ICS Magazine

Training Doesn't Happen by Accident!

October 9, 2007

Well-trained teams operate more smoothly, make fewer mistakes and generally have better attitudes than their untrained counterparts. This usually results in better production, greater profit margins and less costly turnover for the company.

The typical company-training program has four major parts: general company policies and procedures; job-specific policies and procedures; technical expertise; and continuing education.

General company orientation is that training every staff member needs in order to understand what is expected as a part of a specific company. Topics include things like hours of operation; grooming and dress codes; absentee policies; pay schedules; review frequency; organization structure and the like. This training should be performed within the first day or two after a new team member comes onboard. Your company handbook is the primary reference for this general orientation and will also serve as the refresher when things come up in the future. This training session or sessions should be formal and not left to chance. The old “here’s your handbook, read it and let me know if you have any questions” just doesn’t fill the bill.

Job-specific training will center more on individual job descriptions. The team member learns exactly what is expected of them. Topics covered would be in two parts, policies and procedures. Policies would include job specific items such as special dress rules, safely issues, reporting requirements, and the like. Procedure training includes detailed step-by-step descriptions of how the job is performed, things like calling ahead; greeting the clients; scoping the job; utilizing equipment and chemistry; special services included with each job; handling money and the like. Unless specifically planned and laid out to each team member, the simplest of procedures will be different in every case, leading to inconsistencies and inefficiencies.

Technical expertise is the critical area of thoroughly understanding the science and logic behind how the specific service is performed. This is generally covered in formalized training that may lead to certification or similarly recognized credentials. It is this training that really separates the true professionals from the fly-by-nights. By not only understanding how something is done (procedures) but also why it is done that way, the team member becomes a true expert and moves up a level to where he or she can solve challenges outside of the routines covered in the general everyday procedures.

Continuing education is that area of training where new advances in technology, new equipment, or reminders of seldom-used skills are introduced. Every business needs to stay on the leading technical edge of their chosen field as much as possible. If you are not constantly learning and staying abreast of the latest advances, you will find yourself obsolete before you know it. Another aspect of continuing education is cross training. Cross training is where team members learn to perform other jobs besides their own in order to provide coverage and efficiencies for planned or unplanned absences.

There are plenty of resources available to fuel an active training program: supplier workshops; association seminars and conventions; online or computer-based training programs; technical books and manuals; and equipment manufacturer workshops, to name a few. There are literally hundreds of IICRC-approved classes offered every year, both for certification training and continuing education. Lists of these classes are available on the Internet or from various industry sources such as trade magazines (like this one).

Training is really not an option; it will happen one way or the other. Either it is formal and planned, or it is trial and error. The latter technique can be very costly. To quote a long-time friend, the late Bob Wittkamp: “If you think training is expensive, try ignorance.” Every business plan should include a planned system for training the team. Training does not cost; it pays.