In the beginning of my work career, just my brother, Richie, and I attended advanced training at my company. After all, we were never going to leave the company, unlike the possibility that one of our employees might get this costly training and then leave us.
Did I say we were smart or thinking ahead at this point in our lives?… No!
What happened is when Richie and I went to Fireye® controls training in the Boston area, as an example, we were the only ones who would then be capable of handling the big commercial boilers when the client would call. Lucky us!
Nope, not really.
That’s because we had commercial and industrial accounts that operated 24/7/365, and despite our having four rotating crews of 4 Techs on until 2 AM, they would get to a job like this and have to call… you guessed it… Al or Richie.
Well, we hated that. Especially when they called us in the middle of the night or over the weekend. They were on a paid shift, mind you, and not On-Call. But they were stuck, and we blamed them for not knowing what to do.
Remember, it was our decision to not send them to the same training we had gone to.
Well, Richie and I may not have been forward thinking about this policy, but we were not dumb, and we quickly woke up to the reality that only by sending our Techs to the same training and seminars we attended could they ever be as effective as they needed to be.
We finally wrote our manuals and built our training center to handle the day-to-day scenarios and do training in-house, not in our customers’ basements. That was a good thing, but it still left a gap from residential to both commercial and industrial applications, and that was because we couldn’t simulate everything in the hands-on training center.
Recognizing this gap, we worked out a solution that I teach clients to this day. That technique was to go to our key commercial customers and say the following to them:
“I want to run a class after hours at your place of business so I can train more of our Techs on your equipment here. So, I will do your annual tune-up and get the equipment into peak operating condition that will save you money and make it less likely to break down which we both know happens usually at the worst time.
Plus, if an issue arises in the future, there will be more of us who can respond and know what we’re doing so you will have a better chance of getting back up and running sooner.
So, does this work for you?”
I never got a “No” and everyone else who’s now done the same thing I taught them has ever gotten a no.
My question to you is, why haven’t you sent your staff to the training they need? I ask that because if you’re the only one, as the owner or senior manager, who goes to training, that’s a big problem.
Here’s the frequently asked questions (aka FAQs) I get from owners who haven’t yet bought into sending everyone to never-ending training:
Q: What if I train them and they leave?
A: What if you don’t train them and they stay!
Q: Training costs money, doesn’t it?
A: Mistakes cost you more money because when employees are not trained properly, mistakes will happen, and they tend to cost a lot of time, energy, and money to fix. In fact, good training always helps pay for itself by maximizing good sales and good work while minimizing mistakes and callbacks.
Q: Why don’t they show initiative and train on their own time and with their own money?
A: To make training mandatory and to show your staff how important it is, you need to pay for training and ongoing meetings that reinforce training on things like manuals and hands-on skills both for the office staff and the field staff.
Q: Are all forms of training solely at the Owner’s expense and what about if the employee leaves after they attend certain training?
A: Not necessarily so. I’m not saying it’s a guarantee so check with your trusted advisors. Here are two scenarios that I have found in general tend to hold up:
- Scenario #1: If you’re offering a career and not just a job and have a full blown Apprentice to Tech training program tied to Salary Levels, then you can have the attendee sign off that they volunteer to attend this training. Believe it or not, in pretty much all the states I’ve worked in this has worked out. (The reason it’s held up is because an Apprentice would have to pay to go to a Technical School out of their own pocket and graduate and not be assured of a job, let alone the opportunity to make more money. You’d be providing the facility to train, the training resources, and the instructor’s time at no cost to them.) Note: When I say Apprentice, I’m not talking about union or state definitions of what is an Apprentice or Journeyman or even licensing. That’s different.
- Scenario #2: You’re sending them out for training that may or may not cost money to attend but will certainly have travel costs and wages to be paid as applicable. In this case, I highly recommend that they sign off on a form that if they leave the company in 6 months or 1 year that they have to reimburse the company.
Know that the more you train your staff (both the office staff and the field staff) the better the customer will be served, the better it will be for the company, and the better it will be for you, the owner.
I will also share that when we awakened to the idea that our staff should be going to this training and trade shows with us, the more pride they took in being a part of our company and in themselves. They looked around and quickly saw that very few of our competitors were investing in their staff like we were. It helped to make us the “Employer of Choice” as well as a big part of why we had such a low turnover of staff.