By Angela Cenzalli, CSP
Aristotle said, “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.” Those words ring true in the snow industry, where hands-on, repetitive experiences are paramount to successful employee education. The State of the Industry survey results affirm the idea that operators respond well to visual training, especially when taught by their peers.
Three steps of peer training
Using the following progression allows the trainee to experience the full picture of a technique or a company’s operating methodology:
1. Trainee in the passenger seat. With a peer trainer, the trainee learns the route, the feel of the equipment, reviews safety aspects, and reinforces what they may have learned in the classroom or through video training.
2. Trainee in the driver’s seat. This allows the trainee to organize his thoughts and motions and act on them. In the passenger seat, the peer trainer offers support, guidance and correction as needed.
3. Observe another operator from a different vehicle. The trainee and peer trainer discuss what they are seeing. Is the operator following the plan? What are they doing correctly or incorrectly? This viewpoint gives the trainee an opportunity to be in the situation, but just far enough out of it to see the training in action.
Choosing peer trainers
Key operators or managers who worked their way up and have first-hand knowledge of each employee level are the best candidates to serve as peer trainers. They possess the skill sets for the operational aspect of the job, and have a greater understanding of the specific property and client’s needs. They understand not only the “how” of doing it, but also the “why.”
Training the trainer
Preparing the trainer to provide peer-to-peer education is important but easily overlooked, because we often choose reliable employees who possess the knowledge and experience. You’ve chosen them for their experience in the field, but don’t discount the need for communications and leadership training for your trainers.
Benefits of ride-alongs
Classroom training has its place, especially when it comes to company philosophy, equipment policies, response time, general safety, and general plow and sander operations. However, few people have the capacity to learn something by lecture or video and then go out and replicate it.
Most of us learn through repetitive motions. For this reason, pre- and post-storm checklists, detailed equipment operations, and actual plowing or sanding sequencing are better topics for hands-on training. For example, riding in the truck gives the trainer the opportunity to share the nuances of the activity, such as the feel of the blade riding on the pavement, and the motion and movement of pushing the snow at the end of the run.
One of the most challenging aspects of our business is that even the best landscape or building plans will not include every item. They may not show speed bumps or dumpster locations, and most definitely won’t include client-specific requests. Trainees learn and remember more about these nuances from a ride-along than they can by just looking at the site map.
A ride-along gives the trainer a chance to make sure the trainee not only knows how to run the equipment, but that he really knows everything he needs to about the specific property. Trainees may also feel more comfortable asking questions of their peers in this type of environment rather than in a classroom setting.
Training is challenging for the snow & ice management business, because nothing is ever the same. Utilizing peer-to-peer training and ride-alongs in your training program will engage your trainees and give them the tools to truly become part of a team of excellence.
Angela Cenzalli, CSP, is the account manager for Plymouth, Cape & Islands for Fairway Lawn Care Corp.