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Implementing & Facilitating In-House Training For Technicians Part One

A state trooper was traveling along a two-lane highway when he came up behind a slow moving vehicle. Figuring that the car was slowing down to turn off into a driveway, he didn’t think much of it. But, the car didn’t turn off. It just kept going on and on, very slowly, so the trooper turned on his lights and the car pulled over to the side of the road.

When the trooper approached the driver’s window he discovered an elderly lady behind the wheel. “Madam”, he said as she gave him her driver’s license and proof of insurance, “I stopped you because you were going too slow and creating a traffic hazard.”

“But I wasn’t driving too slowly officer,” the lady answered. “I was doing the posted speed limit on this highway.” She pointed out ahead of her vehicle and said, “See, the speed limit on this highway is seventeen miles per hour.”

The state trooper couldn’t believe that she could make such a mistake. “Lady,” he pointed out loudly and in an aggravated tone, “that’s not a speed limit sign. That’s the highway number sign. This is Highway Number 17!”

At that point in the conversation, the trooper takes a closer look at two ladies in the back seat, and notices that they look very frightened. Thinking he is responsible, he says, “Ladies, I apologize. There’s no need to be frightened here. I’m not going to arrest your friend. This is just a simple misunderstanding.”

“Oh,” said the lady behind the wheel, “they’re not afraid of you officer. We just came off of highway 119.”

 

It’s easy for people to get dangerously off track when they’re sure they are working with correct information.

One way to keep technicians on track is through the implementation of an in-house training program. In any service industry, on-site training that provides for both the development of technical and soft skills is a necessary component of an organization’s commitment to excellence in customer service. Whether a technician is as “green” as can be, or they have a decade of experience in performing service work, there is a need for ongoing training and technician development. We can all agree on that. But, often, service managers don’t implement an in-house training program because they think:

“We’re so busy just keeping up with service calls; I just don’t have the time to put training information together.”

Perhaps you’ve heard something along the lines of the above, or maybe you’ve even said (or at least thought it) yourself. There’s no doubt that getting training accomplished on your own site is a challenge, however, the ROI on implementing and managing an ongoing training program is not only measureable in some ways, but is also is also immeasurable in other ways when it comes to the intrinsic benefits it can provide for both new and experienced technicians. (More on that later in this series.)

And then, there’s this:

“I haven’t had any instructor training.”

OK, we agree that you’re not an instructor, but you don’t have to be formally trained as a teacher to conduct a training session. It’s common for service organizations to struggle with the task of keeping technicians up-to-date, and with bringing along new technicians, not because they aren’t sure what information to provide, but how to get it accomplished. And, an important part of the how is, don’t try to be an instructor, be a facilitator.

What’s the difference? A facilitator is someone who gathers training information, modifies it, and then presents it in a manner that best fits their style, along with understanding some basic rules about coordinating and conducting a training session.

Rule 1: Know that you can do this.

Realize that there is information out there that is already prepared in a manner you may need to conduct an effective in-house training session. This information may be available to you in the form of a model-specific installation and service manual, or video prepared by an equipment manufacturer on a given subject. (By the way, using a video doesn’t mean you just click and let it run. As a facilitator, you still need to be the on-site contributor to the training session, pausing the program when necessary, providing information and insight based on your experience, and, when applicable guiding the attendees through a hands-on illustration of the information viewed on the screen, presented by the “instructor.”)

Rule 2: Always completely review every element of the resource material you gather.

That means more than just taking the time to read the manual carefully or view the video. It means figuring out how you can modify the information for maximum benefit to your particular needs, and how you will add to it to make the training session your own.

Rule 3: Remember that attitudes are not taught, they’re caught.

Simply put, if the technicians in your organization are going to look upon regularly scheduled in-house training sessions as important and beneficial, and not time-wasting, boring events that take time away from doing their job and/or making money, they’re first going to have to understand that you consider training sessions to be important and beneficial. Fostering this attitude begins with putting it in writing. Make sure each technician who is supposed to attend the training gets the information in writing about the time and topic of an upcoming session. So make it “official”…put it in writing… e-mail it, distribute a hard copy memo, post it on the shop bulletin board, etc...

Another element of this rule is the information that all your workshop attendees will take with them at the end of the session, and bring back with them to subsequent sessions. If you’re going old school on this, a three-ring binder that contains a copy of the diagram or other related information you used in your explanation of troubleshooting a specific electrical problem is the first segment of resource material technicians will be able to access when they want or need to review what you presented. If you’re going digital with this element of your training program, technicians can create a file folder in their laptop to organize the information you send.

The next step is to be aware of the fundamental ways people learn differently so you can make adjustments to your style when necessary, and what you need to do in order to make a training session interactive one for your attendees, with you in the driver’s seat, two topics we’ll discuss in Part Two of this series.

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

Jim