The very idea of “training” can introduce eye rolls, glances at watches and anxiety about additional information needing to be learned.
But what if the focus could be on opportunity, continued growth and the creation of culture instead?
Sure, there are the modules of requisite onboarding, and lessons to be learned along the way to certification and performing a particular job. Pest management companies are increasingly finding, however, that those things are only a start.
Technology makes it easier than ever to push out consistent and convenient messaging and updates to all employees—and to create a better, more positive, more uniform customer experience as a result.
“Training creates confident employees and enables them to successfully deliver on customer and company expectations,” said Jody Alderman, director of Orkin Learning. “It sets clear expectations of their role and how to effectively execute on those expectations. It also embeds them in the history and culture of our company to ensure they are a living example of our brand.”
At Orkin, every business channel curriculum has been through a recent update. That includes new offerings for residential and commercial PC service, residential and commercial sales, customer service and frontline and multi-unit manager leadership training.
“We made great effort to design our learning for mobile accessibility, and have leveraged new development tools to improve the learner experience,” Alderman said. “We are always looking to continuously improve our learning to drive employee engagement, retention and business results.”
So far, so good; professionalism and continuous improvement are foundationa elements of the Orkin culture, he said. The company uses a blended learning approach, using eLearning and video-on-demand for foundational knowledge; live-interactive distance television so students can apply learned knowledge in real-world situations; and structured on-the-job training. There’s also instructor-led, face-to-face training “for more complex topics and to change and shape behaviors.”
“Customers measure us on the effectiveness of our employees and our solutions,” he continued. “We know that investing in the development of our people will help us deliver on our promise.”
At Cooper Pest Solutions, meanwhile, CEO Phil Cooper speaks of investing in culture—and people—every day. Training, he notes, “puts people into winning positions.”
Cooper, who is also senior director of Terminix Specialty Brands, said his company distributes a culture-centric three-minute video each morning to its 110 employees. Using the Each Time Every Time application to share the message, Cooper Pest Solutions touches on the “wow” methodology, the objectives of customer service, and other topics. Cooper said the idea stemmed from a practice at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company called the Daily Line-Up. At the start of each shift, in every Ritz-Carlton property worldwide, employees take part in a roughly 15-minute huddle to warm up, tune up and catch up. The tune-up portion focuses on culture and values.
“This morning at Ritz-Carlton, it didn’t matter where you were,” he said. “Everybody was talking about the same thing. In our world, people are all over the place, and there is no such thing as a shift start. So we decided to use technology to grow that theoretical concept. Everybody in Cooper starts the day the same way, going onto their iPad or phone to watch the videos.”
Reinforced training, he said, is how some of the most impressive organizations across the world have the ability to achieve excellence, because they build muscle memory for their people, he said.
The videos began about five years ago, and at first, it was a complicated process. “But we realized it could be simple,” he said. “Most of the videos are now recorded with an iPad. It doesn’t have to be perfect or studio-ready. It just has to get the information across and be real.” Sometimes the videos feature different members of the staff; sometimes there will be a sit-down chat with a team member; sometimes they talk about how to approach a particular insect or reinforce a service; and sometimes they’re fun and interactive. At other times, there are even contests for employees to come up with their own videos.
TEACHING TRANSFERABLE SKILLS
In addition to the daily videos, Cooper said, his company offers a mix of online and hands-on training. Many companies rush to use online training simply because the technology is there—and it can be easier on employees to complete it—but “there’s tactile stuff you just can’t replace,” he said. Cooper Pest Solutions offers an in-depth leadership development program, and employees go through a three-hour, twice-a-month course for the first two years. “It’s lots of work,” he admits, and there’s more after the classes are done. The course, however, is not just about leadership skills on the job; employees often say it changes how they approach the rest of their life on a daily basis, too.
After that two-year intro course, there’s a two-year college-level program. The third round of that program just started, and Cooper said 18 of roughly 65 eligible employee applied, a “huge percentage.” They are paid for the time, but it’s still a commitment, he said.
“Ultimately, what we’re doing is creating skills that are transferable,” Cooper said. “Whether they stay at Cooper, or they go into another career, these skills just make them better people.” Such programs also help employees feel valued.
When it comes to the impact of training on retention, then, Cooper considers it “huge.”
“It’s everything,” he said. “People want to do great things. Typically, when a company has poor retention, you can very often tie it back to people who didn’t feel as if they knew what they were doing, or have the vision of where they’re trying to end up.”
Alderman, too, highlights the link between training and longevity on the job.
“Employees expect to be supported and developed in order to be successful in their roles,” he said. During the company’s annual employee engagement survey, Alderman said, employees had the opportunity to state that they had the training needed to do their job—and Orkin results were “7.3 percent better than benchmark standards.” New employees are registered in the appropriate curriculum for their role, and additional electives are available. Employees also are able to cross-train or self-select opportunities to enhance their skills and explore other roles at Orkin, he said. In addition, “advanced and developmental opportunities are identified throughout the year to provide internal and external resources to help close any performance gaps, strengthen skills and grow for future roles within the company.”
AN INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE
Mark Heymann, CEO and cofounder of the performance management firm UniFocus, recently penned an article for Training magazine. Few organizations, he wrote, would disagree that training is a vital part of onboarding new employees, complete with specific plans and predetermined check-ins to assess the trainee’s progress. “But while skill transference is fairly straightforward to gauge, other vital measures—such as employee attitudes and ‘buy-in’—are far more elusive. So how can human resources leaders transform their training initiatives to be more fully rounded? The answer lies in seeing training as an investment in the company’s future, and not just a cost of running the business. This shift of mindset helps organizations move toward a more strategic approach versus just a set of tactics.”
And that strategic approach can make all the difference. Cooper mentions Starbucks, and its efforts to provide a consistent experience for every guest, every time. The thing is, he said, Starbucks is constantly changing. And yet, its employees are able to shift on a dime.
“To me,” he said, “that’s everything about training, and it’s everything about consistency, and amazing delivery of an amazing experience. How you get there in this industry, that’s the benchmark…There’s onboarding, and then there’s ongoing reinforcement, and I think they’re very different. Ongoing reinforcement is the one that I think, in general, most industries, most companies fail at.”
By Fiona Soltes