It is undoubtedly a great idea to send technicians to industry workshops, seminars, trade shows, and other events that may better their abilities to serve customers and become true experts in the industry.

However, simply ensuring techs attend these events isn’t enough, as it is also vitally important to make sure they are active participants in whatever discussions, activities, or thought-provoking exercises are taking place once they arrive.

I recently sat in on an instructor-led third-party seminar, observing from the back of the classroom. The instructor began the class and discussed new technologies and how they function. He offered this information in an open forum, inviting questions as he proceeded through his presentation. The questions were slow to trickle in, and, when they did, most came from one clearly engaged participant in the front row. Upon observing the deeper rows, I had flashbacks to college lecture halls, as some technicians spent more time staring at their cellphones, half-heartedly thumbing through their Facebook newsfeeds than engaging in the topical and informative conversation in front of them.

Now, attending these classes is a tremendous first step for a technician to better him or herself, but it is perhaps equally important to ensure that each attendee, and whichever coworkers may be accompanying them, are also actively participating in discussions at a seminar, workshop, or classroom session. Stating your name and then going silent for the rest of the class is a tough way to take everything possible away from these events.

“While a technician is attending training, he should take notes,” said Matt Michel, CEO of Service Roundtable, an organization designed to help improve contracting sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. “Even if he never refers to them in the future, taking notes is important. A number of empirical studies have shown that the mere act of note-taking improves retention, comprehension, and critical thinking. Moreover, new research has revealed that taking notes by hand is better than typing them into a computer. Laptop users tend to transcribe without thought while note taking with a pen and paper requires the note taker to consider and choose what the most important information to record is. The service manager should communicate the expectation for the technician to take notes and comment that he will ask to see them when the tech returns.”

And, before a technician attends third-party training, it’s essential for service managers to stress how much the company is investing on behalf of the participating technician.

“This includes the fully burdened pay for the technician, the opportunity cost of lost gross profit for the technician to go out of service for a day, the tuition cost of the training, and any related travelling costs,” said Michel. “The service manager should note that the company is making the investment because of belief in the technician and that he will come back as a more valuable member of the team who will ultimately deliver enough additional value that everyone will be happy about the investment and willing to make similar investments in the future.”

The opportunities for those investments are certainly plentiful throughout the industry. Many manufacturers feature educational offerings, and both trade shows and conventions tend to have great classroom sessions.

Some managers require technicians to teach what they learned to the rest of the service force at the next service or training meeting.

“Some will not want to do it, but this becomes a growth opportunity,” he said. “They become much more comfortable presenting information, which helps their on-the-job performance. In addition, nothing forces internalization of new information than the need to teach it to others. If this expectation is communicated to them before they attend the training, they will be more motivated to pay attention and take good notes.”

In the end, good notes, motivation to pay attention, and retaining valuable information will go a lot farther than refreshing that Facebook or Twitter feed.

Publication date: 4/25/2016 

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!