Making the Best of a Challenging Situation: Engaging Employees Through Training
By helping employees to feel productive and sharpen skills through training, ADT Commercial has hit upon an innovative way to ease collective stress during uncertain times.
- By Michael Keen
- Apr 29, 2020
As organizations across industries continue to navigate the COVID-19 public health crisis, there are ways in which companies in the security, fire and life safety industries can take actions now to make the best of a situation that continues to evolve and challenge us daily.
At a time of seemingly insurmountable challenges facing our lives, careers and businesses, there remain substantial opportunities to focus our time and energies on investing in our people, our skills and our customers; taking this approach can help us through these difficult times and even propel us into a more stable future.
Now, more than ever, organizations across the industry are striving to keep their businesses intact and their people taken care of, while still maintaining a trusted partnership with their customers and patrons. ADT Commercial is no different. Our company announced in March that it was dedicated to providing pay protections to all employees into May, even in the event of any kind of slow down or reduction in work hours due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The prospect is daunting, but as other leaders look to identify various ways that will allow them to stand by employees during the COVID-19 global pandemic just as we did, they’ll find a significant opportunity to re-invest resources to support frontline teams in tangible ways. By prioritizing comprehensive training and reallocating resources amid newfound downtime to educate employees, organizations stand to reassure and empower their workforce while also bolstering their capabilities to provide more accurate, exceptional and essential services to their customers.
Following are just a few best practices to consider when establishing an approach to help frontline employees progress and fine-tune their skillset during a crisis.
It’s no question that frontline employees – those who are interacting with your customers each and every day to deliver on your service promise – are truly the backbone of any organization. That’s why it’s so important to pivot quickly in times of crisis. If there’s an opportunity to expand those customer-facing employees’ knowledge base and enhance their skillsets, take it.
For us, that meant almost immediately applying any extra time to train our commercial technicians and sales teams in different vertical markets and across operations. This should ensure our workforce would be diversified, highly skilled and just that much more engaged when they could return to the field with regularity. Organizations can also benefit from reviewing the multiple tracks available for certification-based training from the many well-regarded industry associations that have been established. It’s also important to consider partnering with different vendors and manufacturers to schedule virtual classes, so employees can attain product-specific and vendor-led accreditations. These kinds of offerings grant technicians, sales and operations team members enhanced opportunities for career progression and ensure that customers will continue to benefit from engaging with the most expertly trained staff possible.
Admittedly, this is where we’ve found our greatest value: By helping employees to feel productive as they sharpen skills and build expertise through training, we’ve hit upon an innovative way to further ease collective stress during these uncertain times. And, as a greater company, we stand to see more long-term success as a stronger partner to our clients when we emerge on the other side of this crisis, with a more skilled workforce aimed at raising the bar in the industry.
Establish widespread buy-in
Now, training sounds attractive, but it really requires a lot of hard work and dedication. Carving out time for training seldom seems convenient. When business is booming, there’s often not enough time for classes, and in financially hard times, resources may be too scarce to devote to training. Despite today’s remarkably difficult circumstances, it’s important to widely communicate a vision of re-committing to the training that is so critical to maintaining the technical expertise of employees.
You need to ensure you have company-wide buy-in – from executive leadership to local district leaders – in order to drive this culturally and prioritize training activities. Knowing that the business dynamic has changed, there needs to be a widespread consensus on the value that results from investing in existing talent. It’s vital to keep employees engaged and looking forward, even when it feels as though so much is at a standstill.
Dedication and accountability are critical
Perhaps most importantly, all training options need to be centrally assigned, delivered, and tracked to measure success.
Logistically, we recognize that this is a formidable task for any organization. It’s a challenge to quickly come up with a solution that includes valuable content, is organized coherently and can be provided to team members in remote, yet accessible ways. At ADT Commercial, we leveraged a hybrid selection of self-paced, facilitator-led training with subject matter experts and third-party providers, including product partners and industry organizations. We recommend placing a premium on industry-recognized certifications and product qualifications as they validate the skill upgrades team members earn.
