Training programs for new service specialists in the pest management industry are different for each company, but usually involve some combination of classroom instruction, online learning, and/or reading and evaluation of company service protocols. Although these components vary, it is common practice to have new service specialists ride along with an experienced, high-performing field technician as part of the onboarding process. Are you one of those employees tasked with the responsibility of training during a field ride-along? If so, congratulations! You are an essential part of that process and have a great responsibility to produce a team member who contributes to the overall service of the company.

New employees come in anxious about the opportunity that lies ahead. The field trainer helps the employee settle in and learn the skills applicable for the job they were hired and, just as importantly, sets the tone of the company culture. In order to make this experience result in a fully functioning, high producer for your company, here are a few elements to consider:

Be Prepared.

Training begins prior to the employee’s arrival. If we want to show employees preparedness is essential to our success and the customer’s experience, should we not model this ourselves? As a trainer, the employee is our customer. If our “customer” arrives, and we appear to not be prepared for them, we set a tone that implies they are not important. Who wants to stay with an organization that doesn’t care enough to get ready for our arrival? Just as our customers will leave us if we don’t deliver a product we promised, employees will leave us if we aren’t prepared to show them they are valued.

Be Positive.

Be aware of how the new employee feels. They are nervous, possibly financially stressed if they have been without a job for a long period. They may not be mentally or physically sharp depending on their past work history or lack of work for an extended period of time. Setting them at ease can easily be achieved by starting the day with a positive tone. Be on time and greet them with a smile; give them a site tour and introduce them to their co-workers. Keep your comments positive to represent your company in its best light. Remember that you have the ability to influence a new employee to like or dislike their new placement.

Set Expectations & Model Learning.

Prior to beginning a service, it is important to break down the task in steps and communicate them to your new employee. Adult learners need to know what they are expected to do, as well as why this knowledge or skill is of value to them in their job.

As you begin to model the steps you discussed, position yourself so that you can be seen and heard by the new hire. Ask open-ended questions during this time to keep the employee engaged such as, “What do you think we will do next?” or “Why do you think this is important to do?” Get the employee thinking and linking the action to its value.

Give Time to Question & Practice.

Beyond the first day of training, observation alone will not provide a good ride-along experience for a new technician. Keep in mind the 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of the time the new employee should be telling you what will be done next or doing what needs to be done on his/her own; a trainer should be coaching or modeling how to do something only 20 percent of the time. The purpose of field training is to actively engage the employee in the job they were hired to perform. Many times, trainers get caught up in showing what needs to be done, but never allowing the trainee to practice. This can result in putting a technician in the field who has never actually done the work.

Provide Specific Feedback.

Employees need to hear how they are doing. Make sure to give specific feedback on how they can improve. Pair constructive criticism with positive feedback that tells the employee what they can work on and what they executed correctly. Feedback should be given immediately, if possible, so they connect their actions to the comments. If a customer is within earshot, corrective feedback should be done quietly or reserved for later.

Approach the ride-along experience as a crucial part of creating a valuable team member you will be working with for years to come, and it will result in an exceptional workforce for your company.

About the author: Dena, Berg-Castano, A.C.E., a member of the Copesan Technical Committee, has 12 years of experience in the pest management industry. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education and currently serves as technical director of Northwest Exterminating, Tucson, Ariz.

Copesan is an alliance of pest management companies with locations throughout North America. To learn more, visit