Charter Consultant Architects employs more than 100 staff across five offices, with a diverse portfolio of work. In 1999 it became one of the first UK architects' practices to be awarded Investors in People status, partly in recognition for the way the offices and staff interact across the group, but also because of the emphasis put on individual staff training.
While six-monthly staff appraisals are used to set general training needs, it is often difficult to find training companies willing to work across the practice's five offices, that are able to assess individual staff requirements accurately and match them to tailored learning. It is important for Charter that the staff are trained to the right level of competence to reach, or exceed, project requirements and client expectations.
Staff have been a key part of the practice's success. The roles they play in each project, and the way they communicate their skills and ideas to others, are critical.
As computer software has become a vital tool in all areas, the importance of having an IT-literate staff, communicating to clients, external consultants and other staff across all five offices, has become essential.
The practice has previously used external trainers, mixed with semi-formalised internal peer training, in each office, but it became frustrated by the lack of consistency in assessing what staff already knew, and what they needed to know, and in comparing skill needs between staff within inter-office project teams. It became clear that a pan-office approach was required.
Charter welcomed the opportunity to work with cadtest on the trials of its new software, and asked 70 staff to take the test across all of the offices during a three to four-week period. The results showed that Charter achieved above-average industry scores, but, more importantly, it enabled the practice to assess individual staff skills and knowledge, and will now form the basis for future training. The tests also helped to establish office champions, sometimes surprising staff by making them realise that they knew more or less than they had assumed previously.
Charter recognises that a marginal improvement in the use of CAD among the staff will have a dramatic effect on overall productivity for the practice. By using consistent testing, it has been possible to establish comparative performance data between the staff and offices, which have, for the first time, enabled the practice to tailor specific training to individuals' needs, and by permitting re-testing at set periods, to establish the benefits the training has had.