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Web Exclusive: Training Doesn’t Need to be Perfect to be Effective

|  July 31, 2015
Treatment Diagram

Providing technicians with treatment diagrams like these is just one way to provide training. Photo: Marie Knox

In the pest management field, one of the keys to success is consistent training. Regardless of size, all companies need solid “new hire” and effective “continuing training” programs to ensure their continued growth.

Training doesn’t need to be perfect. But you do need standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the different facets of your business. Regular training helps bring everyone “back to basics” and puts a stop to any developing bad habits.

I recently partnered with Pest Management Professional to conduct a webinar entitled “How to Develop Killer Training Techniques.” If you missed this latest installment in the Boost Your Business Webinar Series, you can go here to watch an on-demand version.

Following are my answers to a few of the questions I received from webinar participants. If you have questions of your own, please submit them to me at

How do I deal with “old dogs that won’t learn new tricks”?
I hear this a lot. One way to get “buy in” from older or more seasoned technicians is to explain the “why” behind what you are doing or changing.

Take the latest pyrethroid product label language changes: Many of the “old” ways we used these products have changed and it is no longer legal to use them the way we used to. Explaining that not changing the way your technician uses these products could result in a fine for your company (that may or may not get passed to the technician) could help your technician understand the importance of the change.

Marie Knox

Marie Knox

Ultimately, if after re-training and providing the “whys” behind how you would like the work to be done and an “old dog” still doesn’t want to make changes or “learn new tricks,” it may be time to have a serious discussion to determine if that technician wants to continue working with you.

How can I monitor my technicians’ application methods?
Getting in the truck with your technicians from time to time (better known as surprise ride alongs) is always helpful to see what they are doing in the field. Also, managers, supervisors and trainers who occasionally ride along with technicians will not only see how the application methods, but will also experience what the techs deal with on a daily basis. If you see something that’s not in line with your training manual or the product label, then take the opportunity to make corrections on the spot. Also, make a note of it so you can provide a training refresher class for all of your technicians sooner rather than later.

How often should I have training sessions and how long should they last?
Training can take all kinds of forms; it can be in the classroom with various speakers, online through modules and quizzes, or it can even be videos. Training also can take place in your company parking lot as you demonstrate personal protective equipment (PPE), proper calibration, or even driver safety. Training is also alive and well on-site at a customer’s home where proper handling, mixing and application methods can be covered. Because these training opportunities are all so different, the time(s) can vary. Frequency is up to each company, although many provide some sort of training for one hour one day per week. If this seems too often for you, then try every other week or once per month.

Would you recommend a training manual, or some other tangible resource, for employees to track their training?
Yes. I’m still attached to a physical training manual that I can hold in my hands. It may be considered old school, but I find it helpful to be able to flip to the section I have a question about to find my answer.

Also, it is helpful for technicians to continue to build their own personal manuals with information they have either researched on their own or collected from ongoing education/training opportunities at your office or through another outlet (like state association meetings). Periodically check in with your techs to see how their training is going and to answer any questions they might have. Encourage your techs to ask questions when you have speakers come to your office or when you are providing the training yourself.

You can spend all the time you want on SOP’s, but if no one follows them, they won’t make a difference. How do you suggest getting your staff to support and implement these procedures, and continue to use them once the initial push is over?
Great question and I agree! The key here is that the initial push should never be considered “over.” SOPs are not a one-time training session; they should be considered “living documents” that are re-visited often, even monthly, by everyone in the company.

SOPs will change over time as your company grows, as products change and as product labeling changes. Even new and exotic pests introduced to your area will call for either a modification to existing SOPs or a new SOP altogether. As you update your SOPs — expanding them and adding to them with new techniques, products and pests — they will eventually become your company’s training and treatment encyclopedia. SOPs will become a reference guide to be consulted daily, not just pulled off the shelf for a once-a-year training session. 

What are some techniques to make training classes more enjoyable for technicians?
Any time you can make training fun and rewarding, it will be more enjoyable for your technicians. No one likes to sit in a training class and be “talked at.” Trainees prefer to be “talked to” and included in the conversation. Offer a variety of training venues: classroom, online, video, outdoor and on-site for hands-on learning. Invite new speakers to your office; distributor and manufacturer representatives are often willing to visit and train your staff. Asking questions, encouraging discussion, creating fun quizzes and offering hands-on training can get your employees involved and invested in learning. Offering inexpensive prizes if you have quizzes encourages healthy competition!

Marie Knox is PCO Technical Manager, Product Development, for Control Solutions Inc. She can be reached at


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