Betrayed! What if you train a tech and he leaves?
(What if you DON’T train a Tech and he stays?)
This month’s column focuses on your some of your internal customers — your employees. Many contractors won’t invest in training technicians and other employees because they fear the technician will go to the training, learn from it, and leave their company.
The answer to the question, “What if you train a technician and he leaves?” is usually another question: “What if you don’t train a technician and he stays?” This is the answer that was given by someone at Lennox Industries when asked years ago. It is the right answer.
Training employees is critical to staying up on the latest technical advancements. More important, training is necessary to ensure the employees answer the telephone the way you want it answered, interact with customers the way you want the interaction to be, and to ensure your field employees profitably take care of your customers. You know, the people who write your paycheck.
Even worse, some contractors hire a new employee, don’t test his knowledge, put him in a truck or on a job with another field employee, and a week later he is on his own. How do you know that employee you are putting the new employee with is doing everything the way you want it done? What if he is learning the bad habits of your trainer?
Testing is critical. Many technicians talk a great game. But what do they really know? If you want a great technician test go to www.HVACCriticalThinking.com to order them. These tests can truly gauge the knowledge of a potential hire or even existing employees. No two tests are the same. The questions are randomized.
Back to training. A contractor told me that he had just spent $1,000 to send a technician to a training class. The technician turned in his notice the week he got back. That is $1,000 wasted that he can never get back. A zero return on investment. This is an expensive lesson.
Always have a training agreement. The agreement states the training course, the cost for that course, and the fact that the employee must repay the company for the cost if he leaves within a certain period of time. This cost is pro-rated depending on how long after the course he leaves.
Is it enforceable? Many, many contractors have gotten paid back over the years. Others haven’t enforced them because they know “the employee doesn’t have any money” and don’t want to go to court. However, whether you enforce them or not, it sends a message to the employee that the training is valuable, you are doing it on the employee’s behalf and there are consequences if the employee takes the training and then leaves soon after.
What happens if the technician refuses to sign the training agreement? There is a reason why. Most of the time, either he is planning to leave and doesn’t want to tell you yet or is unhappy with his job and doesn’t think he will be working for your company for the duration of the agreement. Or, if he is close to retirement age, he might be thinking about retiring. This is the time for a discussion about the employee’s career. You might be able to save a good employee who is unhappy.
If he refuses to sign the agreement, then he doesn’t go to training. Explain that his chances for advancement at your company are less. His chances for a raise are less. And, start looking for another technician to replace him. If he won’t invest in his career, why should you?
Training must also be continuous. You might have many training agreements for different classes. Or, to attend the same class. Sometimes it takes more than once for “the training to stick.”
For those of you who have invested in my HVAC Operations Manual, the sample agreement is in Appendix 9. I’m willing to share it. Even if you don’t have my operations manual, email me for a copy of my sample training agreement (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The better trained your employees, the more profitable they will be for your company. Invest the time to train. It always pays dividends.