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Train to retain

By:
  • Dale Keep
- Posted: August 8, 2017
In today’s snow and ice control business, it is common to have a customer who desires an ice-free surface but has concerns regarding the environmental impact of using deicers. Meeting these challenges while working toward customer satisfaction, staying ahead of competition and still having an acceptable profit margin can be tricky.

Training geared toward specific needs and challenges can be a good investment. Sticking with old habits based on the attitude of “that is how we have always done it,” and not receiving training when working with advanced tools or work methods can be fatal to a business during times of industry change. Good training followed by a planned company implementation process can deliver a skilled workforce that can be competitive in the marketplace.

Approach employee training with top-down support, which means more than just paying for it. It means management should prioritize making the necessary changes to reinforce the importance of training. Often, however, nothing changes after quality training has been delivered due to lack of implementation efforts and encouragement on management’s part. This is a waste of time and money and can negatively impact workforce morale and keep the revolving door that frustrated employees walk out of turning.

Turnover’s negative impact
Implementing job training (OJT) and retraining procedures can prevent senior management from dropping the ball when new hires come on board. Without a plan, management may assume that the senior employees will take it upon themselves to train the new employees. The challenge is that this unofficial approach is unplanned, unstructured and does nothing to verify what was taught or learned. If structured and done properly, OJT is an outstanding supplement to classroom training and an excellent way to help the new employee gain experience under guidance. However, OJT must be planned and approached with organized, incremental goals in mind. Incremental documentation must be provided by the OJT instructor, showing that those goals were achieved.

The missed need for training due to employee turnover is often reinforced by asking, usually out of habit, senior workers about their thoughts on the need for training on a specific subject matter rather than asking a newer employee. When this happens, the odds are high that the senior employee will not consider the turnover that has taken place and state that training has been provided. The answer is often different when entry level staff is asked. Talking to less senior employees can not only identify training needs but also verify the quality or lack of OJT.

Planning
Training, like purchasing equipment or making other investments, must be planned to maximize success. Planning must involve defining the desired training, providing it, and implementing what was learned after training. Planning will assure the right subject matter is identified and the best trainer is provided to teach employees. This planning process should include employee input. This team effort will not only provide the desired training on identified subjects, but will also provide a valuable heads-up on who should attend and why and expected results when complete. Key planning considerations include the following:

Subject Matter Selection
Identify your subject matter training needs in detail. Talk to key employees and obtain their input. Include this input with management’s thoughts on training needs to develop the training goals and/or questions to be answered during the training session(s).
Actively seek the trainer you feel is best qualified to meet your training needs. While discussing your specific needs with the potential trainer, be sure to co-author and agree upon a list of the training goals to be accomplished and questions to be addressed.

Delivery

Consider the type of training and how it is to be delivered. With today’s technologies, many types of training are available. No one method is best; decide what is best for your specific subject matter, business and needs. An obvious example is equipment operations training. Training of this type requires classroom time to cover theory of operations, including the how’s and why’s; but also hands-on time to get familiar with the machine and to gain basic operational skills to operate the equipment safely. The goal is to get them familiar enough that they can gain experience on their own, often through OJT guidance. This type of training requires an instructor with classroom presentation and hands-on skills.

Train to retain sized
Hands-on Time Equipment training should include classroom training as well as hands-on experience.

Financial/Expenses

Training is often viewed as an expense rather than investment - an investment that when made and followed up with an implementation plan usually provides a good return on investment (ROI). Regardless of how good the training and or trainer is, training is mostly useless without implementation and follow-up. With regular training and implementation in place, a business will nearly always see a return on their investment. Training can minimize accidents, lower insurance costs, improve productivity and quality of service, and more - all of which may likely outweigh your initial investment.

Still not sold on the benefits?

There are many benefits to quality, well-planned training, including smoother operations, ROI, employee satisfaction, employee flexibility with cross training, and an environment of overall knowledge transfer.

During a recent training I was conducting, the subject of employee attitude came up. One of the attendees asked: “Why did a previous company pay for training and then always let one person ruin it with their attitude and actions?” The answer, according to those in attendance, was that even though this person was stuck in their ways, had a bad attitude and did not want to change, he was given a pass because he worked hard and had been around for a long time. After some discussion, it became clear that this individual was sent to this training class in hopes that it would address the issues that employee evaluation, counseling and perhaps disciplinary action had not. To be clear, this is neither the responsibility of nor the purpose of training. But this example is a clear one of why training matters (and how inattention to morale and culture can be divisive among the ranks).

Training, when approached correctly, is an investment in your company’s future. Every effort should be made to ensure it is well planned, well presented and that everyone is attending because they desire to learn.

Culture solutions

  • Training requires top-down support and reinforcement from management.
  • Establish training plans that must be followed, starting with Day 1. 
  • Don’t rely on team members to remember who has been trained. Document all training.
  • Look at training as an investment not an expense. Done well, it will deliver ROI and increase morale.
Dale Keep owns Ice & Snow Technologies, a training and consulting company based in Walla Walla, WA. Email him at dalekeep@charter.net.
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