Get the Most Out of Training

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Lawn & Landscape
April 2017
By Marty Grunder

When you’re caught up in the immediate day-to-day demands of closing sales, delivering jobs on time and on budget, and turning a profit, it can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get done all that you need to.

Training becomes an afterthought, a luxury, a to-do item you put off and off and off, or address only reluctantly and half-heartedly before crossing it off your list and moving on. But the truth is you can’t afford to skimp on training, especially during our industry’s high season. Here are four keys to delivering effective training and optimizing your investment in it:

Plan Your Training

Set aside a regular time for training every week. At Grunder Landscaping, our team leaders meet for one hour every Tuesday for a training session. Attendance is mandatory. If you’re not committed to continuous improvement, you’re at the wrong company.

After the session, team leaders are expected to train their crews on the topic. This reinforces what our team leaders just learned, keeps our training groups small and hands-on, and fosters leadership, teamwork, and crew cohesion.

Know What Your Team Needs

Identify and monitor your team’s deficiencies. Track where you’ve had issues and lost money.

Stay keenly informed on the latest horticultural issues. Maybe you’ve seen a lot of your clients’ trees die in the past year. You investigate why and discover your crews planted the trees too deep. Maybe there’s a disease threatening shrub roses in your area that you need to prepare for.

Maybe you’ve invested in new equipment and need to ensure your team knows how to operate it correctly and safely. Work with your leadership team to agree on your top training priorities and then systematically address them. You won’t regret it.

Teach, Don’t Present

Effective training is not summoning your team to a conference room, dimming the lights and treating them to a nap-inducing PowerPoint. It’s not standing in a truck bed, hovering above your team while you proclaim what everyone else should be doing. The only thing you’ll accomplish is a company culture that dreads training as much as root canals and the DMV.

Effective training, in contrast, is highly interactive, creative and passionate. A good trainer asks questions, fosters discussion, and gets students engaged. A good trainer is energetic and enthusiastic, no matter the topic. A good trainer assesses where his or her students are, where they need to be and how best to get them there.

Reinforce Your Training

Follow up with your team in the days after a training session to see if they have any new questions. Start this week’s training session with a review of last week’s topic. From time to time, give your team tests on topics you’ve recently covered. If they don’t do well on a test, consider if the problem is them or you.

You might need to revisit a topic with a different approach to ensure your team is learning and retaining what you need them to know. Make certain your team leaders are working to reinforce training topics in the field. Most of us learn best by doing, over and over again.

Train Yourself

To be an effective trainer and teacher, you have to be constantly learning yourself.

Read far and wide, attend industry seminars, visit other successful landscaping companies or businesses in other fields.

And if you think you’ve got nothing new to learn, it might be time to hang it up and retire, folks. Or, as Albert Einstein put it “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”