"Can you lead a session on how to create an effective training plan?" asked Angie Snow. She is the co-owner of Western Heating and Air. She is also a great trainer in her own right and a leader of Service Nation Alliance’s AB group for women in HVAC/R, so I was honored to receive the request. This article follows the essential notes from the training session completed, with a few stories for context and emphasis. Many ask, “What if I train my technicians/plumbers and they leave?” Or “What if you don’t train them and they stay on board?”
Four Keys to a Successful Training Plan
- Establish a Training Budget
I once was sitting across the table from an industry legend and we were discussing the challenge of companies providing little to no training. I made the observation that most companies have a budget line of 0.3% of less for training. For a two million dollar company, that only represents $6,000 in training funds. That means most of the training allocation is being put toward travel for free events for the business owner. If I’m a business owner that lives and dies by my budget, then 0.3% is going to be the training budget that I die by. It is simply not enough money to grow a successful company. The industry legend and I worked out the issue and after examining the empirical evidence, it became clear that a company has the most success when they budget 3% to 5% of their annual revenue toward the training of their team members.
- Training is an Implementation Tool
Contractors hire two types of people: the ones they know they will have to train and ones they hope have already been trained. Despite which person you hire, you will discover they still have to be trained to fit your standards. Use training as a tool. When done properly, it enhances results and reduces problems. Always provide consistent training for:
- Technical Skills – Trade specific skills such as troubleshooting and install techniques. Be sure to include the trade skills of your client service providers and admin experts.
- Communication Skills – This would be interpersonal development designed to boost powerful relationship and understanding, such as DISC personality profiles.
- Sales Skills – These are skills that directly improve the sales KPIs. That includes closing percentages, the average ticket, leads, and replacements.
- Business and Development Skills – These skills will help you forecast growth, set your prices, budget, negotiate pricing, understand your trade and position, and establish systems and procedures.
- Establish a Training Plan
A frustrated business owner once approached me saying, “Hey, Todd, I have this technician that is really struggling. His attitude is terrible and his sales are way below average. I’m thinking about firing him. Before I do, I think I’ll send him to your class to see if I can fix him. What do you think?”
I asked if he has another team member that has a good attitude and decent sales. The business owner responded that yes, he did. To his surprise, I told him he needed to send the successful team member to training and leave the under achiever at home. The concern to “fix” technicians is more common than you might think. Technicians are hard to come by, and training plans are developed to accomplish your goals and improve your team members. So why would I want to send the successful person first?
The answer is all about the return on investment. I want you to have a lot of return for the class you invested in. The greatest way to do that is to send the person that deserves the training and can use it. In addition, it is much easier for the person that needs the training to implement it once he has an example to follow. When it comes to training; some need it, some deserve it, and some need and deserve it.
- Design a Mix of Inside and Outside Training
A successful team with use both inside and outside training, and the mix will vary based on the company’s needs and abilities. It has been my observation that technicians, CSRs, and sales professionals don’t hear you well. Business owners consistently complain that they repeat the same thing multiple times without any receiving any implementation from the team. This is called a Prophet Problem. A prophet isn’t heard in his hometown. Don’t stress this, and don’t stop training in-house. Your voice will not be heard as clearly as an outside voice. Despite this cold truth, it is important that you train your team. The secret to a great training session is a mix of inside and outside training. Your goals as a company must coincide with the outside training source. Seek outside help and continue what you are doing for a stronger, more effective team.
Todd Liles is the founder of Service Excellence Training and the creator of PRESS PLAY Training System. ServExtra provides consulting and training services and specialize in technicians, CSRs, managers, and owner training. They offer their services online, in classroom, and at your location.
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