Train and Retain Your Top Performers with NAWLA’s Educational Courses

Understandably, as an employee’s tenure increases, so does the value he or she drives for your organization through productivity gains, improved work accuracy and positive impact on company culture. Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, describes employees as an “appreciating asset” for this reason. While it may seem counterintuitive to think of a staff team as a line item on a balance sheet, it is an important reminder about the impact of employee turnover and the costs associated with losing star players.

As the economy continues to recover, and new opportunities become available in the local job market, managers should focus more time and resources on employee retention. Starting with an understanding of the conditions that drive employee satisfaction or lead to turnover can help industry firms identify the best solutions.

According to a 2014 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management about job satisfaction, respectful treatment of employees on all levels, trust between employees and senior management, benefits, compensation and pay, and job security were the top-rated aspects overall. While many of those, along with a company’s ability to address them, will vary by company and management team, there are some universal needs that a manager can look to outside resources to support.

These include other areas of high importance (as rated by employees in the same survey) but also relatively low current satisfaction, such as job-specific training, an organization’s commitment to professional development, contribution of work to an organization’s business goals, company-paid general training.

The North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) provides several in-depth training courses that can be used to both increase employee satisfaction and improve individual and company performance. These courses are tailored to lumber industry professionals and suited for professionals at different stages of their careers.

Wood Basics

Through a blend of classroom training, field experience and university resources, Wood Basics Course provides a comprehensive introduction to the forest products industry. In the words of spring 2016 Wood Basics attendee Lauren Chimko, lumber trader at Dakeryn Industries , the course covers “a variety of topics surrounding the life of a piece of lumber; from a wee little seedling in a forest to a structural component in a home. Key subjects: forest operations, sawmill production, transportation, and sales/negotiations.”

“Seeing the forest thinning and the mill was really helpful in understanding the steps it takes to turn a tree into the materials we sell at our distribution locations,” added classmate Shea Stone of U.S. Lumber Group. “Being in sales, I think the negotiation session is what I will use most in my future in the industry. It will really help keep me on my toes when trying to deal with customers.”

This four-day immersion course is intended for employees who are new to the industry and ideal for those seeking to understand how their work contributes to their company’s goals and the overall success of the industry.

Traditionally, Wood Basics is offered twice annually, with a spring course at Mississippi State University and a fall course at Oregon State University (OSU). Due to the popularity of this course in recent years, a third course was added for 2016 at OSU this summer. Registration for both the summer course, July 25-28, and the fall course, Sept. 19-22, is now available, and enrollment is limited. Learn more at

Wood Masters

Prior to its 2015 Traders Market, NAWLA hosted its first Wood Masters course for more than 30 branch and division managers, sales and business development professionals, and supply chain and operations professionals with more than four of experience. Through case studies, presentations and panel discussions, the sold-out course helped participants build their selling, negotiation and communication skills.

Of his experience, Philip Herman of Allweather Wood/Humboldt Redwood said, “Negotiation is a skill like any other that needs to be practiced to become proficient. I think this is a great area to review. I will certainly apply the information in my daily work.” “All areas were beneficial,” agreed Dean Hartnell of Sherwood Lumber Company.  “(Wood Masters) helped me identify the different types of customers and how to ask better questions.”

This popular class returns Oct. 24-26, 2016, in conjunction with the 2016 Traders Market in Las Vegas at The Mirage. The agenda for this two-day course will focus on advanced selling and negotiation skills to instruct attendees about enhancing assertive communication, identifying and eliminating flaws in their negotiation profiles, and increasing the efficiency of their prospecting and time management efforts. 

Sessions will focus on the nuances of conducting business in the lumber industry, from developing a prospecting guide to sharpening phone and email communications. Wood Masters will also feature panel discussions with lumber executives and industry experts. With job-specific training in areas that directly contribute to the organization’s bottom line, your more experienced professionals will appreciate the opportunity to hone their skills alongside peers at Wood Masters.

Because this unique training takes place immediately before Traders Market, NAWLA encourages sales professionals, traders, and other lumber professionals with three or more years of experience to attend this course to maximize their development opportunities.  Forest industry professionals can register now through the NAWLA website,

Executive Management Institute (EMI)

Training the next generation of your business’ leadership showcases your company’s commitment to professional development at all levels while helping to solidify a company’s succession plans and develop essential skills.

For those experienced managers, NAWLA offers Executive Management Institute (EMI), which will take place Sept. 19-22, 2016, at OSU alongside Wood Basics. Participants of this four-day course will learn about their role as an executive and how to manage legal issues, customers, inventory, sales and marketing. In an effort to showcase the real-world applicability of this course, each participant is encouraged to bring key issues and first-hand experiences to discuss throughout the course.

2015 EMI attendee, Dan Semsak of Pacific Woodtech Corporation, said, "The financial training will help me to better prepare for Board meeting discussions and financial analysis of investments in operations. I will also be working toward better supply chain management. Those areas were most helpful."

Industry experts and experienced instructors will be on hand, guiding participants through courses that detail every aspect of running a successful company—from establishing the right company culture and philosophy and practice of leadership, to contract and HR law, EMI covers everything a manager would need to know to keep a business thriving.

"Attending the EMI has given me a more well-rounded view of the business principles required to set goals, delegate accordingly to reach those goals, and incentivizing fairly and properly to maintain a high level of employee focus and morale," said Mike Lind of National Industrial Lumber Company.

Only one seat remains for the 2016 course, so those interested in attending should register soon at


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