It All Starts with TrainingTomChilders
Well-trained employees are the backbone of any good business, and as an industry loaded with owner operators, this includes owners.
As an industry going through a lot of changes in products and practices, training is more important today than ever. Topics like drought tolerant, indigenous, sustainability, smart irrigation, low impact, permeable pavers, and more, dominate the landscape of the industry today (no pun intended). Is your organization staying current on these and other practices?
So what is a small business to do, where to go, and is it worth it in the end?
Let’s start with the ROI question…is it worth it? There is arguably no better way to show employee appreciation and gain loyalty than to invest in their development. In turn, skills, performance and retention improve. Remember, employee retention is critical in these times and its never been more important to deliver a quality product. So on the ROI question, it is safe to say it’s a good investment.
As landscapes change from a “system” standpoint, so must our knowledge base and skills. This is the day and age of life learning and our industry is no exception. Finding what you need from an authoritative and credible source at an affordable price is the real challenge but it must be done. And once your system is in place, you have a real training and development program that will help recruit and retain employees…a big bonus.
Finding training that meets your needs is doable but takes time. First, develop a list of the skills you want training on. Be sure and solicit employee feedback, it’s critical (to get their input and deliver what they ask for is a real retention tool). Once you have what you consider a good list, it is time to source it.
You can start by looking at any in house employees and/or supplier/vendor resources that are particularly strong in the developmental area. These are cost effective options and instructor led hands on training works great in our industry. The recognition to the trainer is also an intrinsic reward and a form of recognition that has great value. Take full advantage of this cost effective option.
Another great source for incredibly relevant and cost effective programs are the trade associations (national, state and local.) They are fabulous and having done IA and NALP certification classes over the years (full disclosure – not active anymore) they were well worth it. Many associations will have self paced programs and send you all the study materials. Some also offer on line sessions, webinars, and local classes as well (see our Resources section for links to various Associations).
The online resources for other types of classes, i.e. business, software, etc. are very strong and very cost effective as well. Some good ones include Lynda.com, Kahn Academy, Learning Tree, and Business Training Institute. The SBA and SCORE.org have some great free online and offline material and tips for cost effective training. SCORE also offers a mentoring program. If you look hard enough, you can find just about anything you need via the internet and the prices are usually very reasonable.
You always can go the route of bringing outside trainers in or attending seminars or local short courses. Most colleges and universities have continuing education or offer professional tracks. Many of the old mainstays, such American Management Association, have great programs but check pricing. Also, a company that seems to be growing in popularity that zeros in on the core needs of landscape maintenance and construction contractor is LSTraining.com. If nothing here seems to hit the mark, Google it…it’s out there somewhere!
Once you have identified your needs, budget and sources, it is time to deliver and execute. How you position and offer is important but your employees should value it and the ones that don’t, well, you might have an HR issue on your hands. Also, public acknowledgement and praise of successful training says a lot about your company when it comes to employees so find a way. For those with quite a few employees, remember the old adage praise publicly, coach privately. It applies here. Praise those that train and develop and pull those aside that don’t and coach them as to why they should.