Volume 15, Issue 5- September/October 2013

A Necessary Roughness:
How Training Keeps Techs in Top Form and Bolsters Your Bottom Line

by Jenna Reed

Does a professional athlete train just once a year? No, says Mark Liston, Glass Doctor president. Why not? Because They want to get better in their profession and advance their skills.

“For some reason we all get confused. [We think] that a technician with 10 years of experience has advanced each year and is much more proficient,” he says. “There are people I’ve met, though, that have one year of experience and they simply have repeated that one year 10 years in a row.”

Liston says the initial “introduction to repair and replacement” training, as well as ongoing training and programs with strong content are vital for the auto glass industry.

Initial Training is the First Key Step
Starting the new technician off on the right foot can play a key role in the auto glass business.

“On the windshield repair side, we have a training DVD, sales manual, operations’ manual and technical manual [that we give to our new technicians],” explains Kerry Soat, CEO of Fas-Break, in Chandler, Ariz. “We offer hands-on training if necessary

. “On the glass replacement side, we send our technicians to one-week hands on training schools, which are located around that country. It is very intense.”

Bob Beranek, owner of Auto Glass Consultants in Sun Prairie, Wis., prefers his individuals without any experience.

“We hire new people rather than experienced technicians because we want to control how they install glass,” he says. “I am a trainer by trade so we use our own training program.”

Beranek says new hires work directly with the company’s manager for the first week and then they go through the educational program.

“We then place them with a mentor for about two to four weeks and then they go solo,” he adds.

At Glass Doctor, education runs a bit differently because not only is the company training technicians, but franchisees are included as well, according to Liston.

“Because we are a franchise system, we are different,” says Liston. “We have franchise training as well as technician training. We have two phases of training. Phase 1 is done online.

“Phase 2 is conducted in Waco, Texas,” he continues. “We spend a week introducing the person to auto and flat glass vendors—including textbook and hands-on training to get them familiar with the latest technology in these two arenas. The second week we teach business training. Then we have a Sure Start Franchise Consultant assigned to help them for their first year. This provides support for everyone, even if they have extensive experience in glass.”

Next, Glass Doctor assigns a permanent franchise consultant to help.

“Throughout the year we have regional meetings as well as a national meeting,” Liston explains. “In addition to this, we offer auto glass training that includes Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC)™ technician certification, headlight restoration and windshield
chip repair training for a week.”

He says all the company classes are offered in Waco, Texas, at Glass Doctor University.

“This is all evidence of our strong beliefs that training is mandatory—not just something that should be done,” Liston stressed.

All new hires at Glasspro Inc. in Charleston, S.C., must go through an extensive orientation process prior to starting, according to Jeff Olive, training manager.

“In this orientation we talk about our mission, where we came from and what our goals are for the company, as well as basics. It is three hours long,” says Olive. “All technicians, new and experienced, must go through this.”

Whether a technician is new or experienced, they will report directly to Olive after the orientation for further training.

“If it’s an experienced technician, they will work with me for at least one week. We’ll go over our processes and procedures and more. I’ll also go through their toolbox to make sure they have all the tools needed to do their job,” Olive says.

“If it’s a new technician trainee, they will work directly with me for at least one week. Then they’ll work with an experienced technician probably for about three months before going off on their own to do easier jobs. We want to make sure they can do the simpler windshields from start to finish without assistance before sending them out,” he says.

Another key topic for education is the pre-inspection process, Olive highlights.

“Doing the pre-inspection with the customer right can save the company a lot of money,” Olive says. “We look to bring pre-existing conditions to the customer’s mind before the technician starts the replacement. For instance, we’ll have the technicians identify warps in the cowl and point out if it’s not laying flush against the windshield. These are things the customers tend not to look at until the replacement is done. So it’s important to train technicians in this area of pre-inspection.”

Olive also notes that a company’s urethane supplier will also offer adhesive certification and help in training newcomers.

“We teach new trainees and customer service representatives about the windshield repair process,” Olive says. “We can teach them this in one to two days. In some of our smaller locations, the customer service representative can also do windshield repair if needed.”

Olive does testing in the field, watching both new and experienced technicians install a windshield to ensure they are following company procedures.

“If the individual is an experienced technician, I watch to see what procedures they picked up from the prior company that we need to change,” he says. “I adjust may training based on watching them and their experience.”

Carl Tompkins, global marketing resources manager for Sika Corp., says that before his company’s products can be brought into an auto glass retailer, the company’s team must undergo training.

“One of our commitments is to provide a national team of trainers who are factory trained and employed. We have 21 people full-time serving the auto glass replacement industry. … We usually begin by meeting with the ownership of the company and analyze their needs and what we offer in terms of benefits and features. We build a relationship with the owner. Once this bridge is built and we’ve found a culture match and the management feels like Sika can be a good partner, we start discussing systems.”

Tompkins is a firm believer in face-to-face education with technicians. “This way we can monitor and witness a technician’s skills. We take the techs through a classroom setting and [windshield] installations as well. We do a full-scale installation with technicians to make sure they transfer the book sense to skill application,” Tompkins explains.

Once a technician has undergone training, he must get a 100-percent on the test handed out by Sika trainers. \

Ongoing Training
And because a technician has undergone a good initial program does not mean the education should stop, according to Liston. As in professional sports, the training needs to continue to keep professionals warmed up and in top game mode.

