You need to do something for the future of your company — and investing in the futures of your employees will pay dividends for many years to come.
Many of us have heard the expression, “What happens if I train someone and they leave?” This, of course, should be followed by the response, “What happens if you don’t train them, and they stay?” Many have wrestled with these questions at some point in their management and leadership careers, me included.
I figured out early on, however, that it was much more beneficial to my organization if we provide our people with the education and training, they need to advance in their careers. It’s not easy, it’s not cheap and it doesn’t happen quickly — but education and training can easily be the most important piece of developing a heating and air conditioning professional.
Grow Your Talent
It’s no surprise that many of us are struggling to locate the talent that we need to fulfill the demands of our clients. Experienced HVACR professionals are difficult to find, so what do you do?
One solution has been to find people who have the basic necessary skills to perform this type of work and then to educate, train and develop them to the point where they feel comfortable and competent at what they’re doing — but the education doesn’t stop there.
Continuing education is the key to developing a well-rounded professional and, while we expect them to do some learning on their own, the primary responsibility comes down to the company and making sure our teammates have the resources necessary to further their careers.
Training vs. Educating
It’s obvious that the number one priority in training your technicians is on the technical side, they need to be able to do the work in front of them.
I often use the word educate when it comes to developing technicians and installers because education is more encompassing than training. When we train somebody, we show them how to do something but when we educate them, we help them to understand the “why” behind what they’re doing.
If your goal is to get somebody up and running as quickly as possible for as little money as possible then, by all means, train them. If your goal, however, is to develop a long-term employee who is both engaged and competent, then you need to look at educating them.
I don’t have statistics, but I feel comfortable saying that many people choose to leave this trade because they don’t feel competent, and they don’t feel they have the education and support to be able to handle what is put in front of them on a consistent basis.
They spend the day frustrated at the lack of training and education until they finally decide to get out altogether. That’s what we cannot allow to happen.
Another priority when it comes to fully developing your team is in the soft skills area, or what some like to call success skills — those non-technical, but important, areas of development where many people are lacking.
Success skills can include issue resolution, proper communications, phone etiquette, texting etiquette, handling objections, speaking with elderly clients and working with landlords, to name a few.
This is another key area, and reason, why some people leave the trades. It is not that they don’t want to handle issues as they arise, the problem is that no one has invested in this area of their development, and it becomes overwhelming.
Approaching success skills development with the same vigor that you approach technical training will pay dividends and you will have a much more engaged employee.
Developing your team will take an investment, but just like buying a new truck or new tool or moving into a new building, there is a return on that investment. Cutting corners on employee development or not making any investment at all is going to cost you in the end as well as providing you with many sleepless nights.
Don’t forget the community and marketing impact of your clients knowing that you invest in your team. It says a lot about the people who you’re sending to their homes and businesses. Investing in training is investing in the growth of your company, and investing in people is investing in their futures.
Put Into Practice
Around 1998, we realized we needed to develop a training program at ISAAC Heating and Air Conditioning if we were going to grow and create opportunity for our employees. That’s when we made a full commitment to making it happen, which involved many steps.
We needed to establish a budget, which meant we needed to invest money into the process. We hired a director of training to run the program and we allocated space for both a classroom and a lab.
The original classroom was our existing conference room, and our original lab was a small warehouse space adjacent to the conference room with two split systems set up for training. Little did we know this would become the starting point for what we now call ISAAC University, which has trained and developed hundreds of technicians and installers — people who had never touched a furnace or air conditioner prior to joining ISAAC.
Today, ISAAC University is our education program with all training taking place at the Isaac Technical and Education Center (ITEC). The single classroom from 20 years ago has been replaced with six classrooms and a large group meeting room that accommodates up to 70 people.
The classrooms are identical, and each has a maximum capacity of 12, which is a deliberate attempt to create an intimate learning environment. The single lab, where all hands-on education took place, now encompasses 20,000 square feet of ITEC with 10 separate labs — each one dedicated to a different discipline.
Each of the labs has operating equipment so the students’ experience is real and simulates what they will run into when working independently out in the field. We even created a simulated basement for our installation crews so they could train in a cramped and poorly lit space.
Over the past six months, in addition to training our own employees, we’ve begun operating training programs for companies around the country. One such company from New Jersey has already sent 12 people through our programs and they plan on sending more in the future.
We realized there was a need and the lack of regional resources, so we expanded our program to meet the growing demand.
When we talk about investing in training, what we’ve done at ISAAC is obviously not the norm. We understood, however, that we needed to do something as an organization and I’m sure most of you feel the same way.
Maybe you’re not sure what to do or how to approach it, but you know you need to do something to invest in the future of your company — and investing in the futures of your employees will pay dividends for many years to come.
There are resources available such as ITEC, along with offerings from ACCA, most manufacturers, your local supply partner as well as community colleges and trade schools. In the end, it will come down to the type of business you wish to operate and the culture you want to have within your company.
Wouldn’t you like to be the company known for helping to develop their people — the company where people want to work?