• Web-Based Training for HVAC Contractors

    June 1, 2004
    by Gary Elekes Virtually every contractor would agree that training plays a key role in operating a successful contracting company. Training employees

    by Gary Elekes

    Virtually every contractor would agree that training plays a key role in operating a successful contracting company. Training employees to improve their productivity is simply good business. It keeps our employees focused on whatever we set the standard to be, and by training the employees, we provide a means for them to feel a comfort level in achieving that standard. We need training, and though it’s expensive, and often a tremendous time-sucker, it’s rare to find a successful company that
    isn’t actively involved in training.

    Let’s face it: training IS expensive. But if you think about it, the expense is relative. After all, it’s even more expensive for our businesses if we DON'T train well.

    Our industry has done an increasingly better job at providing more, and improved training at all levels —whether it’s technical, or business related. However, we still have room to improve. But
    I believe we recognize that no matter what skill is required, we must provide the resources and training necessary.

    A Little History of Evolution

    Most training today is done by what is known as physical site training. This refers to the training occurring when everyone is physically at a certain location or “on site.” That's the way training started, with instructors taking the dog-and-pony show for products and programs on the road. A meeting was organized, the contractors showed up, the training was put on by the meeting facilitator, and there was usually a party after the training. Sound familiar? It should, because we still do a lot of training just this way.

    Over time, we added a few new arrows to the quiver. As technology progressed in the 1970s, along came new inventions such as the videocassette recorder (VCR). The idea of saving time and money by taping training became popular and made us all wonder if we would ever need to attend a site event again! Video was more cost-effective and had the promise to replace the need for physical site training. NOT! People love people — not to mention the party. Video became a tremendous supplement to site training, and has been ever since.

    Video Meets www.worldwideweb.com

    The VCR became a new tool for contractors in the 1980s as an additional means to conduct training. You could attend site training, and then use video as a reinforcement tool, or even train on new ideas. It still has great advantages over site training because it’s so much less expensive and can be used many times.

    And so both site and video training have flourished.

    Fast forward to the end of one century and the beginning of the next, and here we are talking about the Internet as a new technology the same way we were talking about the VCR.

    The convergence of the World Wide Web and newer digital video technology has created an entirely new class of training opportunities that are being offered online, both live and through archived materials.

    The technology is new, but the need for quality training is not, and so we now have the promise to take our industry up yet another level once again.

    Unique Advantages

    Please don’t misunderstand: physical site training and video are here. Each has unique attributes that make them important training and educational tools. However, web-based training (also known as e-training) is different because it can be done live, just like a physical site training session, or recorded digitally and replayed just like a VCR, and it can be done at a fraction of the cost. Productivity advantages and low cost together in one medium make this alternative attractive for contractors who otherwise might not take the time to attend a one-day workshop away from their businesses.

    Web-based training is exciting because questions and individual business problems can be asked and answered on the spot.

    The contractor benefits are numerous, including the ability to have all or none of the employees present, or be sitting at home with a computer and incur no travel time or the extra expense of being involved in physical site-based training.

    The web-based training model also offers the power of creating a peer group network. It connects contractors who have business problems to training that offers solutions to those problems in an entirely new way.

    Key benefits web-training offers busy contractors can be seen in Figure 1. Not all of these features are exclusive to the web-training model, but no other medium offers all of them in the one package with the ability to update changes instantly as newer information becomes readily available.

    Web training products and services are that are available today include:

    • Library references on best practices
    • Information sharing groups
    • Video training on the web
    • Live webcasts on key topics for specific training on a huge range of subjects.
    • Digital archives fore replay of these training segments
    • Downloads of material to be customized for contractors’ businesses and use in marketing, operations, and a wide variety of applications.
    • E-consulting and expert advice on topics of individual interest.

    All you need to take advantage of these is an Internet connection via a personal computer.

    Organizations with specialized
    on-site training are beginning to create web-training support to supplement their offerings.

    Where We Go From Here Is Up To You!

    Web training is in its infant stage and will continue to evolve and change to meet the needs of the industry. Technology will continue to improve, costs will continue to drop, and training organizations will compete and improve their services over time to better satisfy contractor needs.

    Web training using the Internet is here and it is gaining serious momentum.

    Gary Elekes is both an HVAC contractor and owner of E Performance Learning (EPL) for Residential, an online training company for service contractors. EPL for Residential can be accessed at www.eplresidential.com. The site offers detailed and comprehensive business solutions for contractors, a business evaluation system, and direct E-consulting for members. For more information, contact Gary at [email protected].