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Kicking it off: Preseason winter meetings

  • SIMA
- Posted: September 1, 2014

By Phil Harwood, CSP

Snow businesses face unique challenges related to staffing, training and controlling operations. One of the best ways to address these challenges is to conduct an annual snow kickoff meeting.

Who should attend?
Everyone involved in snow operations should be invited - if not required - to attend. This includes all field labor, drivers, supervisors, managers, dispatchers and administrative personnel. A separate meeting should be held for subcontractors so that a clear distinction is maintained between employees and subcontractors.

In companies with multiple field offices, hold meetings at each field office or combine offices on a regional basis. In my experience, smaller meetings promote better learning and more open communication.

Senior management and ownership should be present to send the message that these meetings aren’t just another checklist item.

When should it be held?
The meeting should be held before the first snow or ice event to avoid any confusion or major mistakes during the first run. Customers will remember the first and last storms. A major error on the first run can damage reputations and negatively affect client retention. It’s better to start strong and reinforce positive customer perceptions than to have to apologize for a poor debut.

Most snow kickoff meetings should be held in late October or early November (timing is market dependent). If the meeting is scheduled any later there’s a possibility of snow or ice. If it’s held earlier memory loss may occur. Plus, many decisions may not have been made regarding customers, staffing, assignments, etc.

Where should it be held?
The meeting should be held in a place that is convenient and promotes learning.

  • If presentations or videos are shown, provide comfortable seating, along with a large screen and projector. Lighting should be controllable to allow the screen to be visible. A sound system may need to be set up so the audio can be heard clearly.
  • If training or demonstrations are planned, equipment should be prepared and available. All of this requires advanced planning. The place, space and logistics play an important part in a successful meeting. 
  • Another reason for the meeting may be to complete new hire paperwork and provide an orientation for new hires. If this is the case, I recommend holding this portion of the meeting afterward so existing staff members don’t end up sitting through material that doesn’t apply to them. 
Training time
Hands-on training and watching SIMA training videos may be part of the meeting. Even experienced operators will benefit from reviewing best practices. Experienced employees may also be instrumental in sharing site-specific information with newer employees.

Save plenty of time for questions and create an environment in which people are comfortable asking questions. Having smaller groups will make a big difference in this regard.

An effective kickoff meeting will not only be a productive learning experience, but it will also be fun. This meeting is an opportunity to celebrate past success, recognize individuals for achievements, and enjoy each other’s company. Adding  food or even games may turn a good meeting into a great one.

The meeting should be an annual event on your company’s calendar. With good planning and execution, it will be a much-anticipated event and a great way to get everyone on the same page before the winter season begins. 

What should be on the agenda?
The reason for the kickoff meeting is to educate and inform those involved about policies and procedures for snow & ice operations. The specific agenda will depend on what issues are most important to the company holding the meeting. The following is a partial list of topics:
  • Contact information
  • Weather monitoring
  • Snow watch
  • On-call expectations
  • Mobilization
  • Fueling
  • Loading
  • Vehicle inspections
  • Truck assignments
  • Routing assignments
  • Equipment usage
  • Pre-event paperwork
  • Personal preparation and readiness
  • Communications
  • Snow scenarios
  • Material usage
  • Plowing techniques
  • Sidewalk clearing techniques
  • Deicing techniques
  • Working in teams
  • Accident procedures
  • First aid
  • Lunch breaks and restroom usage
  • Post-event paperwork
  • Payroll processing
  • Questions & answers
Phil Harwood, CSP, is the founder and president of Pro-Motion Consulting.
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