“Everything we do is about our people,” said Mark De Weirdt, director of branch development for Service Logic, a privately held company comprised of the industry’s top mechanical service companies across North America. “Our customers expect us to deliver expertise and professionalism at every level of the business. This means we have to invest in training and continuing education.”
This investment in regular training has helped Service Logic expand to a more than $150 million network of mechanical service companies. Other businesses in the mechanical and electrical industries - such as Libra Electric Co. in Oklahoma City, and P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling in Solon, Ohio - have also seen the benefit of educating their employees from apprenticeship programs for new recruits to continuing education classes for seasoned professionals.
Here are some of their strategies for maintaining a loyal workforce via stimulating training programs.
GROW YOUR OWNTraining employees from the time they first enter the industry ensures the proper skills to work efficiently and safely on projects in their field. This method also engrains a sense of loyalty and dedication to their employer, which can greatly reduce turnover.
“We grow our own,” said Daniel Benes, installation manager at P.K. Wadsworth.
“You have better loyalty and retention when you start from scratch and bring individuals up from technical school graduate. They view the company as a provider of a career path rather than an organization that brings them in when it’s busy and lets them go when it’s slow. When we school them, we’re investing in them for the long haul.”
As a merit shop electrical contractor, Libra Electric also pays employees to go through the four-year Independent Electrical Contractors’ apprenticeship program. This education includes the 4,000 hours of training in the classroom and in the field required in Oklahoma.
“We pay for their books, tuition, and training expenses and maintain their employment status following graduation,” said Carlos Wood, general manager at Libra Electric.
SHAKE UP ROUTINE TRAININGIn addition to voluntary training programs, companies must take time for routine classes to stay in compliance with federal, state, local, and industry regulations. “We have regular training on topics such as code updates, first aid, CPR, and OSHA,” Wood said. “This helps maintain our safety records and avoid major accidents.”
New product training is another way companies in the industry keep their employees abreast of the latest field news.
“We offer classes on up-and-coming units or new products,” Benes said. “This gets everyone up to speed before installing and servicing the technology. We also offer refresher courses when the seasons change. For instance, after spending all winter on heating, we provide training to freshen up our employees on servicing cooling systems during the summer.”
Taking time to train employees can increase efficiency and reduce rework. But routine training doesn’t have to feel run-of-the-mill. Creative and unusual training events give employers the opportunity to build camaraderie, which can greatly benefit employee morale.
“We try to do training events in the evening every once in a while,” Benes said. “We fire up the grill and give the people in the installation and service departments time to catch up with one another. During the course of the day, they rarely spend time together, so we try to plan fun educational events where they can socialize as they’re learning.”
TELL THEM WHAT'S EXPECTEDAt Service Logic, consistent education on company processes and the tools to do the job ranks as a top priority. From the time a new employee steps through the door, he or she receives detailed instructions on the responsibilities of the position and how to perform the duties assigned.
“We have detailed kits for managers with strategies on how to hire employees and how to take them through the first 90 days,” De Weirdt said.
“This includes basic tips like welcoming new employees and spending time with them during the first few days on the job. We also have descriptions for each position and company-level training associated with certain jobs. This is all in addition to safety training, which is a top priority for our employees.”
While preparing new hires for their specific duties might sound simple, as De Weirdt points out, “Simple things can make all of the difference in the world.” Showing employees precisely how they are expected to perform their job functions according to Service Logic’s standards increases their comfort level and ability to succeed.
“We’re focused on bringing out the best in our individual company leaders,” De Weirdt said.
In addition to systematic instruction on an individual level, Service Logic offers corporate training sessions to meet people’s specific development requirements. This can include education on best practices in talent development, recruiting, managing, or leading employees within Service Logic. Company-wide training on new program rollouts also ensures everyone has the information they need to complete their work with confidence and offer superior customer service.
P.K. Wadsworth also sees the value in providing training on their business systems.
“There aren’t a whole lot of companies that want to spend time or money to put their employees through training,” Benes said. “But we invest in it because it helps our reputation by having skilled technicians serving our clients. New people know what we expect of them and how to follow our procedures. This prevents any client issues from the ground up and builds confidence in the technicians.”
KEEP IT GOINGTo stay at the top of their game, even the most experienced employees need regular instruction. Libra Electric pays for employees to attend continuing education classes that benefit them and the company.
Similarly, individuals with Service Logic have the opportunity to participate in training with Service Excellence Corp. (SECorp) to improve themselves.
“SECorp has an entire curriculum from A-Z on specific training for HVAC service employees,” De Weirdt said. “This includes everything from sales and operations training to customer service training.
“When we invest in the training of our workforce, the byproduct is a dedicated team of service employees, which leads to long-term client relationships. This absolutely allows us to attract the best candidates because they see that we invest in people. When people are involved in ongoing education, they’re just happier and more productive.”