Wherever possible, leverage a Learning Management System (LMS) to its fullest capability to allow you to track when employees complete specific product training and certification requirements. You’ll be able to assign training in certain situations and empower employees to enroll in the training they need as dictated by their skillset.
For those organizations that may not have a similar system in place, we recommend implementing an auditing system in some form to ensure accountability – especially given the heightened requirements of many industry certifications. In one example, we assigned advanced video systems and networking training to a large group of technicians. In total, it was twenty hours of content. The first thing they had to do was take part in the learning module, then successfully complete a proctored exam. Not unlike proctored standardized testing, this exam lasted two hours and included 100 questions the technician had to answer while being observed on camera.
In order for training to be embraced, companies should implement a culture of recognition upon completion, honor and reward those who perform well, and show their success will be tied to career progression and promotion going forward. This will help to make employees more accountable throughout training, and increase the level of success.
Engage with various vertical market expertise
Take this time as an opportunity for employees to engage with different vertical market groups within the organization and to share their applicable range of knowledge. For example, there are a significant number of NICET IV certified technicians on ADT Commercial’s National Fire & Life Safety Team who are offering their time and expertise to others in the company who may not have encountered fire and life safety applications with the same level of frequency.
Similarly, we have professionals with a deep knowledge of specific businesses, like nurse-call, ATM services, project management and enterprise sales who are also lending their expert perspective to help us build up a more well-rounded workforce.
By expanding skillsets across disciplines, organizations benefit from having the knowledge immediately accessible within their own companies, translating into a true advantage for both their people and their customers.
Build out tracks for salespeople
There’s immense value in including salespeople in these types of initiatives as well, to help them more directly appeal to prospects’ and customers’ needs in the marketplace, post-pandemic.
For instance, we’ve assigned our salesforce to complete facilitator-led training for three hours a week to help build upon their technical product knowledge base so they can more accurately respond to existing and future customers’ needs with the most appropriate offerings.
See an impact
In all, there are hundreds of courses available to ADT Commercial team members and the numbers we’ve collected thus far show remarkable employee engagement. In the last four weeks alone, we have seen a 13x increase in course engagement, and employees’ responses surrounding the training have been extremely positive. Following are just a few of the comments received from our servicepeople in the ADT Commercial field organization after completing classes, and they encapsulate the philosophy we want to project throughout our organization and to the rest of the industry as we manage these unprecedented circumstances.
“Training is a means to accelerate and solidify knowledge and understanding to bring successful outcomes to our customers and our teams. It’s important at ADT Commercial, especially now, to focus our people on a path that calms and directs them to refresh and develop skills in technical expertise, new technology, manufacturers’ products, quality control, teamwork and safety. Training is helping us to feel accomplished and prepared to meet customer needs,” said Alex Pazsak, Enterprise Service Technician.
“These programs boost morale, employee satisfaction, and succession planning. Any time you invest in your employees by providing or supporting upskilling opportunities, they feel more valued, and in turn, grow more loyal to the company. When your employees learn new skills, they put themselves in a position to take the next step on their career path with the company, and that benefits both sides! The employee gets a desired promotion, and the organization gets to fill an important position with an experienced, skilled worker who has plenty of knowledge and can hit the ground running,” said Jonathon Spingola, Commercial Service Technician.
The best outcome from all of this for any organization is that customers can enjoy the fruits of your labors in the form of even better trained and knowledgeable teams, well-versed in more areas of your business. With a more centralized and formal process with training assigned, tracked and credentialed, organizations can begin to create an efficiency and a standard of excellence that customers will come to know and trust.
If as an industry, we continue to focus on what matters most – our people – our customers will only see the benefit. By empowering employees in this way, we and other organizations only stand to prove our commitment to excellence, and then, we will not only persevere during this difficult time, but come out stronger in the end.