- THE MAGAZINE
Worm Island; U.S. Naval Base, San Diego, CA – Although I had worked with the floor crew of a local school for summer work my sophomore year of high school, my first real encounter with floor training came in boot camp, July 1972, and it went something like this.
It was early morning and I was at the naval base dental office waiting for a basic exam with several other sailors when the Chief Petty Officer in charge entered the room in a huff and bellowed out, “Lads, we’re gonna have a field day”- the terminology for the cleaning of the building. He quickly and deliberately pointed his finger at each sailor and issued an order of what each was to do. When he finally pointed at me and yelled in a stereotypical drill sergeant rant, “Lad, you get that floor machine and buff this floor,” I looked at him in fear and responded, “Sir, I don’t know how to run that machine, Sir.” “Well lad,” he roared “it’s easy, you lift the handle up, it goes right, you push it down it goes left, now heave too sailor and do it, do it, do it!” It was a narrow hall and after a couple hundred feet and three rather significant encounters with the wall, I successfully mastered the rotary floor machine.
Obviously this was not a structured training and if the damage I exacted there was in a commercial civilian setting I would have been fired. Nevertheless, it was the way I learned and the sad truth is that many floor maintenance technicians have learned in variations of the same manner. That being said, the past does not equate the future and the hard floor maintenance industry is changing, it’s not just “mopping and waxing” anymore, it’s a profession, and as a profession, it has a career development path.
The traditional method of learning in our industry has come in the form of on-the-job training. A senior technician will take the novice under the wing and teach increments of the job as they work together and over several months or years the novice develops. It is a tried and tested method that has worked for service industries for thousands of years. The primary drawback is that the novice will only learn what the senior technician knows, which may be limited information that does not lead to satisfying the requirements of other career opportunities. Today the hard floor maintenance industry is changing and due to the many categories and classifications of hard flooring materials used, technicians are required to learn much more about the floors and their maintenance than they ever had in the past. The limitations of on-the-job training can be overcome by reaching beyond the basic skills into an educational career path. The career path of the successful technician follows three distinct types of learning and applies to the various aspects of their job at different intervals of their career.
Training, the teaching of repetitious basic skills, is acquired first as a matter of performing the operational service procedures to generate revenue. Training will encompass the proper understanding and use of chemicals, equipment, tools and materials that are required for the job and the service procedures they apply to. Basic training ensures that the technician is operationally competent and can perform the service procedures correctly and consistently in a safe manner. Basic skills can come from any number of sources - flooring manufacturers, equipment and chemical manufacturers, associations, etc. Most basic skills courses will be limited in time and the technician will receive a “Certificate of Attendance” or “Certificate of Completion,” which will verify that the technician has taken the course and understands the material presented in that course. The technician will use these skills and become more proficient with time. The end result of basic training is that the technician will be competent to read a work order and perform the learned service procedures on the work order without supervision.
As the technician advances on their career path, instruction becomes the method of learning. Instruction helps the technician learn how to solve problems with the knowledge they’ve attained through various training sessions. Instruction goes beyond learning how to perform basic service procedures and gets into how to use what they have learned to resolve similar situations. As the technician’s knowledge and skills grow they become more valuable because they can troubleshoot situations and come up with solutions. As an entrepreneur, this becomes a selling point. As an employee, it becomes a wage point. Instruction is often taught by neutral third-party, non-biased entities and result in a certification for the topic being taught. Technicians can increase their value considerably by being certified in the maintenance of flooring materials.
Education is a continual structured path that leads to many different advanced levels for the floor maintenance technician. Continued education is advanced education focused on business development, management, sales and administration. These skills apply to floor maintenance, but in a different manner. Most often these skills can be acquired at conventions, seminars and colleges and universities. They may be offered independently or as part of a curriculum for a degree. These are the most structured courses and, upon completion, a certification or even a degree may be offered. In the future we may expect to see an associate’s degree in floor maintenance and who knows where it may go from there.
Although floor maintenance would appear to be rather simplistic, it is actually complex just like any other profession. At the probationary technician level, the technician is just trying to figure out the individual company’s policies and procedures, roles and responsibilities and chain of command. As they advance into the apprenticeship role they start learning how to understand and perform service procedures for different flooring materials. The skilled journeyman can help to evaluate situations and find solutions to problems. This may transcend into leadership such as crew leaders, supervisors and managers. Advanced education may then open the doors for entrepreneurism or running large building service contractor crews. Anyway you look at it learning for the hard floor maintenance professional is the ticket to get on the career path to success.