Training Best Practices to Build Success
GRIFFIN VOLTMANN, Certification Manager, QualityPro
If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s the resiliency of the pest management industry, and the importance of solid training practices. We’ve seen QualityPro companies thrive during complicated circumstances by holding to the same battle-tested standards of excellence that have marked our program from the beginning. As we move into the new year, we sat down with Nancy Troyano PhD, BCE, Director of Operations Education and Training for Rentokil, to learn more about how her company applies QualityPro’s standards and training best practices to build success from the individual up to the company level.
Building In Cross-Training Early
In the pest management industry, "cross-training" can have several meanings. While we’ll be discussing training across multiple departments in a company, Nancy was quick to point out the value in also training technicians across multiple areas of specialization—her example being termite specialists training in other areas so they can continue to work during the winter. This applies to other specializations as well, since not only can a basic understanding of general pest management help build expertise in the specific services technicians are licensed to perform, it also opens them up to continue working between being called to perform their specialized services.
Beyond training technicians to perform services, Nancy emphasized the importance of showing new hires the "full picture" of company operations as part of the onboarding process. "It essentially does two things: it shows the new colleagues how all of the moving parts work together toward the common goal and it also provides them with an appreciation for the roles that their coworkers play." Tensions can rise in any work setting where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, and Rentokil is not the first company we’ve spoken to who’s seen value in showing technicians what happens in the office, and sending office employees and CSRs out into the field on ride alongs. Communication and cohesion build productivity and retention and the best time to set these practices in is during the training and onboarding process. "Training and development of all colleagues in an operation should take place at regular intervals. While the focus will be primarily on development in a specific role, it is important to show colleagues how their role fits into a bigger picture."
Training and Retention Go Hand-In-Hand
QualityPro’s Career Pathway Model relies on identifying employee strengths, moving them along a training path that reinforces and capitalizes on those strengths. We suggest this approach because it works, primarily by emphasizing an employee’s confidence and investment in what they’re doing for the company. This is not to say that once an employee has identified a strength or specialty they’d like to pursue that other paths should be closed to them—on the contrary, exposing employees to new possibilities for them within the company is an excellent way to retain talented, trained employees. Nancy sees this as an upfront investment in an employee and emphasized that "providing opportunities for cross training can be an engagement tool for employees—especially those who have mastered their current roles and are looking to diversify their skill sets or take on additional responsibilities." You want your teammates to know how they can chart their whole career inside your company, otherwise, when they are looking for a change, they might look outside.
We asked to what extent Rentokil reinvests in employees and specifically their training, and Nancy told us that the two keywords they live by are training and communication. Training all employees to a set standard improves the sense of group cohesion "as these colleagues experience the same challenges and can build relationships with one another, providing a sense of camaraderie and the security of knowing that they are not alone in their day to day." The communication element exists across specializations and departments—if the company begins providing a new service, it doesn’t just impact the technicians providing it. CSRs will need to understand how to communicate it to customers, and other technicians will need to understand the service to see if it’s one they’d like to train for. Breaking down silos between departments opens employees’ eyes to further possibilities within the same company, increasing both team cohesion and retention down the line.
We asked Nancy if there were any lessons learned from her training program that other businesses could use to assess their own employee training and career pathway. Her advice broke down along these lines:
Don’t train too much at once. The first priority should always be the basics needed to perform services effectively (basic training) and then efficiently (advanced training). Giving too much training upfront may overwhelm the learner and will impact how well they retain the material. Spread the training out over the first six months to a year. Keep adult learning principles in mind—regardless of the topic. Remember that adults learn best through hands-on practice, so whether it’s servicing customers or using new software in the office, it’s essential to incorporate practice. While online learning and classroom instruction holds value in a training program, having a structured and robust practical component with identified critical skills to be demonstrated by the learner is essential to ensure they are ready to perform work independently and effectively. "A trainee who is comfortable in their new skills is more likely to be successful and therefore retained."
Don’t make the training pathway too complicated. Including basic and advanced level training is a good framework, then add in cross training and supervisor or manager training. Don’t have too many layers or levels because it becomes hard to track and may discourage employees from finishing their training.
Train for the next level, for when a supervisor or manager position opens up. Be prepared with trained employees ready to move up the path once positions open up, and make sure that institutional knowledge is preserved among multiple employees in similar jobs. The same goes for cross-training. Have employees cross-trained in positions that require competent staffing at all times so that you are not in a compromised position if someone leaves the company. And know that not everyone is cut out for managing people. It’s best to help someone discover that about themselves in a training environment, rather than after they have been promoted. Especially if you are a small business owner wearing all the hats, think about responsibilities your employees can take on for the company that don’t involve managing their peers. Things like safety, fleet management and inventory can offer opportunities for advancement without needing to be a supervisor of colleagues.
Continue to develop your employees. "Remember that training is lifelong and that regardless of how good someone is at their job there is always room for improvement." When employees have mastered their role, consider cross-training them to maintain their engagement and to strengthen your workforce. Have routine check ins and annual goal setting so you are sure to take time to know what strengths each individual wants to work on and utilize.
Even as companies are continuing to keep people separate, all of the principles here still apply. You may have to be creative, incorporating videos to replace some of the experiences that used to be side-by-side. Building a team through mostly online training can be difficult, but the effort is worth it for the retention and employee satisfaction benefits. Make sure that your company is using the training resources and the employee career pathway available through QualityPro to give your team a strong foundation, flexibility and room to grow.