What Should Roofers Do during the Winter Slow Down?

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Tis the season! You’re probably thinking that I’m going to be talking about the holidays, gift-giving, family, or something else along those lines. Instead, I’m going to talk about training. As roofing begins to slow down in most parts of the country due to less-than-ideal weather and holiday celebrations, now is the perfect time to train for the upcoming roofing season.

Why training

I looked up the word “training” on Google. The first site that pops up is Wiki. Conventional knowledge says this may not be the most accurate source, but we all use it. Moving on from Wiki, I then proceed to Merriam-Webster Dictionary and, lastly, I determine the best definition for training is: “the process by which an individual continually works to improve his/her job performance by reading, listening, practicing, role playing, etc.”

Sadly, so many of us fail to do this, believing that all we and our employees need is just a little “-on-the-job training” or “learning by doing.”  Yet, often times after doing a job, you realize you made a mistake and try to make a mental note not to do it again. Or maybe you’ve seen one of your employees make an error and you ask them not to do it again–and even tell them how to correct it–only to see it happen again. The only way to overcome these mistakes and make best practices a habit is through training.

Company training

Company training is often the most underutilized tool. For example, when times get difficult, training is often the first thing cut. I find this ironic because shouldn’t that be the time when a company would find it most beneficial to implement training? Or a training will be scheduled only for minimal participation or limited encouragement from management and owners. The time your employees spent on the training may have a cost on productivity for a day, but what is the alternative? There may be failures of installation on the roof, leading to additional time to reinstall properly, leaks, or worst case scenario: a catastrophic roof failure. Salesmen will often miss the sales training, because some job came up or they have to make a sales call. If you calculate the loss from failures and compare it to the loss of future sales, the time spent with training is minimal compared to the potential loss. Therefore, not only should a manager or owner schedule training, but they must make it a priority.

Another issue I have seen is that some companies have one big intensive training event that is supposed to be sufficient training for the entire year. How much can employees take away from that? Depending on which study you read, the average attention span of an adult is eight to ten minutes. Some studies suggest it is only forty seconds, but the longest duration I found is about forty minutes. Therefore, if we do a full eight-hour day of training (or more), how much is going to be retained? If this is done once a year, how much will it actually impact performance?

I will not say that there is no value to large-scale training events, but training must be continuous and ongoing throughout the year. Field employees should have a “tool box time” once a week where they can practice welding, go over common mistakes, review details, etc. This may only need to be ten or fifteen minutes, but is a chance for roofers to practice. As for sales, your company can have the sales force practice their presentations or role-play with one another during sales meetings. Diversify the training and make it engaging for your employees. The training needs to have a goal: something specific that it’s supposed to teach, refresh, or reinforce.

When looking at training, an owner or manager needs to ask the following questions:

  1. What do we specifically want to achieve from the training? What are our objectives?
  2. Are we looking for quick results or is this a long-term process?
  3. Can we assess the results of the training?
  4. What level of investment (time and money) are we willing to devote to training?
  5. Can we accomplish our training goals internally or do we need to look outside of our company?
  6. If we look outside of our company, are there manufacturers/vendors offering free training that support our objectives?

Individual training

So far I have looked at companies, but this in no way should take the impetus of training or the results from the individual. For training to be successful, it must be your priority. Do you want the promotion? Do you want the raise? Do you want to increase your commission? Do you want to be recognized as a “go-to person?”  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the best way to improve your performance and hone your skills is through training. Whether you’re an installer, foreman, salesperson, manager, administrator, or any other position, you need to make the commitment.

If you’re in sales, get an audiobook on sales and listen between calls. If you’re an installer, get a copy of the specification book and review details and installation methods when you have some free time. If you’re an administrator, read a Microsoft book and learn shortcuts in Excel or Word so that you can become quicker and more proficient. Whatever your position is, you can do a Google search and find a quick article to read that relates to your job. Training doesn’t have to be a huge investment in time. Your training can be two minutes a day or ten minutes a day, or maybe your training is for twenty minutes once a week or every two weeks. The most important thing is to make a commitment and follow through.

Whether your training is with your company or you’re doing it on your own, the attitude you take is paramount. If you look at training as something your company is forcing you to do or during the ten minutes you are reading the Google article you are thinking about all those gifts you still need to buy, I can guarantee you’re not going to get anything out of it. I have had many individuals in my training programs who probably have forgotten far more than I’d care to know. They still attend and are intent on taking away some kernel of knowledge that can help them reinforce the things they had forgotten. I know some veteran sales people who have been the best in their company each year, but still practice. They still listen to audiobooks, they still role-play with fellow salespeople, and they still attend training events. They believe they can always learn something new, and always improve. So during December and the following winter months, take a moment to plan what training you or your employees will have this year, implement the program, and make the commitment.  Maybe a new roof does not get on Santa’s list, but training should!


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