Training Tract: Adapting and Overcoming Training Challenges

By Stephanie Whealton, Training Content Manager

What a strange year it has been so far! As a company, training has always been a top priority, regularly conducted both in a classroom setting and in the field. We know that conducting in-person trainings enable invaluable interaction with tenured company leaders and the ability to share ideas with team members. These are key pieces of what make our training initiatives successful. The pandemic has challenged us to come up with new solutions to continue delivering impactful training so that we can provide our people with the resources to do their jobs well and the opportunity to grow their careers.

As the realities of the pandemic set in this spring, it quickly became evident that in-person management training classes needed to be temporarily put on hold and rescheduled for later in the year. After assessing local guidelines and speaking with the leadership teams, we decided that a class size of 20 could be accommodated in our corporate training room and would allow us to continue training efforts while keeping our employees safe.  Along with limiting class sizes to less than half of our previous capacity, we have implemented some other common safety measures to ensure all felt comfortable and safe attending class. Attendees are spaced six feet apart, provided with a face mask and a personal bottle of hand sanitizer to keep with them, and have their temperatures checked and recorded in the morning before coming into the classroom. Since our first modified New Field Manager Orientation (NFMO) on June 24th & 25th, we have held five successful sessions, enabling over 90 of our employees the ability to safely interact and learn from some of our company’s most knowledgeable leaders.

Pictured right: Due to the larger class size, our maintenance division held their recent mid-level manager training at an indoor sports center so that appropriate distancing and safety measures could be observed. Topics included the importance of communication, customer service, and efficient use of time.

Change can be uncomfortable, and we originally had concerns that this modified class may significantly change the experience for the folks in attendance. Though there are limitations on the ways we can interact, we’re noticing that more people are engaged and participating than ever before! Attendees seem to be more comfortable asking questions and bringing up discussion points in a smaller group setting. These “side” discussions often create productive conversations around why we do certain things, providing clarity to all in the room and helping to give context to the content being presented. Conversations like this also create space to share different perspectives and offer thoughts on what we need to do as a company to continue improving.

In addition to modified classroom-style training, we have increased our focus on field training, where we bring the trainers to you, so to speak. Our diligent Directors of Quality and Efficiency—Joe Ketterer (maintenance division, northern region), Rachel Kelly (maintenance division, southern region) and Ken Thompson (landscape construction division)—regularly visit branches and teams in the field to provide guidance on best practices and increased efficiencies. We have also been actively adding content to our Learning Management System (LMS), providing team members with the opportunity to safely learn online anytime, anywhere.

Looking ahead, we have two more NFMO classes scheduled for 2020 and will also be scheduling KASH (Knowledge, Attitude, Skills, and Habits) training for next year. If you are a manager and you haven’t been to either of these sessions before, check in with your supervisor to see if you may be eligible for the next class. Hope to see you there!