Is Training an Expense or an Investment?
Written by Steve Mores
We have all heard the saying, “What if I train my people and then they leave? Or what if you don’t train them and they stay?” There is a lot of validity to those two questions, which leads to another question: Is training an expense or an investment?
Well, I would argue that it depends on the type of training. If you’re talking about a manufacturer’s or distributor’s rep coming into your shop for a B & B session (Bagels and Balloons) without relevant content, that would make it an expense on your part. On the other hand, if you schedule R & R sessions (Rock & Roll) with solid content, that’s entertaining, motivating, and with takeaways to apply in the field, then that would be money well spent investing in your team’s and your company’s success.
There are times when we get the impression that some owners or managers of contracting businesses are filling a training slot without a plan or goals just because they have been told that they should have regularly scheduled training sessions. The best training programs are ongoing and scheduled with a purpose and goal in mind. This purpose and goal must be communicated to your team so that they know your expectations. There are many articles written on this subject. So if you’re struggling to have a successful training plan for your team, read about it or even better yet, join a group that has the expertise to help you with this and other best practices.
But that’s not where I’m going with this. I’d like to discuss and give you a couple of examples of Management Training Attitude (MTA) because it starts at the top. To cut right to the chase and to make my point, I’d like to give you two very recent examples that one of my IAQ Training Reps (Don) and I just experienced. In order to have great success with an IAQ program, your product line should be supported by an extensive and ongoing training regimen. Our top performing contractors adhere to this regimen and hold their team accountable to execute on what is taught in these sessions. Three weeks before writing this article, I was traveling with Don and he took me into a new account. During this meeting, we were describing to the GM our training process and expectations when she stopped us mid-sentence and said, “I can’t take my guys out of the field for 45 minutes! It will cost too much money!” Basically, she just wanted to have access to our products with no training, and we left there agreeing to disagree on what it would take to have success with our niche. She was definitely looking at it as an expense without any thought of the return on investment that a proper training program would offer her.
During our ride back to the hotel, Don and I were discussing in disbelief what we just had experienced. Her MTA was totally counter to that of highly successful companies. What made it ironic was that we were heading to an existing account the next week with an owner that has a completely different MTA. COMPLETELY different!
During the last week in March, his slow season, Steve Holland from Mr. Holland’s Heating and Air invited us to participate in his annual Mr. Holland’s Bootcamp. He basically shuts down his business for a week to conduct a weeklong series of training sessions for his team. And when I say team, I mean everybody, including call takers, office staff, technicians, installers, and his salespeople. With Steve’s permission, I’d like to share an abbreviated outline of what that weeklong Bootcamp looked like.
The preamble to set the stage for the week:
- Our Core Values
- Our Vision
- Our Niche
Each employee received a 43-page training guide containing the week’s schedule, outline, and lined pages for notes for the sessions. There was a written purpose and goal introducing each session.
Monday – Tuesday
- Core Values, 2019 Budget, Goals, etc.
- Workshop – Group Breakouts – Technical training
- Gas furnace workshop
- Oil systems workshop
- Boiler systems workshop
- Air conditioning workshop
- Heat exchanger workshop
- 3:00 PM – Run pending calls
- Knowing the numbers – (Team 94! – I will explain later)
- Customer experience workshop
- Pricing, packages strategy
- 3:00 PM – Run pending calls
- Aeroseal® training
- 3 PM – Run pending calls
Friday – Vendor training day
- Dynamic Air Quality Solutions – IAQ technical and communications
- T.I. Boilers
- AprilAire – humidification
- 2:45 – 3:00 Closing remarks and comments by Steve
- 3:00 PM – Run pending calls
TEAM 94? Don and I were there first thing Friday morning, and while the techs and other team members entered the training room, Steve would ask each one, “What team are you on?” Every single one answered, “TEAM 94!” Steve explained to us that during the “Knowing the Numbers” session on Wednesday, he conducted an exercise where he shared with his team all of the expenses that go into running the business (excluding marketing cost) and ran it over the last 12 month period. Then he took that annual total and divided it into the number of total man-hours worked throughout the same period. That number is $94 per man hour for his company. This gave his team a great foundation and understanding for the basis of the later sessions that day related to customer experience and pricing.
Steve told me that this boot camp costs him $50,000, yet it is well worth the investment! This boot camp, along with other technical and communication skills training that he has for his team throughout the year, helps him with employee retention, employee performance, and recruiting. Yes, recruiting! Word gets around about Mr. Holland’s positive work atmosphere, benefits, and ongoing training. He uses this to market for good people, then he hires and trains them to be great employees. I never hear Steve say, “I just can’t find enough good employees.” I do get the message from him to hire right, train right, reward performance, and then repeat. His return on investment for purposeful training with goals is happy, productive employees that want to stay, learn, and prosper.
What’s your MTA? Is it expense-driven or investment-driven? I think if you spend some time on this to truly evaluate the benefits and rewards of a great planned training regimen for your team with set goals and expectations, you will make the investment!
Steve Mores is the VP of Training and Sales at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions.
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