Service technicians may be in short supply in the coming years, and Baby Boomer “tribal knowledge” could be squandered if service organizations aren’t able to offset potential losses with their onboarding and training processes.

Field service leaders face significant challenges in hiring and training future technicians — but a lack of experience, or the misconception that millennials don’t want to work, should not discourage employers. Field service leaders, after all, have little choice but to prepare for the next-generation workforce.

Here are five steps to set up your onboarding and training processes for success:

Orientation ≠ Onboarding

Onboarding is the process of integrating someone into your company’s culture and molding them into the technician you need. As a result, it should (at least) several months and up to a year. For companies considering potential millennial workers with little or no experience, onboarding will make or break your talent acquisition program. Consider these questions to improve your onboarding process:

  • Who will mentor this person throughout the first year?
  • What company values do you want to instill?
  • What competencies and certifications does he or she need to excel at your company?
  • Who will help the individual accomplish the growth you need and expect?

Designate Top Employees as Trainers

At first, it may seem counterproductive to fill a vacant training spot with one of your best technicians. Think again! Choose one or more highly skilled technicians with great communication skills to be designated trainers. You aren’t taking them off the service schedule completely — after all, they will need to go out on jobs to properly train your newest technicians. Ultimately, increased efficiency and productivity will likely outweigh any potential downsides.

Train The Trainer

field service, millennialNothing is worse than starting a new job and being assigned to a trainer who cannot train. Often, a lack of knowledge isn’t the issue. The issue is a trainer may not have the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the new hire, and they may assume the new hire has a level of experience or knowledge that they do not. Consult local schools or online resources to find train-the-trainer programs. Reputable training programs, such as the American Management Association’s “Training the Trainer,”and the Bob Pike Group’s “Train the Trainer Boot Camp,” offer on-site and workshop options.

Your technicians are likely already equipped with great critical thinking skills and the ability to work with different personalities, but do they have the patience needed to train their colleagues? And will they be patient with people less experienced? What seems like an automatic process or easier-to-understand concept to the trainer likely seems foreign to the trainee. Bottom line: Train your trainer, or your training programs won’t’ be effective.

Make Impression on Day 1

The first day at a new job is often overwhelming for any employee. There are new people to meet, HR paperwork to fill out — and a lot of time spent sitting and waiting. That’s often unavoidable, but you don’t want to overwhelm a new hire with information either.

Instead, strike a balance. The new hire’s managers and trainers should give new employees a warm welcome and mentor them about the company’s goals and policies. Most importantly, walk them through what to expect from the upcoming training sessions. Be personable and ask what they’re most excited about learning.

Deliberate Planning is Key

Consider what you want your new technicians to know in a year — and create goals for the new technician to work toward. Workers like to see their progress, and most will respond well to a structured plan. Also, consider how you want to train new workers. Some basic knowledge, such as how to diagnose problems and use tools, can be taught in the office, but the best knowledge often comes come from shadowing experienced technicians. You can’t predict what will break, but make sure you assign your trainer-trainee team jobs that are appropriate for the trainee’s knowledge level.