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    Does Your Company Have a Training Champion?

    March 11, 2022
    David Richardson is busy with an assignment for NCI, so here is one of the last columns the late Rob "Doc" Falke's wrote for Contracting Business.

    Strong companies with effective training programs have a solid leader with a passion for teaching and learning.

    These leaders become the drivers, organizers, and the "get' er-done" people who assure company training thrives. One name used for this role is Training Champion. If you are interested in becoming or improving the role of a training champion, this article is for you. 

    What is a Training Champion? 

    We're fortunate at National Comfort Institute (NCI) to speak daily about training with contractors, technicians, and training champions. We support and encourage these contractors to find and teach their employees how to advance others in their company. Many use materials from our website as the foundation for their lessons.

    Training champions are usually not training directors, nor do they carry any other corporate titles. In small to average-sized companies, champions are great technicians and leaders with the desire, ability, and discipline to teach. Their work requires several hours set aside from their job each week to lead training efforts and support those they teach. 

    Service or installation managers eager to maintain thriving training programs frequently fill this role. But we often see technicians in the position with a fire in their bellies -- who love to teach and contribute to others. 

    We often see technicians in the position with a fire in their bellies -- who love to teach and contribute to others. 

    Training champions don't have to do all the training themselves. They invite others to pump a fresh perspective into training from inside and outside. Ideally, guest instructors receive written guidelines for teaching to ensure they stick with subjects, guidelines, and timelines. The last thing you want is to subject your team to a sales commercial from a vendor with little relevant knowledge for their needs.

    We all need training. More than technical training. Although technical training is the current subject, companies may choose additional training champions for
    sales, accounting, customer service, leadership, inventory, or any other company department.

    Training Champion Duties

    The training champion looks for training topics needed by company groups and individuals. Champions often discover this need through callbacks, repeated failures, or the need to learn new technology. 

    The training champion should focus each lesson on a single subject with hands-on activities to double the learning and retention. 

    They find training materials from around the industry that satisfy your company's needs. Training materials don't need to be perfect to be helpful.

    Training champions set the time and length of training sessions. They focus each lesson on a single subject with hands-on activities to double the learning and retention. The typical day and time for technician training are Fridays from 7:30 to 8:00 or 8:15 am. 

    Other champion duties include being prepared. Preparation means ensuring the training room, audio/visual equipment, and teaching materials are ready before start time. They arrive at the session early and expect others to be on time. 

    Preparation includes creating simple field assignments for techs to complete the following week. Assignments and technician accountability to turn in their results the following Thursday multiply the training value and impact.

    Training champions teach as they engage with your techs. They ask questions and speak directly to "hiders" in the class that blend into the background. They also use hands-on activities and invite others to share their knowledge on the week's subject. Their interaction is the key to excellent teaching. 

    Champions need to check in with students during the week. Checking in doesn't need to be anything formal. Questions like, "Bill, what is the highest filter pressure
    drop you found this week?" as they pass each other in the shop is often enough.

    In addition, the training champion should report the training results weekly. If one of your techs takes on this role, you can measure their success through a weekly report. The report should include sharing the training subject for the week, who was engaged in the class, names of those who excelled at field assignments, and those who failed to show up. The best report is how the lesson impacted the technicians' performance as they serve customers.   

    Finally, every training champion should hold people accountable. There is no substitute for accountability. They cannot and force techs to learn. Great champions lead by having a genuine heart-felt interest in a technician's progress. Training champions help by holding technicians accountable in a way that doesn't create hostility or resentment.   

    Critical Traits of a Training Champion 

    Training champions are consistent in training, so it becomes a habit. Once training is an ongoing habit, the positive influence on your company compounds monthly and then yearly. Set a recurring date and time for your company training and don't miss it.

    One critical trait includes HVAC technical knowledge, meaning they understand how systems (including duct systems) work. They should be knowledge sponges, meaning they are hungry to learn all the time themselves. Their own education and knowledge are vital. If they don't have personal, hands-on knowledge of the technical side, they have no foundation to draw from for the benefit of others. 

    Making technical course corrections is another vital trait for training champions. The goal of training is not knowledge but change and action. They work together with the company to identify needed course corrections and then make those corrections through training. This step usually avoids pitfalls long before damage occurs.    

    Training champions know consistent training produces measurable comradery, evidenced by unity in the company. They understand comradery is an invaluable byproduct of training. It unifies people and connects them with each other. Learning together creates a recognizable bond that we've all seen and felt in organizations. 

    Do You Need a Training Champion?

    So, is there a place for a training champion in your company? Do you already have one who needs your help and support? Does your training produce the desired return on investment and results?

    Perhaps a couple of these ideas rang true to you, and you see an opportunity to apply them in your company. Much good and growth will come from developing a dedicated training champion who can lead the way and work together with you. 

    Ed. note: Mr. Falke did not mention paying your training champion to take on this role, but I believe it would be appropriate, and that Rob would agree.

    Rob "Doc" Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute, Inc., an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. To share your ideas about the value of a training champion, 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, downloads, and current training opportunities