person may be of climbing the ladder in the field. We need to offer positions to these people to see if they want them and can do them. I was offered many positions as I developed my career. I started out driving the trucks, then moved to be a laborer, a roller operator, a screed operator, a foreman, a district manager and a director of training. The secret to my success is simply going for it. Even if I were unsure that I could perform the tasks of a new position, I had to give it my best shot. Think of it this way: If you are 50 percent sure that you can do something and your employer is 50 percent sure that you can do it, you have a 100-percent confidence level now. If the company offers you a new position, take the opportunity. If you turn down new challenges, you may never be asked again.

The paving crew is full of unique diamonds in the rough that can sparkle if you just polish them. Let crosstraining be the cloth you use to polish your crew. If everyone is mastering their own art, and training one another for success, every project will deserve the gold medal.

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