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Training Your People So They Can Leave

Provide the right training for all types of employees — not just the stars.

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” —Richard Branson

Our latest 90-day Rapid Improvement Plan oriented around doing the job right the first time is well underway, and we’re seeing some early results. Not surprisingly, most of the issues we’re having center around proper training.

I’ve tried to build Livewire as a place where, if you want it badly enough, opportunity is there for the taking. Some of our greatest team members started as field installers and have risen through the ranks to anchoring our leadership team. It’s our responsibility to provide the tools to make our employees successful. It’s the employee’s responsibility to seize those opportunities and advance in their career.

What about the employees who don’t “seize” by default? We still need to train those folks and set them up for success. As I step back and look at our environment, it’s set up to reward independent thinking and people who go the extra mile by default. We’ve failed miserably at creating anything prescriptive or more “paint by numbers” for those who might need a little more guidance for whatever reason. Maybe it’s their first year at the company, maybe they view their daily work as on at 7:00 AM and switched off at 5:00 PM. It doesn’t matter. We need to cater to them and realize that different personality types aren’t bad, they just that — different.

As we’ve done in the past, learning from those who’ve gone before has worked out well. I often use lessons learned from a life spent in the Scouting program to inform decisions we make inside Livewire.

Also by Henry Clifford: Rapid Improvement Plan: Doing The Job Right The First Time

We’ve decided to take our first-year employees and implement programming using an approach very similar to what the Cub Scouts offers up. You show up, you’re guided through an activity. Provided you complete it successfully, you advance. Scouting does this intentionally. Developing a rhythm where a Scout is recognized and praised publicly for small achievements builds self confidence and drives up engagement. By the time the Scout reaches the end of their first year, they’re set up for success moving into their next rank. Cub Scouts do this for a few years before graduating to a more self-driven program; Scouts BSA.

Boys and girls in Scouts BSA are shown the path to Eagle Scout, given a handbook, told where and how they can earn merit badges and understand their advancement is completely up to them. Only 4 percent of Scouts ever attain the rank of Eagle. Similarly, we expect a small percentage of employees who begin with us to rise to our leadership team, but the key difference is that we don’t view those who don’t as “less than” or failures in any way. We want to encourage all of our employees to be the best versions of themselves possible. You want to just do new home rough-ins and trim-outs? No problem! Let’s help you become a black belt new construction installer.

A key challenge here is working training effectively into the work day. We offer eight paid training hours monthly, so all we need to be better at is scheduling training the same way we schedule customer jobs (easier said than done). This is no different than treating our workout routine with the same prioritization as a meal or work.

As we begin to roll out our first-year program, my hope is we’ll start seeing a more standardized training base from our employees, while encouraging those who are driven to do more after their first year to keep advancing at their own pace. This way we’ll feel good about having done our part as a company to provide prescriptive programming while still encouraging those few who want to reach for more to swing for the fences.

How do you encourage your employees to keep their edges sharp?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.

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