Effective Training for Retention

Catering training to multiple generations

Effective Training for Retention

One of the greatest challenges for building service contractors (BSCs) during the next decade will be attracting and retaining quality employees and maintaining a stable workforce. With the labor market tightening and technology evolving rapidly, it is even more critical for the service businesses of today to sharpen their ability to attract and keep employees.

One important factor in this challenge is the quality of the training the employee receives. Too often we find that training, or lack thereof, is a major cause for employee dissatisfaction and ultimately contributes to turnover.

Let’s start at the beginning and identify a few reasons why a solid, consistent training program for all employees is important for BSCs.

  1. Employee recruitment. Most job applicants expect to be trained in the processes and procedures necessary to be successful with the company for which they are interviewing. If the training is weak or nonexistent, it diminishes their likelihood of coming on board.
  2. Employee retention. In the old days, we might have handed the new hire a mop and bucket and told them to “clean” a floor or a restroom. For many companies, that was the extent of their training. It led to high turnover and lack of employee commitment. There was no care or concern for the quality of work, as there was no teaching of how or why certain tasks were assigned. Employees got discouraged, felt no job satisfaction, and moved on. Unfortunately, as turnover numbers indicate, this method is still in existence at some companies.
  3. Customer satisfaction. In a highly competitive industry, the battle for customers is ongoing and a tough one at best. Expectations are great from the customer side of the equation. Studies have shown that when cleaning personnel are better-trained and supervised, it translates to higher levels of customer satisfaction, which also equates to low customer turnover and as a result, higher profitability.
  4. New customer benefit. Setting yourself apart from the competition is a key part of closing sales and winning new business. When you can show and talk about a structured, supervised, and detailed training program with a prospect, you will stand out as a company that believes in its people and cares about keeping its customers. Including your detailed training and supervision program in your proposals will make an impact.

Once the BSC commits to a solid training program for new hires and ongoing training for existing employees, it’s important to look at the best ways to execute the training. We typically have three, maybe four, generations of employees in a company at a given time. Learning to lead and effectively train employees from several generation requires some flexibility and possibly adjusted thinking. Whether you have a young professional training an older employee, or a seasoned, older employee giving instruction to a younger employee, the ability to communicate is the same.

As the Traditionalists and Baby Boomers gradually retire, Gen X and Millennials will become dominant in the workforce. Millennials especially will move into supervisory and management positions faster because the number of Gen X employees accounts for about half the number of openings that Boomers will leave in retirement. This means the likelihood of a Boomer training a Millennial or Gen X employee is great and vice versa.

Most trainers/supervisors have not been trained to communicate with employees of all generations. This is why it is important to educate trainers in your company on how to best communicate with various generations. The one-size-fits-all style of training won’t work here, and it will certainly contribute to higher turnover.

Here are a few tips for applying training to Millennials:

  1. Be clear about your expectations, what the employee is to do, why the employee is to do it, and how the result they produce will relate to their performance review. Leave nothing to guesswork. Provide specific, clear, and detailed direction and most often in writing.
  2. Coach and praise along the way. Millennials crave feedback. They can’t get enough of it. This is the “everybody wins a trophy” generation. They need constant pats on the back and encouragement.
  3. Keep it tech-savvy. This group has, mostly, never known a time when technology was not an integral part of their lives. Keep the training available online, on their devices, and provide hands-on personal training. Develop some self-paced learning for advancement. Get a company group going that they can manage or promote. Keeping them involved in online activities with regard to the company and training will keep them engaged.
  4. Use visuals. Millennials are used to information constantly being thrown at them through visuals, pop-up ads, or instant information. Hands-on teaching backed up by visuals is very effective in training all generations.
  5. Keep content short. To the point, relevant, and direct is the best way to teach Millennials. Remember they have instant access to millions of how-to articles and instruction. Short task-specific, how-to videos are excellent.
  6. Consider gaming. Most Millennials grew up playing games. Create a system where trainees can unlock levels or badges as they complete portions of their training. You can rank employees on a leaderboard, or give real prizes such as gift cards or cash as they complete more levels. They are competitive.

For training Baby Boomers, tactics are different. While instruction must be clear, Boomers typically don’t question what they are to do. They just do it. Additionally, praise, while good for all generations, is not something that Boomers must have to do a good job.

Here are some tips for training Baby Boomers:

  1. Constant feedback is not required, but they will accept and apply it. Feedback for the Boomer is expected at review time. They do not crave feedback like Millennials do. If they make a mistake, they take the criticism and correct the error.
  2. Consider technology training. When it comes to technology, Boomers may need help. They were children long before technology was used for everyday life. Technology learning for them took place as adults. The learning time took longer, and some never made the jump. In-person relationship building one-on-one is important to the Boomer.
  3. Provide detailed and accessible instructions. Boomers need specific instructions with a demonstration during a class or teaching setting. They don’t go to online sources for information as quickly as their counterparts, so training them visually and hands-on works best.
  4. Pace training. Unlike Millennials, Boomers are not used to having a steady stream of information coming at them on a continuous cycle.

Business owners and leaders should remain open to new ideas and methods of training all employees across the generational aisle. Keep in mind that the success of the training period for most employees makes the difference in staying or leaving.

Train yourself, your managers, and your trainers to develop strong skills for listening and teaching employees effectively. Evaluate your own training program and make the necessary changes for it to become an effective tool for retention of both employees and customers.

Posted On January 28, 2016

Sharon L. Cowan

25-year Veteran of the Cleaning Industry, an Author

Sharon L. Cowan, CBSE, is a 25-year veteran of the cleaning industry, an author, and the former CEO of a multi-million dollar regional commercial and residential cleaning company. Cowan conducts national workshops/seminars, provides private business consulting, and may be reached through

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