Personnel e.bulletin – February 2013


 Prepared for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc.

Any question or debate over whether or not to invest time and money in employee training is over. There is a national skills deficit that is made worse both by baby boomer retirements and young people not pursuing the professional skills that are in demand; with plumbing and heating skills on the “hot skills” list. As a result:

  • Your employees and potential employees will demand more from you and training and lifelong learning will be among their demands.
  • When you invest in your employees and their development, they return that investment many times over.
  • You will improve retention. Given the looming skill shortage, you cannot ignore attracting and retaining talent and the role that training plays.
  • Productivity increases as a result of training and development are well researched. Some companies see productivity increases by up to 230%!
  • Knowledgeable employees improve service which in turn makes happier customers.
  • Trained employees are more versatile and flexible – they can take the tools they use and bend them to their needs which will make them more adaptable to your evolving business needs.

Now that we are on the train, let’s explore ways to build in time for the training and development of your staff and how to make the most out of the time you spend.

Optimize On-The-Job Training

Most training, and the most effective training, happens on the job. The apprenticeship model fully leveraged by the plumbing and heating trades is a prime example of on-the-job training with its primary goal of teaching job specific skills. Done well, on-the-job training will also transfer valuable knowledge about the culture of your organization as well as the performance expectations that you have for your workers. Some ways to think more broadly about on-the job-training include:

  • Start a mentoring program as a way to develop technical and managerial skills. A best practice is to allow your staff to choose a mentor rather than assigning one.
  • Implement a book club concept by asking all employees to take the same on-line training, attend the same webinar, etc., and then discuss the content as a group.
  • Promote from within and take advantage of the training and development investments you have already made in the staff you have. You will also have a positive effect on the morale.
  • Similar to promotions, look for internal transfer opportunities for your people. Re-training and re-tooling is a great way to inspire your people and keep them from leaving when they need a growth opportunity.

Learn From Each Other

  • Support job shadowing which allows an employee to learn about and benefit from brief stints of job training while the employee observes and participates in the work of another employee.
  • Ask employees to teach other employees. Identify areas of expertise in your employees and ask then to train others.
  • Establish a company norm for when an employee attends an external seminar, training session, or conference. Expect the employee to magnify their experience for the company by training other employees. This practice is cost-effective, circulates new ideas, and develops a sense of shared ownership for employee development.

Go Big and Begin Building a Learning Organization

A learning organization is characterized by workers who are continuously encouraged to improve their practices and processes and are given the support they need to do so. Learning organizations take time for training every day; it becomes imbued in their cultures and ways of operating. As a result, just like a high speed train, they get where they want and need to go faster and enjoy ever increasing productivity levels.

Here are three ways to start building a learning environment:

  1. Get rid of change resistant language. Teach your employees and management teams to ask “Why” a lot; especially when you hear, “This is the way we’ve always done it”. You will open the doors to new thinking and better ways of operating.
  2. Include all levels of your staff. In a true learning organization, all levels get involved. Who understands best, for example, what works and doesn’t than your experts in the field who interact and troubleshoot with your customers every day. Find regular opportunities to involve all staff in improving your business.
  3. Make change a part of your culture. Managing change is one of the hardest aspects of running any organization, especially change that affects everyone in the company. Some employees will resist any change; others will actively look for ways to make the change into the problem, rather than truly analyzing the results of the change. Communicate to your team that change is a fact of life – that things WILL change. Invite them to become a part of the change in a positive way.

Train Wrecks Averted

You can and will avoid train wrecks by taking the time to train your employees. When you do, you demonstrate that you are committed to their growth and development. In turn, your employees will be more productive, motivated, and loyal.

As an organization, you will be amazed at how quickly and nimbly you can manage the twists and turns that your daily tracks present you when you commit to a learning environment that invites all of your people be part of your solutions.

This content was developed for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. ( Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of February 2013. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.

The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at


Read Issue — PDF format, 505KB