By Austin M. Frishman, Ph.D.
As our industry becomes more complex, training has become more challenging. It’s natural for management to want to fit as much training content as possible into a short amount of time. However, it can be like trying to feed a huge sandwich to a baby: too much to swallow.
Here are some tips on how best to train new employees:
- Address items like payroll and dress code in an employee manual that can be taken home and reviewed.
- Assign mentors to new hires so they have someone they feel comfortable enough with to ask questions.
- Create two lists of materials a technician must carry in their vehicle and/or carrying case: one for “permanent” items like pesticides, and one for “replaceable” items like paper towels. The lists should explain what the items are used for and why they were selected by your company. You can also create short videos or imagery to explain how to use the items.
- Write a list of objectives you are attempting to achieve for each training session.
- Don’t “PowerPoint” a person to death: mix up your method of presenting information.
- Balance classroom lessons with field work.
- When in the field with a technician, have a checklist of items to cover during the training. Date when and where each item occurs, and use the list for future field trainings.
- Try not to reinvent the wheel. If a manufacturer has already developed its own training program about a product or service, use this to your advantage.
- Training sessions don’t have to be several hours long. They can be as short as a few minutes if they hammer home an important point.
- Here’s an example: call everyone into a surprise meeting and have them bring their flashlights. Turn off the overhead lights and have each person turn their flashlight on, one at a time. That will help everyone see the importance of having their flashlights stocked with working batteries!
Training for pest identification
Teaching entomology students how to identify insects is challenging and often takes years — so how can you expect a technician to do it? As part of training, have them collect 10 different pest specimens, such as:
- German cockroach egg capsule
- Large German cockroach nymph
- German cockroach adult
- Fecal smears on cardboard
- Rodent gnaw marks and/or droppings
You can also choose what’s most frequently encountered on your routes, such as adult fleas, cluster flies, etc. The point is to keep it scientifically simple.
Have technicians seek out specimens on glue boards and sticky traps. Ask them to answer the following questions about the specimens:
- What is it?
- How do we control it?
- What can customers do to reduce the chances those pests will get inside again?
Consider giving a prize for the most interesting specimens collected. Training can be fun, if you use your imagination! If the trainer is enthusiastic, the technician will be much more willing to learn.--
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