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Employee Education and Training: In the End, We All Win

Originally published
Originally published: 3/1/2014

This is the age-old question in our industry, and seems to be the largest quandary we hear from HVACR contractors. I think we can sum this perplexing question up with the long-standing quote: “What if I train them and they leave…. But what if I don’t, and they stay?” The important part of this question and my focus for this month’s column is: “what if they stay?” 

There are many things in our contracting businesses that we can control. We can control pricing; we can control the brands of equipment we sell; we can control what services we provide, etc… One thing we cannot control is if an employee decides to stay or go. We can certainly influence this by the type of company culture we have and by investing in career development. If we take the stance that our number one job as employers is to invest in our people, then education and training is a no brainer. Let’s look at the positives of investing in training and education. 

Let me set the stage with the two main outcomes of education and training. Education and training brings about a higher level of competency, which, in turn brings a higher level of confidence, both to the employee and the customer. The end goal in education and training is that your employees deliver products and services with confidence and expertise.

1. Competence – The definition of competence is: “the ability to do something well, measured against a standard, especially an ability acquired through experience or training”. The only way to build competence is by matching experience with training. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t want to go to a doctor who only had experience. You want to go to a doctor who has both training (or education) and experience. Put in this context, it is obvious that training and education must go hand in hand.

2. Confidence – The definition of confidence is: “a belief in your own abilities – self-assurance or a belief in your ability to succeed.” You can see by the definition that you cannot possibly have the confidence to perform at a high level if you don’t first have competency. Using our doctor analogy, when you go to the doctor you want a confident doctor that gives you a confident diagnosis matched with a treatment regimen that will make you feel better. 

The fact is that you can’t possibly have competent and confident employees without investing in them and providing the education and training they need to deliver your services and products to your customer’s expectations.

I think one of the greatest problems in our industry is that we, as an industry, look at what is not possible rather than what is possible. As long as we view education and training through this lens, we will continue to miss the boat. Our industry is only as good as the product we deliver to our customers: our employees. Our employees make our company — good, bad or indifferent. So why would we, as employers, relegate ourselves to being indifferent when the only path to being a good or great company is through the continuing training and education of our employees? It is time that we accept the fact that in order to have strong and profitable businesses, we must invest in our employees through continuing training and education programs.

Stop and think about the possibilities your business has if you invested in your employees and you always send competent and confident employees to your customers’ homes and businesses. Confident technicians are just like doctors in our earlier analogy. They make strong recommendations and diagnoses based on their experience and training in a confident manner. What customer wouldn’t want to do business with that kind of a company?

Our industry is starved for companies that are willing to invest in their employees. I encourage all contractors in our industry to not take the short-sighted view and look at what is not possible – there are already too many of these. Be the contractor that looks at what is possible by building and investing in your employees through education and training. We can all agree that we will benefit if our industry has more competent and confident employees interacting with our customers. In the end, everyone wins when we choose to invest.

Wade Mayfield is president of Thermal Services, Inc., Omaha, NE, an HVACR firm with over 100 employees. Wade is both a student and practitioner of the management skills necessary to sustain company growth. 

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