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Invest in training: Realize the whys behind what we do

|  August 24, 2020
PHOTO: ETIAMMOS/ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS/GETTY IMAGES

PHOTO: ETIAMMOS/ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS/GETTY IMAGES

QUESTION:

I was recently promoted to technical and training director for our growing company, and I feel a little out of my depth. Any advice about how to approach my new role? —TIMID TRAINER

ANSWER:

Industry training and education are an investment, not an expense, and facilitating all employees to understand and embrace the vital function we serve is essential to employee and customer retention, growth and profitability. Purpose and preparedness serve to unlock an individual’s potential for excellence.

As you embark on this new chapter of your career, I can almost guarantee the question you’ll be asked most often by your newer techs is, “What product should I use for…?”

I assume you are replacing a departed technical director who has been evaluating products for efficacy and appropriateness for your company. Once passing through technical review, there are usually field trials, and then a decision is made as to whether a material will be introduced into the company’s toolbox. Protocols are created, training is developed, and just like that, a product is introduced in the field. Problem solved, sort of — unless you are your company’s first official technical director, in which case, one of your first tasks should be to both review and formalize current processes. And even then, you need to avoid the temptation of creating cookie-cutter strategies.

I have seen, in more than one good-sized, reputable company’s protocol book, the entirety of a pest control technician’s job reduced to a simple table with the pest on the Y-axis, the location on the X-axis, and a product name at the convergence point. Field personnel — the people standing at the client’s location, the heart and soul of our businesses — need more from corporate to help them understand why they do what they do. Much more.

So, regardless of whether you’re the first or the 51st director, keep in mind that when you’re telling techs what products to use, you should also pass on the knowledge of why and when a certain product is appropriate. When workers understand why they are performing a task, and the goal they are trying to achieve, it is significantly easier for them to adapt to new, or unexpected circumstances.

Three basic tenets I use in the development of training are:

  1. Preparedness yields confidence and efficiency.
  2. Confidence and efficiency facilitate quality.
  3. Confidence, efficiency and quality are essential to long-term success.

I once had a conversation with a restaurant chain’s director of quality assurance about fly prevention, why different fly species are attracted to certain areas, etc. The director responded, “In other words, the ‘Why of the Fly?’” I realized she had boiled down my 15 minutes of spewing factoids into four words.

Ever since, whenever I train field personnel, I make sure that after they identify the pest, their next question always is, “Why did I find it here?” From there, it’s less about merely reaching for the product labeled for the pest — although that’s certainly part of it, in most cases — and more about getting to the root of the problem. It’s true pest management, and will give you and your team confidence that you are making the right decisions. No more timid training.

Email your questions about insect identification and pest management technologies to pmpeditor@northcoastmedia.net. Your questions most likely will be printed and answered in one of Pest Management Professional’s upcoming columns.


Baldwin is director of technical, training and regulatory services for Terminix Commercial. He may be reached at dbaldwin@terminix.com.

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