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Most of you in the snow and ice management industry are in the middle of working on your training programs for Winter 2020-21. And as I receive input from different contractors around the industry, I'm led to believe this is an area that is a continuing source of angst for many owners and top managers.

We live in an information-rich environment, and there are literally hundreds of resources we can tap into for technical and business information. Trade association members, for example, are fortunate to have at their disposal myriad programs, books, videos and podcasts. These represent the most "cutting-edge" information and data available to snow contractors.

Yet, with all of this stuff why is training still a constant source of frustration for snow and ice management contractors both large and small? I do not believe the problem is in finding the right materials. Rather, do we, as owners and top managers, really know how or are prepared to teach this material to our workforce in the right way?

Furthermore, do the people charged with training – typically our crew leaders – really know how to teach this material the correct way?

To be effective, trainers must be familiar with the nature of the teaching and learning process. It is essential to understand the processes of teaching, learning, and training because they will help trainers get in touch with how people most effectively learn and retain skills and concepts.

In short, before you attempt to teach others how to complete a task, a process and/or a procedure, you must understand how people learn.

Not convinced? Well, Benjamin Franklin may have said it best nearly 300 years ago when he stated: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Seems like pretty sound advice. Still not buying what I'm selling? Consider what Confucius said nearly three thousand years ago on this same topic: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand”

I don't know about you, but I definitely see a theme here.

That's why I've devised a program that examines the current state of training programs and systems in our information-rich environment. It examines the following three processes:

Teaching. Directing the learning process – motivating, reinforcing, satisfying needs, creating interest – toward the trainee’s goals.

Learning. The process by which a trainee, through his/her own activity, becomes changed in behavior.

Training Methods. Techniques (processes and procedures) used by a trainer to instruct the trainees in the knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary to achieve the lesson’s desired objectives.

Now, consider the five basic ways in which people/adults/trainees learn:

Doing. Performing a new job in the same way, with the same tools and equipment, under the same conditions as they must do this task in an actual real-life situation.

Thinking. Solving a real-life difficulty or problem: getting the facts needed to solve it; discussing it with others; arriving at decisions; putting the decisions into action and testing them.

Seeing. Observing a thing being done by studying pictures, charts, videos, illustrations, and real objects.

Being Told. Receiving information and instruction through words – written, spoken, or printed.

Being Checked and Corrected. Learning through mistakes brought to their attention in a positive manner by an alert, competent trainer.

In the journey of learning, the coach's mantra should be "Show. Do. Watch. Coach."

And I believe it's vital to recognize and understand that the last aspect of that mantra is "coach." For example, show trainees the correct way to shovel and manage walkways. Then, have them reproduce that same task — following the processes and procedures you laid out — while you observe their ability to comprehend your instruction and reproduce that task in real-time. Then, as the last step, you coach by offering critiques and corrections so the next time they put the practice into play it is completed to your specifications.

However, as the owner or top manager you can't participate in all of the training exercises. Those duties fall to your top lieutenants and foremen who will be supervising workers in real snow and ice situations. To accomplish this – training the trainer – I offer a 12-step system to perfect this process in your training regimen.

It's an essential tool that will make your trainers more comfortable and less fearful of their role as an educator. Once embraced, this simple and implementable system allows an organization’s trainer to have the familiarity and the self-confidence to train team members consistently and thoroughly. As a result, you'll have a safe, competent and effective workforce representing you, your brand and your interests out in the field.

Warning: Each step is discussed in detail as is the sequential flow of the process to achieve the desired and maximum effect. It’s important this is used consistently and in the sequence as it is presented. If you do not skip any of these steps, then I feel confident you will achieve the results you require from your workforce.

Here are the 12 steps to an effective training regimen.

What. Explain what it is that you are going to train on.

Why. Explain why you do what you are going to train on.

Listen. Have the trainee explain to you the what and the why.

Show. Demonstrate to the trainee the specific process or procedure.

Do. Have the trainee demonstrate the specific process or procedure.

Watch. Observe the trainee demonstrating the specific process or procedure.

Coach. Explain to the trainee what they did right and what they need to correct.

Show. Repeat the demonstration of the specific process or procedure emphasizing the areas the trainee needs to correct.

Do. Have the trainee re-demonstrate the specific process or procedure with the corrections you demonstrated.

Watch. Observe the trainee re-demonstrating the specific process or procedure.

Coach. Explain to the trainee what they did right and what they need to correct. Repeat steps 8, 9, 10, and as required.

And finally, and most importantly ... Praise. Compliment the trainee on their successful accomplishment.

Yes, it is a dozen steps but, in essence, it is a simple process that can and will apply to virtually any person in your snow and ice management operation. In fact, you can apply this sequence to other divisions in your business – landscape and lawn care, paving, construction – and achieve the same results. The bottom line is if your trainers have the right tools, then they can get the job done for your trainees. Remember, training is not a full-time job, it's an all-the-time job.