Figuring Out Overhead - When to Pay for Education


Dave Thiemecke
VP of Learning & Development
February 13, 2018
minutes to read

The 3 Tips to Take Away

  1. Place Value on Education - Make sure your employees know you support ongoing education, and invite them to participate in any trainings or classes that fit your goals.
  2. Set Expectations - Provide your technicians with places they can go to continue to learn, or provide in-house educational seminars. Make sure there are expectations set so you know who will be paying for the education, or lay out the incentives for completing ongoing education.
  3. Continue to Grow - Offer new ways for your employees to engage with additional education. As you grow, you want your talent base to grow too!

This post will explore continuing education and training for employees. My #1 priority on what the employer must always provide for the employee is a safe working environment and a critical component of that is making sure that technicians are well versed in how to keep themselves, their coworkers, and your customers safe when a job is being done.

Benefits Of More Education

Ongoing education is about more than just developing a more educated workforce; it can improve the overall quality of work and enhance the employee experience. As new technologies or new processes come out, your company and employees should be able to adapt with the times. Providing employees with training opportunities not only helps them stay relevant, but shows them that you see them as a valuable investment in the future of your business.

Lastly, offering education gives your employees opportunities for development, which is something younger techs want from their jobs. This can help your business attract new technicians who value learning and improving their skill set.

Teaching your technicians better customer service, sales, or organizational skills could improve your job tickets an ultimately raise your bottom line. Whereas cross-training technicians could expand the services your company is able to offer to customers. Your approach to education may depend on the skills you wish to impart and the needs of your business, but offering training opportunities in some capacity is a sure way to enhance the health of your enterprise.

How to Give Education

Provide in-house education

Offering training on-site helps employers track employee attendance and monitor the quality of the training being provided. It can also be more convenient for employees to attend because they’re likely used to reporting to the home office on a regular basis.

In-house training is best suited to businesses with a large employee base, where technicians are onboarded or re-trained in groups or at regular intervals. One strategy is to bring in outside educators to provide industry-based safety or skills training to new technicians or all of your technicians at one time.

Another cost-effective training initiative that could strengthen your team would be to host quarterly training sessions at your facility led by your more senior employees, members from local trade unions, or other industry veterans. Inviting technicians to share their experiences in a group setting will benefit your team by creating a mutual understanding of the joys and struggles of the profession, while helping employees to learn from the experiences of others.

Pay for outside education

Another option is to  send employees to outside trainings or requiring certifications could be a viable option. Employers should develop a list of approved or required certifications they want their employees to receive, and have a clause for “case-by-case” situations for certifications that are not on the approved or required list. With this option, you will want to have clearly defined expectations for how many times you will pay for an employee to try for a certification exam before the company is no longer expected to pay.  

Another option is to pay for classes, then have your technician pay for any certification exams at the end of the course. Again, you will want a list of classes approved by the company to take, and clear expectations of what will happen if an employee does not pass.

Employers may be obligated to cover the costs of transportation or lodging, depending on the distance employees have to travel to access training, so that should be considered when weighing the costs and benefits of outsourcing your training needs.

Incentivise education

Another way you can support ongoing education is to offer different incentives to those employees who decide to take their skill development a step further. You don’t pay for any classes or certifications directly, but once a certain level of education is achieved, the skill achievement is reflected in a compensation increase. Producing a document clearly showing X certification has a Y amount of increase in base pay. This allows the employees to learn at their own pace, and places the burden to pass the exams on them and their desire to increase their salary.

Education Overall

Continuing education is a great asset to your team, whether you are planning in-house trainings, or supporting your employees to take classes with incentive programs. Before finding a continuing education program that works for you and your employees, make sure to consult with your HR department and/or your accountant. Some training programs can be subsidized or tax deductible, so you should take advantage of any opportunities to make sure you are forming the best program for your team. At the end of the day, it’s the responsibility of all employers to make sure that their technicians have the training they need to be safe and effective in the field, but developing skills above and beyond the industry standard will go a long way towards keeping your employees and your customers happy.

Look at Pricing

The start of the year is a great time to look at pricing. Usually, you have an idea of how your company fared the year prior, and you want to ensure you will continue to grow in the months to come. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions with respect to spending or saving in our personal lives, and it’s no different for business owners. Making sure your pricing is in line with where it should be is one of the strongest ways to start the year the right way.

Part of looking at your price book is finding where the issues are, and that can take time. An HVAC company in January is going to be very busy, so it’s a difficult time for a close look. However, a plumbing company might not be as busy. Whenever you tackle this job, your best bet is to look at what your labor rates are. Start there, and let it trickle down across the board. Ask yourself, “Are my labor rates helping my business stay profitable?”

Remember, there are many different services out there and many different groups or communities that you can engage. Never hesitate to say, “Hey, I’m a business owner in Florida. What should my labor rates be?” You can build your price from there. There are also some great billable hour calculators available.

Set Goals

There is no better time of year for looking inward than January. Set your personal goals and company goals for the following 12 months. If you can break those down into departmental goals, even better! Perhaps that means a CSR booking closing rates a little better, or a truck doing 250,000 a year rather than 200,000.

Many companies have found that using an Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) goal-setting system pays off. Looking for a guidebook when it comes to OKRs? Check out Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr. 

One key question is the best way to handle setting goals: Is it smarter for business owners to handle this solo, together with staff, or to delegate completely? 

The best approach is to set goals at the department level. As an owner, you need to take the time to understand what the goals are in each department, and make sure they are in line with your goals for the company. No one likes to set unattainable goals for themselves, so make sure you push your departments to set goals that are lofty, rather than simple ones to feel good about hitting. Entrust your staff to aim higher, and watch how they respond.

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