Teams That Train Together, Stay Together


The benefits of employee training seem obvious: well-trained staffers do their jobs more effectively and develop skills needed to advance along their career path. What’s more, savvy managers know that the results can help them meet key business objectives. According to PSMJ’s 2018 A/E Project Management Study, formal training programs improve client satisfaction and budget performance.

But firm leadership often overlooks one additional benefit of training: building a team spirit among staff members. This is especially true when the training is presented live to a group of employees at the same location, whether or not they work in the same discipline or department. Simply being in the same room, it seems, can go a long way toward building the type of team spirit that many managers find elusive in their organization.




While firms can chase this outcome by spending valuable resources on “team-building” exercises, PSMJ consultant and trainer Jay McRae says that, more often, a team develops ethos simply through the conditions imposed by the training process: employees are pulled away from their daily tasks and come together to focus jointly on a shared objective.

“Collaboration without the pressure of an active project and client demands provides an environment with a mix of social interaction along with the business purpose of skill building on common tasks for the group,” McRae says.




Don Mellott has seen this effect first-hand. A principal at BCRA Design in Tacoma, WA, he is primarily responsible for training programs offered to the firm’s 90-person staff. He says the key to team-building through training is to give employees a chance to escape what the writer Charles Hummel called “the tyranny of the urgent.”

“For a lot of people, it’s a welcome opportunity to get away from emails and deadlines,” Mellott says. “It gives people time to really think about the problems they face and to realize that everyone in the room shares the same challenges.”

He notes that his firm has held PSMJ Boot Camps in-house, and that they use this experience as a “touch point” to build on and reinforce in their own training programs. Importantly, he says, the firm never deliberately creates training designed to build teams: “We’re convinced the best way to build a team is simply by getting people to focus on a common problem or objective. It’s a natural outgrowth of getting everyone together in the same room. Otherwise, people can forget we’re all working toward the same goals.”




Jay McRae says the training often works this way in part because the group develops a common language and terminology during the training.

“When people speak the same language, it allows for process improvements to be made quickly without leaving someone behind,” he says. “If the training was fun or there was a joke that came out of it, this will become part of the group’s vernacular going forward. As trainers, we’re always looking for this type of impact because we believe it yields business results.”