Latest from Contracting Business Success

Photo 20169909 © Vladischern | Dreamstime.com
Photo 47091378 © Vvoevale Dreamstime.com
National Comfort Institute
In House Shop 5f519ba48a030

On Purpose, In-Shop HVAC Training

Sept. 4, 2020
An in-house training program is a valuable addition to your contracting business. Rob Falke describes the features of a successful program.

Consider the impact you could have on your company and career if you organized and carried out your own in-shop technical training program. Let’s take a look at the steps it takes to create and support a once-a-week, half-hour, in-shop training program using your own staff.

You probably know companies or individuals in our industry that operate above the rest of us. Don’t get me wrong, if they’re arrogant or act superior, they’re clearly not the type we’re talking about. These are genuine, successful, HVAC guys and gals.  You can smell it when you speak with them as their conversation and ideas elevate you and make you want to do better.

One element that continually raises these HVAC professionals is constant learning. Since they understand that the principles of growth and advancement are tied to learning, they are more likely to make the same opportunity available to others around them. They can’t help but create an opportunity for others to learn.  

What’s an In-Shop Training Program Look Like?
Conversations with several successful contractors who have maintained consistent in-shop training for many years, reveal similarities and variations in how each of their programs operates. Let’s harvest some of their best ideas.

Pick a Training Chief
Hopefully, when you think about it, the training chief for your company comes to mind quickly. Normally this person automatically engages in teaching, has the knack, and would be delighted to lead the effort.

In a smaller company, this may be the owner, service manager, or someone else who comes to mind. You may see this as an administrative role
for someone in the office who assigns the training to others but carries the responsibility to be certain training is consistent and relevant. 

This person may or may not currently be in a leadership role but may be eager to accept this new assignment. The training chief drives the training program and is accountable for scheduling training, organizing it, meeting its goals, and keeping it within agreed boundaries.

This role is an assignment and shouldn’t take more than two hours per week to complete. The chief’s tasks are to help identify subjects for training, arrange for training sessions, gather reference material, and lead a portion of the training themselves. They also arrange for hands-on training, assign, and support other teachers, as well as open each weekly training session. 

Chiefs direct the tribe. They don’t do the day-to-day work themselves. Likewise, if adequate manpower is available in the company, the training chief assigns most of the training to others. This may include service and installation technicians and others throughout the company, depending on the training topic and their expertise or experience.  

Most people fear public speaking and teaching others. However, in-company teaching is conducted in a safe place where the teacher is surrounded by a supportive team. Each student is keenly aware they may be upfront conducting training the following week. You may be surprised at the positive transformation you see in some team members as they step into the teaching role.

Set a Dedicated Time Each Weekly
Each of the 1960s Batman television shows ended with the invitation to “Join Batman and Robin next week at the same Bat-time, and the same Bat-channel.” Weekly is an ideal repeatable timeframe to help form the habit of a short training session weekly.

Training offered when the workday begins seems to be the most effective time of day. To keep training alive and thriving, it must be consistent.

Dedicate one day and time each week where everyone is expected to attend. Be careful to keep within time restraints. However, be realistic and remain flexible.

Dedicate one day and time each week where everyone is expected to attend. Be careful to keep within time restraints. However, be realistic and remain flexible.

Expect those days where everyone’s overbooked, customers are screaming, and there’s a mountain of money to be made for everyone. When the shop hits the fan, and nobody’s in the mindset to learn, cancel that week’s class, if necessary. Caution, canceling more than one week at a time can derail your training routine.

Assess Your Training Needs
To prioritize the training you need, decide which topics are most important to you right now. Here are several categories to consider that may help you focus your training priorities. Make your list and check it twice.

Warranty – Each warranty call comes directly off bottom-line profit and is often damaging to your relationship with customers. You may choose to review your warranty calls and identify which technical skills can be taught to help reduce warranty costs.

One source of trainers is to assign techs who recently had a call back to teach others the cause, diagnostics, and repairs that resolved the issue.

Weaknesses – Service and install managers should be able to list areas of technical weakness in your technicians, installers, and salespeople. You can use this list to assign people who are weak in a subject to teach it to the others. Teaching is the best way to learn. 

Strengths – Most people in your company have individual strengths. Some of those strengths are recognized by the entire company while others may be hidden. Offer individuals to teach one half-hour training session to share their strengths. You may be pleasantly surprised at the response you receive.

New Opportunities – The first time your company installs a new component or new equipment, they face a steep learning curve. Assign the installer to prepare and share what he or she learned from that first-time installation.    

Leverage certification training – When technicians return from certification training, reinforce and leverage the training cost by assigning the tech to teach others what they learned. 

Make a Training Calendar
Once you identify your training chief, set a regular time for training, and assess your needs, it’s time to finalize your plans on a calendar. Create a 90-day calendar showing your weekly training time, topics, trainer name, and the topic they will teach.

A calendar firms up your plans when you publish and promote it. A published calendar sets your training program in concrete. 

Return on Investment 
Training pays big dividends that are often paid out daily. In-shop training costs are extremely low and carry little or no risk. The product of training is the knowledge that changes actions. Imagine the results of an in-shop training session that solves a repeating warranty issue. Is there any doubt your return on investment may exceed 100% within a month?  

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute, Inc., an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in a free training lesson you can use in your company, contact Doc at ncilink.com/ContactMe or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles, and downloads.