Employee training and development is a top priority for service leaders racked by pressure to attract (and retain) the next generation of service pros. Not only is ongoing training (whether for technical or customer service skills) essential to stay competitive, younger employees are also placing high value towards on-the-job learning opportunities when deciding where to work.
HR analyst and consultant Josh Bersin says technical and professional skills are now the “currency of success” in business. “If you can attract or develop better scientists, engineers, sales people, or functional experts you will beat your competition,” writes Bersin. “And once you attract these people you must give them a compelling learning environment to stay current, as technology advances at an accelerating rate.”
Providing learning opportunities for on-the-go technicians can be difficult. Someone’s always always on the road, making it nearly impossible to corral the entire staff for a day-long session. Because of this, there’s a real risk that learning becomes a detriment and not an asset. That’s where technology can help ease the pain.
One of the best ways to teach a moving workforce is through e-learning: uploading training videos and lesson plans to a cloud-based platform so that your techs can learn whenever they want, where ever they are. Sounds simple enough, right? Not really. Developing an effective and efficient e-learning plan solves the logistics problem, but still requires choosing the right teaching platform, hiring a team to build and implement it, and getting buy-in from a diverse workforce. Here are three factors to consider before adding e-learning to your service techs’ training and development regimen:
1. Know Your Employees
Cellular phone company Metro PCS has a tough job when it comes to training. Because the company deals a lot with third-party vendors, it must find ways to train an unknown number of workers that aren’t even in its immediate employ. So when the company rolled out an e-learning program in 2011, it made sure the training sessions were generalized in a way that they still applied to different audiences. For example, the underlying messages were the same, but the e-learning was customized for specific regions. A Northeast-based crew might receive a different lesson on driving in inclement weather than, say, its West Coast counterpart.
You may not face the same disadvantage as Metro PCS, but the lesson still applies. Your employees may not work out of a home base, so the company’s training programs should deliver the same underlying message but be customized for different geographic areas or types of workers.
2. Observe and Adapt
Starting an e-learning program is only the first step. It’s also important to monitor the training for effectiveness. This can be achieved only through observation, which is obviously challenging for any mobile workforce. The solution here is to identify managers within the company who can watch employees to see if the learning is actually being utilized and if it’s helping — or if it’s just another time suck. One good measure would be to track any increase in sales for a fleet that has completed an e-learning course on conversions versus one that has not.
3. Keep it Simple
As your workforce grows, it’s likely the age gap among employees does, too. Your newest tech and your 25-year veteran are going to be receiving the same e-learning options, but their initial reactions are likely to differ. One way to engage workers of all ages is through gamification. Another way to get buy-in? Accessibility. Create programs that can be used across operating systems and devices. Don’t force techs to take a class on a specific day at a specific time. Instead, make it so they can learn when it’s most convenient for them — either on or off the clock.
Finally, be sure to recognize workers when they complete a training program. Praise, either verbal or written, or some form of financial reward are among the ways employees like to be recognized for their hard work. Recognition makes employees feel valued, which also improves retention. Recognition is tantamount for field service companies in particular, as appreciation for a job well done can be hard to communicate when workers are almost always on the road.