By Jay Everitt
With people living longer, the age of retirement increasing and most adults working outside the home, many different generations occupy the workforce today. However, millennials, or those aged 22-37, account for the largest population, or about 35 percent, of U.S. workers. In our business, we have had to make adjustments in the way we attract, train and manage this younger generation in the business of pest management.
There is a lot to consider when working with younger workers — and it starts with your company’s training program. We assessed if our training program was meeting the needs of these younger employees and, in so doing, we learned a few lessons. First, it is critical to embrace and incorporate technology into any training program. Technology is no longer a luxury add-on feature, but a standard requirement of daily life, and training programs should be designed with this in mind. At Rottler Pest & Lawn Solutions, our field personnel receive a training schedule that outlines their training for the next five years.
We try and build that training progression around the typical career path we have established for each job description. After joining the Rottler team, our professionals have the option to pursue a supervisor/manager path or to explore a sales path. Both paths have specific training modules that align the education and opportunities with the training needs of each position. We have found that our staff appreciates this method of giving them something toward which to work.
Our team members can use their smartphones, tablets and apps to perform their regular day’s work, so we have found that it’s important in all our training to also introduce this format early on in their training.
Here are some of the different training formats we use:
Kahoot. Kahoot is an app that allows you to build challenges that can be used in large or small group settings. Basically, you build a quiz that everyone competes to win, scoring on accuracy and speed. The app then ranks all contestants and posts the leaders in real time. We have found this gamification of training principles keeps all generations engaged.
YouTube. Millennials also generally prefer to learn through video training versus through reading materials. Consequently, we have converted many of our lessons from text to video, often starring our younger team members.
OTHER TIPS & TRICKS. The ability to learn in a hands-on method is important, so we have even asked employees to create training videos by recording themselves. We request videos of themselves performing service; we ask them to find interesting pest issues; and we also ask them to provide videos of a “day in the life of a pest control technician” (which we use in our recruitment videos).
We have even experimented with employees participating in the creation of his or her own training. They pick the pest issue they find interesting, which increases engagement in the activity.
With all our different training formats, we always tie a quiz to the training to verify that our participants are retaining the information.
It is essential to frame your training around teaching soft and hard skills. Protocols and techniques are mandatory to understand, but don’t underestimate the importance of training in areas that can help our technicians work well with others, resolve conflict effectively and deliver excellent customer service.
Younger workers want to feel they’re making a difference. They’re motivated when they feel they are contributing positively to our business.
Some other things we have learned is that millennials tend to be more adaptive to change, so don’t hesitate to modify something that isn’t working.
Employee recognition is important to our team members as well and should be a part of any pest control company’s culture. Celebrate when technicians earn their licenses or certification by announcing it at team meetings or in an email to all team members. We have even created a “Good News Friday” newsletter that has a section that points out all team members’ accomplishments.
FINAL THOUGHTS. New recruits in the pest control industry have a lot to learn and they must learn it quickly. The ability to reach them in a meaningful way will help them come up to speed faster and with greater knowledge and capabilities.
Don’t keep your head in the sand when it comes to understanding different generations. In my company, communication is key. If you are a leader in your organization, you should stretch yourself to better understand the changing needs of the current workforce. And, it doesn’t stop with millennials — be on the lookout for modifications that may appeal more to the influx of fresh talent, the Gen “Zs.”
I have found that this process for training and recruiting our current workforce has accelerated the speed at which our technicians start in their routes. It does take a fair amount of time to create this type of training and modify your management approach, but it has positively impacted our ability to attract and retain team members.
Jason Everitt is technical director for Rottler Pest & Lawn Solutions in St. Louis, Mo. He has been with the firm for more than 24 years and is a member of the Copesan Technical Committee. He has completed his ACE (Associate Certified Entomologist) certification through ESA. He describes himself as “a school of hard knocks guy” who has enjoyed every moment of working his way up from service technician to sales representative to commercial technician supervisor to branch manager.
This Tech Talk article was originally published in the May 2019 edition of PCT magazine.