Continuously train, and test, your technicians

By |  September 7, 2018
Photo: Pete Schopen

Schopen techs always cover their papers – no cheating allowed! PHOTO: Pete Schopen

As I travel around the country meeting with owners and attending industry events, I’ve noticed how incredibly undertrained many of our employees are for their jobs.

After one particularly disappointing seminar, where one of the paid speakers told the 60-plus people in attendance that boxelder bugs can only live in boxelder trees, I made up my mind to see how well-suited my own techs were at their chosen career. So a few months ago, I gave my techs a surprise test. We have monthly training seminars in my conference room during the fifth week (29th, 30th or 31st). On this particular day, I gave them a quiz with chemical brand names on one side of the page and active ingredients on the other side of the page. All my techs had to do was match 10 brand names to 10 active ingredients.

Only one of my eight techs passed. I was rocked to the core. I hadn’t been that upset about something since Hollywood ruined Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.

Taking action

After I calmed down, I decided to not only get my technicians licensed, but to raise their overall knowledge of our great industry. Since Feb. 1, I’ve been giving them an industry-centric “Word of the Day.”

At Schopen Pest Solutions, we send out a final daily text to all employees at 5 p.m. Listed in that text is the town and the appointment time for each tech’s first customer of the next day. To make sure they read and keep the vocab words, I also send out the “word-of-the-day” definition in the end-of-the-day group text.

At our March company meeting, I gave the techs their spelling words (approximately 50 words in all) in a fill-in-the-blank test. This time, only one person failed. That was a remarkable turnaround.

PHOTO: iStock.com/pidjoe

PHOTO: iStock.com/pidjoe

We now have Wednesday morning study groups at 6 a.m. It is completely voluntary, and we study from the Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Management Operations. I’ve also posted the dates of when the Illinois General Standard Tests are taking place, along with the testing sites. Since January, two techs have earned their Illinois license and one his Wisconsin certificate.

Editor’s note: You can find Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Management Operations at our bookstore.

Knowing vocabulary words and practicing what the boss preaches are two different things. To ensure the techs are treating homes the way I want them serviced, I’ve promoted my longest-tenured tech, George Cochran, to be my Quality Control supervisor. He now handles most of the training for our new technicians (we hired three new guys in April) and performs weekly ride alongs with a different tech. I am also doing a monthly ride along.

Raising the level of professionalism for my techs is paramount to me. It’s so important, in fact, that I have it written directly in our company handbook. According to our handbook, should a tech fail his vocabulary test, his pay will be reduced by 25 cents per hour during the proceeding pay period. You can’t dock someone for hours he has already worked, but you can hit him in the wallet for future paychecks.

So you think you are smart? Below are the first 10 questions from my techs’ last test. Good luck.

TEST: Pete Schopen

Click to download a PDF.  TEST: Pete Schopen

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