One of the biggest problems we are facing as an industry is the decline of young people entering into the trades. We live in a society now that almost expects young people to enter into a traditional four-year college. Knowing this trend to be true, it is ever more important that companies like ours have a commitment to training people since the free flow of qualified applicants will continue to be a problem for our businesses for years to come.
When we look at training, we need to look at what makes our entire business successful, not just technical training. We need to look at our businesses like the old “three legged stool” analogy if we are to truly create a strong and sustainable business.
Here are the three legs to the stool as I see them:
Technical Training – We must all have a strong commitment to technical training AND technical benchmarking. If you go to acca.org you will find a wide array of technical training opportunities ranging from HVAC system design and HVAC essentials to NATE essentials. These training opportunities give us easy access to the training materials to build our technical base. When looking at technical training, don’t overlook the importance of benchmarking the technicians and installers progress. I know our techs and installers don’t like taking tests, but in the end, they need to take tests to assess what they know and where they stand to design and target our training to advance their careers.
Soft Skills Training – Ultimately, technical aptitude without soft skill training will limit your sales. Just training techs and installers to know how the widget works, or how to install it, is only part of their career development.
Look at the technical training as the foundation of a house. A foundation is the main support for building the rest of the house. It’s no different for us as HVAC contractors. Build the technical foundation and then we must teach the finer points of communication skills to truly be able to build a very nice and finished house.
At our company, Thermal Services, we have partnered with Nexstar for our soft skills training to help us build a complete technician. This not only helps refine the techs communication abilities, it grows their confidence when presenting options to the customer. In the end, you are matching the much needed technical training with the very important skill set of communicating technical things/diagnosis to non-technical people, the home owner.
This will lead to better customer service, customer retention, and higher sales revenues for your company.
Leadership and Supervisory Training – This piece of training is probably the most overlooked and neglected in our industry. Businesses stall and become overwhelming for those that run them, because they become the hub of the wagon wheel….all things go through one person. It stops growth and it stops people development, which we all know to be the most important thing in building a strong and profitable business.
When we do “anoint” a supervisor, or manager, we pick the most technical, most reliable person working for us and hand them the keys, so to speak, and say good luck! We rarely take the time to invest our time, effort, and resources into developing them as a leader. Without a development plan, we end up taking one of our most valuable employees and put them in to a position that can become very frustrating to them. We all need to realize that just being a strong technical person doesn’t just translate to leadership.
My experience actually tells me that it is quite the opposite. People that are technically driven, struggle with people problems as well. I think Henry Ford summed it up the best when he was quoted as saying, “All I wanted was a pair of hands, but I got the whole person.” He couldn’t have been truer with that statement. If they don’t find resources like ACCA’s Service Managers Forum to help grow them into leaders, we run the risk of burning out some of our best people, because we haven’t prepared them for their job as a leader.
We would never think about sending a technician or installer out to do their job without training, so why wouldn’t we do the same for the leaders in our companies? Invest in them just as you would any other person in your company.
Just remember, it takes balance, and commitment, to training technical, soft skills, and leadership if you are to grow a strong and profitable business in our industry. When you make this commitment, you will see results and you will like the results.