Training your employees can be costly – it takes lots of money and inevitably takes time away from production. Even worse is the fact that the better you train your employees, the more attractive they are to your competitors. But what is the alternative? Untrained employees cost you money in poor sales and production quality. Businesses with stagnant employees will tend to have slow or negative business growth.
The good news is that it’s easier than you think to properly train your employees, and the bottom line is, if you want a vibrant growing company, you need to invest in training.
The most important training is frequent, simple and short internal training. A cleaning and restoration business should make education a part of its culture by touching this simple mode of training weekly, or even daily. The biggest hurdle to putting this into action is by trying to make it too complex.
Keep your internal training simple. One of the best approaches is to use training materials you already have:
- Cover important points from industry standards, a page or two at a time
- Discuss useful articles from industry magazines (like ICS!)
- Go over user guides for the equipment used in your business , especially moisture meters, which are so commonly misused and misunderstood
- Review MSDSs of common chemicals used in your business
- Look over selected pages from a recent training course that someone attended
- Analyze job records from a recent project to critique the outcome
Setting up a training session like this is simple. Just make enough copies of the page for all the attendees, and pass them out. Then the leader will hit what he or she think is the two or three most important things in the document. Allow the group to discuss the points brought up by the leader. And be sure to end with action points based on the discussion; for example, “Remember to mix the antimicrobial at six ounces per gallon – check the label if you’re not sure.”
After the session is over, have all the attendees sign in on the back of an extra copy of the handout. Put a date and time on the handout and file it with the training records (more on this later). If this is a daily session, the whole training session shouldn’t need more than 10 minutes. For a weekly session, shoot for less than 1 hour. Don’t let the sessions drag on.
Another way to enhance the training in your company is to take advantage of online training. This kind of training can be done right in your facility at a time that suits your business. The person(s) participating in the training just sits down in front of a computer and logs in to the training. This training would typically have more depth than a company’s internal training, and also has the advantage of being self-paced. You can assign your staff to work their way through the program as they are available – no need to take the whole group out of production to sit through training sessions.
Online training typically costs between $20–$150 per hour. Be aware that you “get what you pay for” when it comes to online training. The lowest level of training is usually a talking head or a static slide presentation with a person talking in the background. You get very little value from this kind of presentation.
Better online training programs incorporate some interactivity – quiz questions and the like. The best online training programs utilize interactivity throughout the program, including videos and regular feedback about user’s progress. Many programs can return a score to the manager, which can be a meaningful part of your evaluation of your employee’s progress.
If you want your employees to retain and implement the information they are receiving from online training, preview the training and make sure it is worth the employee’s time, and be prepared to pay for the more expensive products. Also, you should have an out-of-the-way place in your office for the employee to do the training where they won’t be distracted.
These are the training courses that we are all familiar with. An instructor comes from out of town who is an expert in the subject. The program often includes a couple of days of instruction and possibly a certification exam at the end of the program.
This kind of training is common in the industry – but be sure that you are getting the most bang for your buck here as well. Is the instructor of the program someone you want your people learning from? Is your goal for your employee simply to get certified? Or do you want them to learn more advanced concepts that they can use in your business?
The bottom line on live training is that it matters who is teaching and what is being taught. If your employees are coming back after three days of training without improved skills, something is wrong.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Each of the training methods discussed here has value. A student who wants to learn can learn in any setting. But there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to each (Chart 1)
Follow-up is Key
So, you just spent time, money and effort to train your employees – are they implementing what they learned? Do a short follow up to the training. Ask them to explain two or three things they learned from the session. Ask what they will do differently because of what they learned. Finally, ask them a week later if they have done it.
This kind of follow-up does two things for your business: it shows that you care that the employees grow in their positions, and it shows that you are not going to let these things fall through the cracks. As a leader in your business, you should check up on your employees to be sure that they aren’t wasting your training dollars.
Documentation is Important
Many business owners and managers have no method for documenting what training the employees have had. They just count on a good memory to get them through. The old adage applies here as well: If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.
Training documentation would be helpful in an employee’s personnel file. When employee issues come up, documentation can make for better communication to solve an employee issue. Should more drastic measures be needed (i.e. terminating the employee), more documentation shows that you did your best to train the employee. This can save on your unemployment insurance.
Many small businesses are a little too busy to have a complex system of training and training documentation, so let me suggest a simple approach. Set up a file in your office called the “training file.” When doing in-house training, simply copy the handout used in the session, date it, and have everyone who is present sign in on the handout. At the conclusion of the training, place the handout with everyone’s name in the “training file.” When employees take an offsite course, make a copy of the certificate and place it in the “training file.” When a team member takes an online course, there should be some certificate of completion or receipt – a copy of which should go in the “training file.”
If and when issues come up where you need to use the documentation in the “training file”, an administrative person can go through the file and find what training has been provided to the employee.
I’m more in favor of this kind of filing system than something more complex for a number of reasons, but chiefly because having a great training documentation system doesn’t bring money directly to the bottom line and may not be necessary. So, keep it simple.
Train Your Employees
Industry pioneer Bob Bonwell always says, “You can’t outperform your knowledge.” In cleaning and restoration businesses across the world today, we expect employees to magically know what to do – even though they have not been trained adequately. If we give our employees a little more knowledge, they will be able to perform better and grow into the kind of teammates we want.
With such a wide variety of training options available now in our industry, there is no reason why we can’t grow our teams through training.