Training Your HVAC Technicians
So you recently hired a new HVAC technician. Maybe your new hire is “green,” or maybe he or she has many years of experience. But, after a few months of having the individual work with your team, you find out the new hire is not progressing as you would have liked. So, what’s the problem? The solution to this answer could be the difference between your company succeeding and failing. The easy answer would be to blame the new hire, but is that fair? And, if you put the responsibility of your company suddenly failing on that hired person, how do you ensure the same mistake isn’t made in the future?
FOUR CORE SKILLS
Hiring a new HVAC technician can be extremely difficult, because techs must be equipped with many skills to adequately complete the job and satisfy customers. The problem may lie in the systems you have setup for new hires. I’m sure that everyone has heard of on-the-job training (OJT). After an employee is hired, he or she shadows more experienced technicians and, over time, the individual gains more responsibilities while learning how to execute the job. This is a commonly used method, but a couple of questions arise: How skilled is the trainer, and how do I evaluate the maturation of the new hire? With all that being said, perhaps your focus should be to create a training system. This system should be used to highlight all of the specific skills — mechanical aptitude, time management, customer service, and troubleshooting skills — that are needed to perform the job at a high level. These four skills are essential when it comes to decreasing a new employee’s learning curve. Other skills, like being detail-oriented and being a good teammate, fall under these four categories. So, let’s focus on these four core skills and how you can create training systems to increase them.
Mechanical skills can be obtained during the OJT portion of employment. These skills should be supplemented with certifications and education gathered before a tech’s first day on the job. All HVAC systems are made up of many mechanical systems. Sit and talk in-depth with your new hire about the requirements of his or her education. By understanding what he or she already knows, you can match his or her experience with the requirements of the position. This will allow you to identify the gaps and use the shadowing process to address these gaps. Assign specific tasks in the field that you recognize could help fill a knowledge gap of the new employee to help him or her learn and grow.
TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS
Time is money, and time management is a frequently overlooked skill that can put extra dollars in your pocket. When your HVAC technicians go out for an installation or repair job, their focus should be dedicated to that job. They can’t start another job until they’ve diagnosed and/or fixed the issues on that job. A few ways to slightly decrease the time needed for service is to make sure they have all the tools needed for the service call, gather prior information before beginning the job, prepare replacement or additional parts in advance, and document the time needed to complete the service. By documenting each of these steps, you can get a good estimate on the amount of time a serviceman may need to complete that specific job.
CUSTOMER SERVICE SKILLS
Many HVAC technicians disregard the notion of customer service. However, an argument can be made that customer service skills are nearly as important as the technical skills needed to install or repair a unit. Customer service should be emphasized by all employees on a regular basis. Surveys can be offered upon completion of the job to gather genuine feedback from customers. A monthly meeting could also be implemented to cover good customer service practices as well as cover the results of the survey.
Troubleshooting skills are bread and butter for any good HVAC serviceman or technician. Although troubleshooting skills and mechanical skills have some correlation, being able to troubleshoot a problem accurately can save time and money. Understanding the mechanics of the system will help you develop the steps needed to solve the problem. No one likes part changers, as they waste everyone’s valuable time and money. Instead, finding the root cause should be emphasized to everyone on your staff. Using tools, like the 5-Why Analysis, can help them develop a systematic approach to solving problems. Although the problems may be different, the tools to solve them should always be the same.
These are just the four main skills you should focus on to increase the productivity and effectiveness of not only new hires, but current ones as well. No matter how you implement them, your business will only grow as your people grow.
Publication date: 12/19/2016