As seen in the April 2007 edition of HVACR Business magazine.-

Take three more steps toward creating a structured, meaningful training program. Part two of a three-part series

I hope you have established a company-training file, which in last month’s column ( I recommended that you do to help you get your company-training program in place.

Last month, we covered the first two steps:

1. Appoint a training director.
2. Determine how the attendees will be compensated.

The remaining steps are:

3. Establish a training room.
4. Establish the frequency, dates, and times of the training.
5. Define the topics to be presented.
6. Determine the presenters.
7. Develop a training calendar.
8. Announce the training program to the company.
9. Begin critiquing and measuring the effectiveness of the program.

Step 3. Establish a training room. All companies need a training room. You cannot be serious about training without a dedicated area to accommodate it. Many of my consulting clients (after my constant urging) simply took a portion of the warehouse area and constructed their first training room. It’s not a big deal — some 2-by-4s, wiring, a little plumbing, drywall or paneling, carpet, and an acoustic-tile ceiling.

You will need a good-sized white board on the wall to write on and also use as a projector screen; a PowerPoint projector; markers and erasers; tables and comfortable chairs; an easel with flip-chart paper; a bulletin board; and some shelving to accommodate a library of resource material, including CDs and DVDs. You also will need a TV, DVD and CD players, and other required electronic equipment. It’s also best to have an area to accommodate soft drinks, coffee, and snacks. Figure out how big you want your training room to be, and then be sure to add space for growth and visitors.

Step 4. Establish the frequency, dates, and times of the training. I am convinced that Tuesday is the best day of the week to train. I like training to take place early in the week, so we have time to practice what we have learned during the balance of the week. Mondays are not a good day to train because they tend to be more chaotic than Tuesdays. Some companies present their training on Fridays because they give co-workers their paychecks on Friday. However, in my opinion and experience, Friday, is the worst day of the week for training. It gives co-workers the opportunity to forget everything they learned over the weekend. Incidentally, leading-edge companies do not hand out paychecks, anyway. They either direct deposit them into co-workers’ checking accounts or mail them to their homes.

I also am convinced that the best time to train is early in the morning. It is the only time I can be certain that everyone will be there and also is when the attendees are more receptive to training. In the evening, they are tired, and often some of them are still working. Plus, it provides another full day to practice what we have learned. We always started our training at either 7 or 7:30 a.m. Our training is always scheduled for 1 to 1½ hours. You should not train every Tuesday morning of the year. Some national holidays are celebrated on Monday, which makes the following Tuesday a poor day to train. Also, during certain times of the year, our training is conducted every other week, rather than weekly.

Step 5. Define the topics to be presented. You will never run out of training topics and, if you ever do, you should simply present certain topics again. With repetitive training, you will accommodate new co-workers and reinforce other co workers’ previous learning. In fact, you’ll at first be amazed at how many of your other co-workers completely forgot the earlier training on the same topic.

Two excellent sources of training are callbacks and warranty calls. Determine, in priority order, the source of callbacks. Then, start your training with the type of callback that provides the very best opportunity to save the company money and provide your customers a higher level of service. Do the same with warranty calls.

Another excellent source of training topics is simply to ask your co-workers. They often have some great ideas. However, don’t allow the training to get into exciting, interesting, or glamorous topics and neglect what is really costing the company money.

By asking your co-workers for ideas you will be practicing one of my very favorite management principals: thinking leads to involvement, involvement leads to commitment. When co-workers are asked to think, they begin to get involved. Then, by using their ideas, they become committed to the process.

Keep in mind that you need to provide training on three general topics:

1) Technical
2) Customer relations
3) Processes and systems

Many companies tend to associate training with technical topics only. Learning and practicing good customer relations, and learning and adhering to the company processes and systems are just as important as learning technical skills. If you are wondering why I did not include sales training for the technicians and installers, it is because practicing good customer relations skills results in sales. Unfortunately, many companies also tend to associate training only with service technicians. Installers and office co-workers also need and are entitled to quality training.

Next month, I will conclude this three-part series with details on the last four steps to creating a structured and meaningful training program.