Employee Training Focus

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The 2022-2023 State of the Industry survey revealed 52.5% of respondents identified employee training as their top area of investment for the year. There is no doubt a focus on employee training would help combat systemic employee turnover in our industry, and as an approved IICRC instructor, I’m obviously a fan of this initiative. I wonder though, how are companies investing and what sort of training is their focus? It’s one thing to respond that investing in training is a top priority – that’s the easy part. The hard part is determining how best to invest in training that meets the intent.

Investing in formal training (IICRC or RIA sponsored courses) related to cleaning and restoration trades is a good start – but it can’t stop there. A 3-day Water Damage Restoration Technician (WRT) course does not prepare you to have the confidence you need to tackle even the smallest water loss with any level of confidence. When I first secured employment in this industry, I attended every certification course imaginable to prepare myself. I had zero experience performing emergency services for property damage, but I did have a strong background in construction. Although certainly helpful, I quickly realized academic training alone was insufficient. I supplemented by subscribing to an extensive video training series focused on WRT related losses. The video training filled in some gaps, but I still lacked practical experience.

As all of you know, there are few absolutes in property damage restoration. It’s not the same as being trained to make a widget at a manufacturing plant, or a Big Mac – those processes are standardized and repetitive. In property restoration, every loss is different in some way, each loss scenario is different, and often emotions are involved. It’s a unique industry, and that uniqueness means we have to structure our training, so employees are prepared to confidently, and efficiently, handle a wide variety of losses. Formal certifications provide the foundational principles and introduction to industry standards, but an effective training investment must go way beyond basic principles. So how do we prepare our technicians to tackle any size/type loss with confidence?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to that question. People learn in different ways. Some prefer academics, others are more visual learners, and many of today’s technicians are more comfortable with hands-on instruction. I don’t claim to be a subject matter expert in technician training, but 23 years in the military – an institution whose primary mission is to train daily to fight and win our nation’s wars – I do claim to have a bit of street cred. Since the good folks at C&R give me the latitude to discuss whatever I choose in these articles, I’ll do my best to share what I feel are some best practices to get the most out of your training investments.

Industry Certifications: Start with these – specifically related to your primary service offerings. Let the experts lay the foundation and introduce your technicians to the guiding principles and industry standards. Encourage your technicians to seek higher certification levels (Journeymen or Master) as a professional goal, and reward those motivated enough to make the effort. Don’t stop with the basics – give them something to look forward to and that will help with retention.

On-the-Job-Training (OJT): If done right, this is by far the most effective means of building confidence in newer technicians. When I say, if done right, this refers to an understanding that your technicians can only be trained as well as the person providing the OJT – some are better at this than others. Identify those experienced technicians who exhibit both the desire, and ability, to provide comprehensive OJT and reward them for taking on this additional responsibility.

Continuing Education (CE): I’m not talking about the obligatory CE training needed to maintain certifications. I’m referring to regularly (weekly at a minimum) scheduled training focused on reinforcement of key tasks for a specific trade. One method I have found particularly effective is a collective evaluation of projects performed by your teams. We are all very good at taking pictures, producing diagrams, and documenting drying conditions. Gather the team for a training session which includes a review of a specific project. Collectively review the job details (photos, diagram, etc.) and have each technician perform an evaluation of critical tasks. For a water damage project, you may have the technicians evaluate such things as:

  • Quality/accuracy of photos
  • Air mover calculation per affected room
  • Air mover usage and placement
  • Initial dehumidification calculation
  • Contents handling/protection
  • Drying conditions evaluation – vapor pressure differentials

Performing this exercise on a regular basis gets the team involved in quality control and reinforces the principles of drying. You can use this type of training for any of the restoration trades – just modify evaluation criteria to match the service performed (mold remediation, fire/smoke, bio-trauma, etc.).

Bottom line here is that an investment in employee training must be more involved than simply paying for training to secure certifications. The investment must include comprehensive hands-on training that builds confidence and provides practical experience. It must also be a long-term investment that includes regular continuing education to maintain technician proficiency.

Until next month,

Nasty 7 out.

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Scott Walden

Chief Operating Officer

Scott Walden is the Chief Operating Officer for Team VetCor, LLC and VetCor, LLC; a veteran manned and managed insurance services franchise company specializing in emergency services for property damage.

Civilian Life

Scott holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Black Hills State University (cum laude), and an MBA from the Florida Technical University. Prior to joining Team VetCor, he served as the Director of Training and Customer Support for M.I.C. Industries, Inc. In this role he developed and managed the company’s training program, designed to provide high-level instruction in the operation and maintenance of the company’s machinery and software to domestic and international customers. In addition, he handled oversight of all aspects of the company’s customer support operation. Scott is currently an Approved IICRC Instructor, IICRC Master Water Restorer, and a Florida licensed Mold Remediator and Mold Assessor.

Military Life

Scott Walden served in the United States Army from October 1983 until his retirement as a Sergeant Major in November 2006. He served throughout the United States and overseas in every leadership position from Team Leader to Brigade Operations Sergeant Major.

You can find his column, Full Disclosure, in the 1st Tuesday of every month in C&R’s weekly enews. You can reach Scott at swalden@vetcorservices.com.

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