ICS Magazine

Is Training Always the Answer?

December 10, 2002
When it comes to problem solving, there is more than one method to choose from.

When a cleaning business finds itself facing problems, someone inevitably promotes training as the ideal solution. Perhaps it is, but before zeroing in on this as your salvation, slow down and examine your specific problem very carefully.

Keep in mind that there are other methods available for solving business problems that may be easier, less expensive and possibly better to address your situation that should be considered before making a decision that training is the way to go. If a problem is defined as an inconsistency between existing conditions and the desired condition in your business, I suggest three reliable ways of arriving at a solution:

Redefine Company Values
You can change expectations, goals, policies or even company priorities so that existing conditions will fit your revised values for your company. This is an option, but perhaps not the best.

Change Environmental Conditions
You can rearrange, change or modify equipment and/or the materials being used. You can develop or acquire a completely different system, and you certainly can change personnel.

Train People
After carefully considering every aspect of the first two possibilities and finding no solution, then it is time to consider teaching new skills and introducing new concepts, as well as bringing new behavior and attitude requirements to bear for those willing to modify their present ones.

The problem of “what should I do now?” is the single most common challenge to a new and growing carpet-cleaning service. New owners may start as a two-person team. But lots of hard work and plenty of attention to pleasing customers later, all of a sudden there are six additional employees.

This sounds like success, and looks like success to outsiders, except that, with the addition of each employee, the profit ratio has been decreasing. A problem definitely exists. It is the obvious inconsistency between the present, out-of-balance costs of running the business compared to the desired costs of doing so.

It is quite clear to the owners that there is a serious problem. Owners often believe at this point that the employees are the problem. They clearly see a difference between their employees’ existing levels of efficiency and the desired levels.

On the other hand, employees are usually very content with existing conditions and in fact feel that they have been responsible for the company growth. And what about the customers? Are they satisfied? Apparently they are or the company would not be growing. On the other hand, will they continue to be satisfied if the owners change the level of services the customers have become accustomed to?

On first glance, training may seem to be the obvious means of resolving the difference between actual and desired performance. However, the situation is really not that simple for the owners. As the owner or manager examines his situation, there are several alternative means of resolving the problem that must be considered.

Redefine the Problem
A thorough examination of the situation might reveal that the decreased profit rate is, after all, acceptable. Perhaps the owner’s profit expectations are unrealistic at this growth level.

Change the Environmental Conditions
New or additional equipment with a higher efficiency level could be purchased. It’s possible that by reorganizing job assignments more efficiently, staff could be reduced without lowering service levels.

Increase Skills and Ability at all Levels
At this point training definitely becomes a consideration, but not technical training. The very first area to consider is the area all small business owners avoid like the plague: management training. Our industry is overflowing with technical training, followed closely by help with marketing. However, the area where training is woefully lacking is in the management arena. The reason is simple: no one attends these courses.

After carefully considering management training, only then is it time to consider teaching new skills, introducing new concepts, as well as new behavior and attitude requirements for those employees willing to modify their present ones.

It is my opinion that our industry’s focus on technical competency, accompanied by our casual disregard of available management guidance, is the number one contributor to the high level of failures in the cleaning business. The best place to find management help is through a good association. The International Society of Cleaning Technicians (ISCT) or the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration (ASCR) would be my recommendations.