(from the NAWLA special section of the May issue of BPD)
Repeated studies have shown the correlation between employee training and increased retention, performance and satisfaction. Each of those outcomes drive improved company performance through revenue growth, reduced costs or a combination of the two. Investing in professional development, and promoting that commitment to employee growth, can also provide a competitive advantage when recruiting new professionals to your company as well.
Most companies recognize the benefits of and need for such programs. For smaller companies, however, or those with dispersed workforces, a formal employee training program can be a complex and expensive venture.
In-house training, whether it’s developed by your own trainers or led by an outsourced expert, is a good option for larger teams who regularly require education on the same topic, such as customer service, or topics that are universally relevant for all employees, such as legal or regulatory topics.
For other scenarios, the most cost and time-effective way to build individual skill sets or competencies may be to find opportunities offered by third-party organizations that align to the personalized development objectives of your individual employees.
Within the forest products industry, the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) provides a suite of educational courses and events specifically for lumber industry professionals at various stages of their career. Through a combination of dedicated programs and education sessions at its events, NAWLA delivers highly relevant education in an environment that fosters relationship-building with fellow industry peers.
For New Industry Professionals
The four-day Wood Basics Course employs a blend of classroom training, field experience and university resources to introduce new hires to forest operations, sawmill production, transportation and sales, and negotiations, in a collaborative learning environment.
“Having been in the industry only one month, all of the information provided was of value to me,” said 2017 spring Wood Basics participant Austin Higgins of Tampa International Forest Products. “I especially enjoyed the discussions on forestry and mill operations – two subjects I was particularly unfamiliar with. I think this course is best suited for people who are very new to the lumber industry. Because of the open nature of our discussion, I never once felt behind or discouraged from asking questions.”
Hoss Peterson of Cedar Creek, another spring 2017 attendee, echoed those sentiments. “There was a ton of great information presented. The mill tour was a huge help, as were the informational lectures on the first day. I now have a deeper understanding of this industry, and feel it will be a great help to me to be able to talk the talk when I get back to my sales role.”
Due to the popularity of the Wood Basics Course, NAWLA has added a third course again for 2017. This summer, Virginia Tech will host the program for the first time. To learn more or register for the new summer course, July 17-20, 2017, or the fall course at Oregon State University (OSU), September 11-14, visit nawla.org. Enrollment is limited, and courses fill up quickly on a first-come, first served basis.
For the C-Suite
For those seeking to enhance their executive skills or prepare for an executive role, NAWLA the offers Executive Management Institute (EMI). In 2017, this four-day course will take place September 11-14 at OSU alongside Wood Basics. Instruction on topics such as managerial accounting, strategic marketing and branding, sales management and HR law will prepare attendees to oversee a successful organization.
“The depth of the next level will require a different set of thoughts,” said Sam Barranco, a senior account executive at Tampa International Forest Products and 2016 EMI participant. “Legal, hiring, firing, etc. The job of an executive will require an even deeper study. This overview is necessary.”
In addition to the insight attendees will gain from industry experts and experienced instructors, the small class size provides numerous opportunities to hold meaningful conversations with peers during the week.
“I was able to learn from the others in the group as well as from the instructors” said Kellie Radzik, chief financial officer at Snavely Forest Products and 2016 attendee. I asked others specific questions about the industry that I knew would not be covered in the sessions.”
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. Registration is now open for the 2017, and enrollment is limited to 16 attendees. Learn more and register now at nawla.org.
Each year, NAWLA also hosts a Leadership Summit for decision makers within the forest products industry. Through a combination of education sessions and networking activities, the event prepares attendees to grow their businesses, knowledge and networks.
Executives from companies such as BNSF Railroad, Gorman Brothers, Universal Forest Products and Trex Company led presentations at the 2017 event. They shared their perspectives and lessons learned on topics ranging from recruiting and retaining top talent to identifying and capitalizing on your competitive advantage. Through receptions and optional activities, participants discovered trends and best practices while strengthening their relationships with peers and industry leaders.
Of his 2017 experience, Paul D. Owen, President of Vanport International said, “Met new people, learned new ways of thinking and dealing with issues and solidified existing relationships.”
The 2018 Leadership Summit will take place April 8-10 at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas. Registration opens later this year.
For Experienced Professionals
NAWLA debuted a two-day Wood Masters course for industry professionals with at least three years of experience prior to the 2015 Traders Market. That year, the sold-out class focused on 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.”
In 2016, the course focused on advanced negotiation and memory skills to help participants retain their new-found knowledge once they returned to the office. “It (Wood Masters) enhanced my skills in learning how to effectively communicate with customers,” said 2016 participant Jerrett Long of Idaho Forest Group. “I found the (negotiation) tactics to be very helpful and found out how to identify these tactics and counter them with my own.”
The third annual Wood Masters will be hosted November 7-8. Once again, a combination of industry and subject-matter experts will employ case studies, presentations and group work to introduce and reinforce course topics.
Because this unique training takes place immediately before Traders Market in Chicago, NAWLA encourages sales professionals, traders, and other lumber professionals to maximize their development opportunities. Registration opens this June on the NAWLA website, www.nawla.org, and must be completed separately from the Traders Market registration.