Training Innovations

Spice up your training program with four flavorful strategies

Employee training is a lot like cereal: If you keep serving up the same bland, flavorless brand, your team will eventually refuse to eat it. So how do you keep your pest management company’s training program from going stale?

“It has to be fun and engaging, that’s the bottom line,” says Phillip Cooper, RPA and CEO of Cooper Pest Solutions, Inc./BedBug Central in New Jersey. Cooper says creative training strategies are especially important if you want to resonate with younger workers. “I don’t care what industry you’re in, if you’re not using innovative training tactics, you’re not going to reach Gen Y. That’s what they yearn for. It’s critical that you do it and you do it well. I don’t care if you’re in pest control or widgets. It’s important for every industry.”

Study after study shows Millennial workers crave creative training opportunities. According to a Quantum Workplace survey, Millennials rated “professional growth and career development” as the #1 driver of engagement and retention. Additionally, 35% of Millennials feel that excellent training and development programs are essential when considering a potential employer, according to a study by PwC, the world’s leading professional services firm. To top it off, Millennial Branding reports that 72% of Millennials value the chance to learn new skills as compared to 48% of Baby Boomers and 62% of Generation X employees.

“We’ve always known that everyone learns differently, but our younger generations coming into the workforce really require a diversified training perspective,” explains Kevin Lemasters, A.C.E., President and General Manager of EnviroPest in Colorado. “Our smartphone driven culture has created an expectation in society that we really can have it our way.  Being able to provide a training program that has all different facets of learning gives our staff a better chance at success.”

Plus, an effective training program is absolutely essential when it comes to employee retention. According to Go2HR, 40% of employees who receive poor job training leave their positions within the first year.

Whether your staff consists mostly of Millennials, Gen X’ers, Boomers or mix of all three, your company will reap the benefits of incorporating innovative training tactics. Here are a four clever ways to spice up your training program and keep your employees engaged, energized and going strong:

1. Educational Videos & Awesome Apps
Many pest management companies are tapping into technology to create training videos for their teams. For example, Lemasters says EnviroPest recently created short three to five minute videos of their technicians providing services in the field.

“This video corresponds with a short written protocol as well, so we have the visual and kinetic aspects of learning,” Lemasters explains. He says they review these videos with their staff at monthly meetings to ensure everyone is consistent in their service delivery. “We can talk about our training protocols during new hire training and monthly training meetings, but in the past it hasn’t shown to be an effective way to ensure everyone really understands what it ‘looks’ like.” Unlike a long, boring lecture or a series of static PowerPoint slides, these videos give technicians a clear view of what EnviroPest expects of them when they’re out in the field. “It also provides an easy benchmark for our supervisor staff as they follow up in the field on our service delivery,” Lemasters adds.

Cooper Pest Solutions also offers educational videos to its employees. In fact, the company posts a new training video on its custom app each and every day. “Everybody in our company starts their day exactly the same way,” Cooper explains. “They hop on their computer or iPhone or iPad and bring up an app that we created. They watch a three-minute video on what we call WOW, which is a methodology of communication I developed. The video is followed by four questions about what they just watched.”

Because pest control technicians are always on the go, Cooper says this training app is the perfect way to touch base with their team remotely and offer them guidance at the beginning of each workday. “At Ritz Carlton, every day they gather their shifts together,” Cooper explains. “Well, our people are remote. They’re not all together, they’re in vehicles. So we use this technology to emulate what Ritz does. It’s a really cool and unique technology.”

2. Interactive Team-Building Meetings
Although apps and videos are effective training tactics in today’s digital age, in-person training is also still critical. This is why most pest management companies round up the troops every month or so for a team-building meeting.

“Every other month, we bring the company all together for an hour and 20 minutes,” says Cooper. “We give everybody quick updates from different departments. Then we spend 25 minutes basically applauding each other. We get out and ‘WOW’ each other; or if one of our clients gave us an unsolicited WOW, whether it’s an email or a voicemail, we acknowledge that praise and we applaud our victories.”

