Monthly Archives: February 2013

One of the things that technicians-turned-service-mangers-turned-trainers will discover is that once they’re in the training mode, they will notice things that they didn’t see before….things that help them better understand the process of training overall. I stumbled upon something recently that I didn’t know about training in the restaurant business. Take a look at the illustration below:

 Restaurant Order Ticket2

Can you guess what it is?

Unless you are familiar with Cracker Barrel restaurants, you probably can’t. But, if you’ve ever eaten at one of this chain’s locations, you may be able to figure this drawing out due to the reference to “Peg Game” near the left side of the illustration. And, if I explain further that the “7 and 8” numbers represent “spot/seat” and the two blank boxes to the right represent “Drink/Appetizer” and “Meal”, you might be able to guess what this partial illustration is representing. I say ‘partial’ because it’s a bit too large to show all of it here and make sure you can make out the important part of it, which are the numbered boxes, standing position and the circle.

What you’re looking at here is the bottom section of a page from the tablet you don’t pay much attention to when you are ordering in a restaurant. The entire page is numbered from 1 through 8, which means it’s designed to accommodate up to eight guests at a table. Note the “You Are Here” reference and the positioning of the feet. If you are the server, and you’re taking care of a table that has only two people, the diagram shows how you number the guests based on how you’re facing the table. And, if it’s, as they say in the restaurant business, a four-top, the illustration shows how to list the four guests there correctly. And, if a server is taking care of a table of eight…well, you get the idea.

So, what is all this about? It’s about preventing something that shouldn’t happen in a restaurant when the meals are being delivered. With this simple system, the server is not only training when they start work, but they have ready reference every time they approach a table (until it becomes a familiar habit). And, what is being prevented here is a server, or a server being helped by other servers in a situation where there are several guests, mixing up the delivery.

Think about it….you’re out for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and you place your order. Then, while you’re enjoying a conversation with your partners at the table, the food arrives, and the server sets your order down in front of somebody else, and what winds up in front of you is the order for somebody else, and….now, you’re not enjoying your experience at this restaurant.

However, with the graphic reminder at the bottom of the order ticket page, the odds of this happening are reduced, not only if your server is new on the job, but also if they have more experience, and they make it  habit use the graphic they are so familiar with to keep themselves on track as far as not mixing up orders.

For a service manager who is tasked with maintaining a proactive in-house training program, the same idea applies. Presenting a training session is one thing….making sure that technicians have access to information they need in the field to keep them on track and doing the best job they can do is another.

Learn From Yesterday…Live For Today….Look Forward To Tomorrow

Jim

One of the premier HVACR publications conducts an annual contest to name the best contractors to work for. In order for the contest to be fair, there are several size categories because, after all, an HVACR company that has 125 employees can do things differently than a company that has less than ten technicians in the field. And, the contractors that compete for the top award in each category are evaluated on many different points relative to the management of their business and the systems they set up so their employees can do their job, because, like I said, there are several different size categories, and large companies do things differently than smaller organizations. However, when you review the list of winners every year, there is one common thread that stands out for each of the companies…large, medium or small…that win the top prize.

Each and every one of them has an active, well-structured, in-house training program.

Of course, setting up an in-house training program is often easier for larger contractors. They have more resources and often have a person on staff whose only job is to develop and manage the in-house training, and, more often that not, be the main presenter for the regularly scheduled sessions. However, when it comes to smaller contractors, the harsh reality is that they just don’t have the same resources at hand. And establishing a program is more difficult, with the task often becoming the responsibility of  an already very busy service manager, or the service company owner.

And, more often than not, the service manager or service company owner with fewer than 10 technicians is not an instructor by craft. They’re former technicians who made the transition to ownership and management. Which means that they need to learn some things about being an instructor and how an adult as a student (which is what technicians are during a training session, whether they want to admit it or not) responds to or connects with the person at the front of the room.

Among them:

1. Never waste an adult learner’s time. Do your homework in order to ensure that the session moves at a brisk pace and provides a wealth of information in a short length of time. I’ve been in situations where I’ve invested several hours in  preparing a 30-minute presentation.

2. Remember that you’re an instructor here, and that means that your responsibility is to manage the session. If a particular individual is dominating the conversation, do what you need to do in order to minimize that situation.

3. Just because you’re dealing with adults, that doesn’t mean that you avoid positive reinforcement. Remember, just being there in a training session (whether the person appears to be super confident or not) is a stressful situation for the an adult in a learning environment. So, by all means be prepared to praise somebody for getting it right or making a meaningful contribution.

Keeping these three simple points in mind when preparing for an in-house training session will make the the event more pleasant for those attending…and for you.

Learn from yesterday….Live for today….Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

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