“We provide a vast collection of online training videos, as well, that can be accessed by technicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week for additional training and can provide on-site support during an installation,” he says.

“In addition to our training programs, we conduct a monthly half-hour live online technical meeting (called the Cutting Edge) for all of our franchisees and technicians. This monthly presentation is recorded for our technicians to view at their leisure. Along with these training programs, director of product development and technical services Frank Levesque—our 49-year industry veteran, supports our franchisees and technicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any and all technical questions,” says Liston.

Soat says his company’s new technicians go through advanced training schools to learn the more difficult techniques in windshield repair that are not available in the DVD or print materials the company provides. The (ROLAGS)™ is reviewed at all these schools, as well as included in materials, he says.

“They have to go to one of these schools to get a certified technician certificate from us. The (ROLAGS)™ is reviewed at all these schools, as well as included in our manuals,” he says.

As for keeping up on the latest tools and services, he says Fas-Break updates technicians on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, as needed.

“All new items are provided to our technicians as soon as available. Tools are introduced at our advanced training schools,” Soat adds.

Beranek recommends regular learning meetings.

“We have monthly safety meetings as well as weekly technical meetings. We call in our adhesive representative every year or so when there are changes to the adhesive product [to give an overview],” he explains.

He goes on to say, “We keep up with new techniques and tools by continually monitoring industry websites and periodicals. If there is a tool that seems interesting, we purchase one and give it to our lead technician for evaluation. We then determine if the tool will save money, reduce effort or increase safety. We also utilize YouTube and tool websites to investigate a tool or technique before we purchase or implement.”

For technicians to receive Sika certification they must agree to ongoing training.

“We have a mandate to recertify and provide continuing education within a two-year window,” Tompkins says. “In almost all cases, they receive updated training once a year. Techs have fallen into ruts before, so the reminder and refresher has proven to be important and beneficial.”

He also notes that the Sika manual is updated each year as new products are introduced and old products are phased out. “We usually meet with the techs before work starts or after work concludes and we’ll spend an hour or two going through the updates,” Tompkins says. “Technicians repeat the test and we’ll put in new questions. They love what’s new and the dialog and discussion that goes along with it. One technician might ask something that another might not know about.”

As material changes, updates are often offered online, says Dale Malcolm, technical manager at Dow.

“There is a place for online training. Our first choice is structure led in-person training, which allows the trainer to go into the glass shop and look the technicians in the eye and watch them for perhaps an hour or so before training begins. But online training can work, particularly for someone located in a very rural area. We like to be able to accommodate our customers quickly and everyone has a computer and Internet access nowadays,” he says.

Anytime something new comes out like a new tool or product, Olive says he updates Glasspro’s technicians.

“We always do ongoing training. We make sure techs are aware of any new products, new adhesives and other programs as they come out,” he says. “I will visit the different shops and make sure everybody is updated.”

Olive also points out that the company does a Monday morning conference call, during which he takes 5 to 10 minutes to discuss any problem jobs or warranty issues that have come up.

“We also discuss new installation tips for technicians,” he says.

What Makes a Good Program?
A good training program should both challenge and instruct, according to Beranek.

“It should utilize as many senses as possible and touch every learning method as possible,” he stresses. “What I meant by using as many senses as possible is sight, sound smell and feel. Hear the instruction through lecture. See the instruction through video or demonstration. Experience the products first hand and do hands on work. [By various learning methods], I mean the inclusion of lecture, lab work, learning quizzes, videos, demonstrations and exams.”

Soat says the key to a good program can be found in the new technician. Is the person a “coachable individual?”

“If I have to un-train someone before I can train someone, we waste a lot of time,” he points out.

Liston says a good training program starts with content.

“Many technicians believe they are the experts and don’t want to learn anything new,” he explains. “With content that is taught by someone competent who can relate to technicians, it makes things much easier.

“Secondly, you need to have cheerleaders—someone who has taken the class who will tell others about the class,” he continues. “Techs listen to their peers more than anyone else. The program can’t be boring. You have to speak the technicians’ language. Tech training must be done by a hands-on person who understands what they go through every day.”

Moreover, Liston says his company has a trump card in the form of Levesque who specializes in ongoing education.

“Frank [Levesque] does a series of mini webinars for our technicians that they can play 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These webinars can last anywhere from 2 minutes to 30 minutes,” he says. “He also does a monthly webinar where he introduces something new in the industry.”

For Malcolm, the key to a good program is in its structure.

“Know what your key points are and offer good supporting materials. Offer a nice, crisp clean attractive training manual. Also offer small hands-on demonstrations. You need to be tuned into your audience. Who is engaged with the program and who are you losing? If you’re losing someone, you need to reach out to that person and find a way to bring him in.”

Malcolm says to keep in mind that each trainee is different. Some can be excellent technicians, but perhaps have a reading disability or a language challenge that could hinder the traditional education process.

“We always try to find out in the initial process with the owner if there is anybody who has reading or language issues. If language is an issue, let’s make sure we have a translator on hand during training. If the owner lets us know Bob is one of his best auto glass installers, but he has a reading difficulty, we’ll arrange for someone to read him the test,” