One of the most common objections raised by company owners when considering investing in training goes something like this: “What happens if I invest all of that time and money in training my team and they leave?”
John Lombardi, founder and president of Commercial Instruments & Alarm Systems, Inc., has a simple response: “The real question is, what happens if I don’t train them and they stay?”
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It can only hurt a company to have poorly trained employees – it certainly can’t help. By not properly training employees, companies have to deal with more time-consuming projects, lack of product knowledge, and problems on the jobsite. And that’s doesn’t include being out-of-date on today’s standards, codes and regulations.
Training and educating your employees is an investment, but the alternative – having untrained employees – can cost significantly more. It’s more than just a number on your accounting books. Lombardi understands that.
Lombardi, who founded Commercial Instruments & Alarm Systems in 1979, has spent more than 30 years designing, installing, servicing and maintaining fire, intrusion and video surveillance systems, and currently sits on a National Fire Protection Association technical committee, designing codes and standards for premise security.
His quote, now legendary in the business, comes from a source close to NTS. “I’ll tell you where that came from,” he says. “I was president of the NYBFA and we hired a guy named Dale Eller. Maybe you’ve heard of him?” referring to the Director of Education and Standards for NTS.
“He and I used to call dealers and ask them why they weren’t participating in our training,” says Lombardi. “Back then, our core mission wasn’t to make money … it was to raise the standards and the profile of the profession.”
Today, dealers need training more than ever, says Lombardi. “The industry is going through a transformation, and we need to ask ourselves where the next generation of industry professionals are going to come from.”
Company owners specifically need to ask where their next technician is coming from and, according to Lombardi, it’s better to take existing personnel and helping them grow, rather than hoping that someone better might come along.
The onus, ultimately, is on business owners to invest in and cultivate their people in order for the company as a whole to succeed. Part of that, Lombardi says, is to encourage staff to broaden their educational horizons. “Generally,” he says, “techs learn what they need to learn, and what their employer wants to pay for them to learn. The benefit of sending someone to college to learn something general as opposed to something specific might be hard to justify immediately, but it may well pay off down the road.”
Lombardi, like many others in the industry, recognizes the current pace of technological change. “Five years from now, standard POTS lines will be all but gone. Take your techs out of their current environment and what can they accomplish?”
Clearly, Lombardi argues, business owners need to prepare their techs to be competent both now and in the future. The consequence of not doing so is simple: install and service techs who can only install and service yesterday’s equipment, and sales staff who can’t sell the customer what they’re looking for. All that adds up to failure.
At Commercial Instruments & Alarm Systems, Lombardi practices what he preaches. Their recruitment process focuses on the aptitudes of new hires and streams them into positions where they can both enjoy their work and be effective.
“We take new kids and try to get a handle on what they want to do,” he says, pointing out that the daily work for each role is often very different. “Electricians do the same thing every day, whereas commercial security is something new every day.”
Consequently, the only similarity in their ongoing training is the focus on lots of it. If Lombardi’s employees are going to stick around, then he clearly wants them to be able to perform at the top of their game.