When you are thinking about either starting, improving or sustaining an existing training program, one of the first questions you should be asking is, why have a training program?
For most of us, the reasons are many and certainly worthy including, performing the work safely and productively, used as a tool for recruiting and retention, to perform consistent quality, help increase sales and improve customer relations which leads to retention, referrals, and enhancement sales.
So, the question, ‘Why should I train?’ is and should be an easy one to answer, right?
We know why training is needed and that it is an important part of our business and yet most of us still struggle with getting training programs into place. And if we do get training in place, how do we keep it in place?
When Ed and I visited our Turnaround Tour folks we found that training was recognized as being needed but we found little or none being done. Too busy, overwhelmed, yeah we sort of do it now was most of what we heard and observed. Does this sound familiar?
Well it really boils down to a few steps that need to be taken to build and sustain a training program and here is what we suggest:
Step 1: Perform a training needs assessment
• Identify the clear business goals that training will help deliver.
• Determine the tasks the workers need to perform so the company can reach the goals.
• Determine the training activities that will help team members learn to perform the tasks.
• Determine the learning characteristics of team members that will make the training more effective.
The Harvest Group likes to start with what we call the GROW Card. This tool shows the Key Performance Metrics of how we measure the progress a company is making towards achieving success. Examples include Safety WC Mod Rates, Growth in Revenue, Gross Margins, Enhancement Sales, Customer Retention, Key Employee Retention and Accounts Receivables.
The Key Performance Metrics that we are focusing on with the Turnaround Tour companies are: safety, revenue/growth, gross margins, quality and employee recruiting and retention.
Note: Before you start your training programs or as you are assessing your training programs be certain to have the company goals in mind and ways to measure where you are now and where you want to be in these areas.
Step 2: Keep adult training principles in mind
• Are goal-oriented
• Want training that is relevant
• Want training that is task-oriented
• Want to be and feel respected
• They can clearly see “what’s in it for them”
Note: The key concept here is to show the relationship with training and achieving the desired results and how that will have a positive effect on them and the organization. Try to answer the question, If I learn this and if I perform to the expected levels, what do I get? Like, not getting injured, make more money, more bonus, more opportunity for advancement!
Step 3: Develop training objectives
• List the things that team members must be able to do after the training is completed
• Have measurable objectives
• Think in terms of skills, behaviors and results
• Have SMART training goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time frame
Note: Once again you need to determine the key areas that will be tracked and measured before you launch or relook at your training programs. Be very specific: No lost time accidents; improve gross margins by 3 percent by Jan. 1; Retention rate of 95 percent + of customers year over year.
Step 4: Design or gather training materials
• Focus primarily on learning needs of your team, and not on what’s easy for your trainers
• Only create training content that relate directly to your learning objectives
• Remember the adult learning principles
• Let the team members talk / interact with the trainer and with each other during the training
• Make sure there’s plenty of opportunity for feedback during training
• Break your training materials up into small “chunks” that are easier to take in and understand
• Sequence your “chunked” training materials in a logical manner—one step that builds on top of another, or chronologically, etc.
• Try to use a “blended learning” approach that includes training in several different formats (computer-based, instructor-led, hands-on or circuit training).
• Sight is by far the most important sense for learning, but adding the others when possible does help.
Remember to include as much hands-on practice or simulation as possible: people learn by doing.
Note: This is one area where many small companies struggle. If you can’t figure this one out, there are lots of options and programs out there to help get you started. Go to your state landscape associations or look at the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ training programs especially with safety. We have used the GREENIUS program for many of our customers with great success. So, do your homework. Remember the time and skill to build your own training program will take a long, long time, so think about outside sources.
Step 5: Develop your training materials
• Word and Excel programs to create handouts for employees and to create training outlines and notes for the instructor of any instructor-led components
• Materials for hands-on elements and/or role-playing elements of the training
• PowerPoint for in-class projections and/or handouts to deliver to employees.
• Flip-charts, posters and/or computer-generated graphics for presenting visual materials
Note: We use training manuals for training that show the various skills to be taught and learned. These manuals are given to the designated trainers to be used as a road map for training. This way you can be sure the training is consistently applied throughout your company.
Step 6: Implement the training
• Get others involved and get buy in and help with delivery.
• If you are doing the training internally be sure to train your trainers, reward them handsomely
• Identify the resources you will need, location, tools, equipment, etc.
• Identify milestones to track progress
Note: One of the most critical things you’ll have to do in this phase is inform the employees that will attend the training. Give them plenty of time in advance so that they can work it into their schedules and complete any necessary pre-training preparation.
Step 7: Evaluate the training
Assessments during the training and even after the training is completed should be in place. We like to call this portion of training certification or the ability of the trainee to demonstrate on their own they learned the skill.
You should then verify that the training that is being delivered is delivering the targeted results you have determined. If the results are not being delivered over a fair and reasonable time then you will need to find out why and reload! Don’t train just to train!
Review and measure progress on targeted results monthly at a minimum.
Step 8: Review, regather, re-energize, repeat and repeat again and again
You may have to return to some of these steps in the future for a number of reasons. Maybe you have found that your objectives are not being met, perhaps there are some new areas and technology that need to be added to your program or there are changes in the market place that need some training tune ups, or you have added new employees where you will need to start from scratch again.
Don’t panic and don’t throw in the towel and give up on training. Just go back and do it better next time. Take the time to review what is really happening out there, regather your tools and adjust, re-energize and recommit and most of all when you do get it all together repeat and repeat again.