Technology develops at a rapid rate. Today, consumers can have all of their appliances connected to the internet via a smart house, but when things go on the fritz, they need a technician well-versed in smart technology to service their devices. At the same time, some homes still have HVAC systems that were installed before some of your techs were even born. 

Who knows what will exist tomorrow? The range of information techs need to know continues to grow. That means training is critical. But your technicians can’t keep up if you don’t put in the effort to help them. 

So, how much importance should you place on training? Can you make your techs pay for it themselves? Here’s what you need to know.

Training Should Be a Top Priority

If your techs lack certifications for the equipment you service, you’ll lose business. After all, if your customers could choose between a certified repair person and someone who maybe knows what he’s doing, which one do you think they’ll choose? Not only will people not hire your service organization, but companies also won’t give you warranty work. It’s not worth the risk.

Everyone needs to be up to date, and service techs do such a wide range of jobs that it’s hard to say exactly how often people need training. One rule of thumb? Every time a system you service gets a notable upgrade, consider training your techs on the changes because regardless of your industry and products, an untrained tech is an unprofitable tech. 

Some training, of course, can be done in-house and informally. For example, a senior technician or an in-house subject matter expert can offer refresher courses when products you service get minor updates. Similarly, for a product that doesn’t require certification, one tech can teach another as they work together. But, sometimes you need official trainers in a formal setting. If, for instance, a product you service calls for a certified technician, your employees have to take an actual course. 

Do You Have to Pay Employees During Training?

For your non-exempt (overtime eligible) employees, you have to pay them for any required training. They receive their standard hourly rate, and if it puts them into overtime hours, you have to pay overtime. 

You do not have to pay for the hours they spend in training if it meets the following four criteria:

  • The training is outside normal hours, 
  • It is voluntary,
  • It is not job-related, 
  • No other work is concurrently performed. 

So, if you want to send your jet engine techs to a wellness training held on the weekend (when they usually wouldn’t be working), and it’s totally voluntary with no jet engine training on the agenda, you don’t have to pay for their time. But, if you require them to attend, then you have to pay their hourly wage.

Salaried exempt employees don’t need any extra pay for attending training. Their paychecks remain the same regardless of the number of hours worked.

Do You Have to Pay For the Cost of Training?

The answer to this is it depends on your state laws. It’s legal to pay for someone to take a training course, but you don’t always have to. If it’s possible to use the information in a different job, such as a certification that follows the employee to a future role, it’s more likely that you do not have to pay. The most basic example is a driver’s license: you need one for any job that requires driving, but an employer wouldn’t be expected to pay your DMV fees.

You should, however, plan on paying for most training. In some states and under some conditions, you can require employees to repay if they quit (or are fired for cause) within a specific time frame of receiving the training. This depends on the situation, so make sure you have a repayment agreement written by a competent employment lawyer. Some training can run in the tens of thousands of dollars, so consider this.

If you’ll be requiring a training that is specific to your techs’ current role and won’t help them in a different job, then you should be paying for it. For instance, you should cover all costs for training for your new brand-specific customer service program.  

Making training a priority keeps your techs well qualified to do whatever work comes their way. It’s worth your investment.

ABOUT Suzanne Lucas

Avatar photoSuzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about Human Resources and Business for a number of different publications.