Cooper Pest Solutions also holds an annual meeting. “It’s a very fun, interactive and upbeat team-oriented event,” Cooper remarks. “Anybody who’s ever been to it says it made their jaw drop. We offer a tremendous amount of information about the goals and objectives of the company. At the same time, we do a lot of team-building exercises, we give a lot of awards and a lot of recognition and praise.”

EnviroPest also holds monthly meetings where they celebrate personal employee accomplishments as well as company achievements and milestones. “Every company is different in how they approach training and meetings,” Lemasters explains. “We are very focused on serving. Our meetings include peer recognition of actions that meet and exceed our values and mission statement. It is important to us that we have a short motivational or inspirational video as well.”

However, EnviroPest meetings aren’t just a time for celebration; Lemasters says it’s also a time for learning. “The training time includes taking turns at reading labels or assigning a team member to share an experience or challenge with the group for input,” he says. “Everything we do in our meeting is about the team and moving forward. I think too many times, that is forgotten and managers just go through the motions of checking the training and safety items off the list.”

3. Employee Involvement
If you want to spice up your educational opportunities, it’s important to give employees an opportunity to lead training sessions. “You have to involve everyone,” Coopers says. “If you only include senior leadership, and those are the only people who are talking, then you’re not spicing up anything.”

For instance, Cooper Pest Solutions recently held a contest as part of its annual meeting. “We broke the company into groups of three, and they had to create their own WOW videos and submit them,” he says. “Then we picked a winner. So instead of having to watch me every morning, they watched their teammates.”

4. Leadership Training Programs
According to a ClearCompany study, more than two-thirds of workers want opportunities for career growth. In fact, career development is one of the top three non-financial motivators for today’s employees. This is why it’s important for pest management companies to offer leadership training to workers who want to expand their careers.

“In January 2015, we launched a very aggressive leadership program,” says Cooper. He explains the two-year course includes one program for senior leaders and one for entry-level leaders. “Our senior group is made up of six people. Our entry leadership group, people who have never been in management, is made up of 10 people. They meet for three hours every other week and they do a lot of reading. It’s amazing to watch how excited they are about it and the knowledge they’ve gained.” At the end of the course, participants receive a certificate and a lot of praise from their teammates. Most importantly, these employees are well-prepared to move into management positions as the company continues to grow.

Boundless Benefits
The benefits of an innovative training program are practically endless—from higher employee retention to greater customer satisfaction to a bigger bottom line.

“We benefit from our training techniques in a million and one ways,” says Cooper. “Number one is our 90 percent employee retention rate. We also have incredibly reinforced culture—everybody understands our culture and our values. They understand the 27 steps of WOW, and that’s really our special sauce.”

Cooper says it all comes together to create a solid infrastructure to support the company’s growth. “In the first three months of 2016, we intended to grow 10%, but we actually grew 20%,” he explains. “A lot of companies wouldn’t have the management infrastructure to handle it. We’ve got eight people in the entry level just waiting to become managers, so that group could handle 80 more employees without blinking. They could even handle 120 more people. So we’re set for the future.”

To top it off, the company receives consistently high customer satisfaction ratings. Cooper believes this is in large part because of their innovative training tactics. “We measure our customer service with NPS, a measure of customer satisfaction. The question we ask is, ‘How likely would you be to recommend us to your family or friends?’ So a 1 being you would never recommend us and 10 being you would absolutely recommend us. Most companies will get 6s and 7s. Anything above 8 is extraordinary. We’ve been running between 8.4 and 8.6. That’s because everybody gets it—and I think it has a lot to do with our training tactics.”

EnviroPest also reaps the benefits of the company’s creative training tactics. “As a growing company, and one with most staff having a tenure of seven-plus years, we want to ensure that we are delivering consistent quality service,” says Lemasters. What advice would he offer to other companies looking to spice up their training programs? “Create a culture of fun and then DO IT!”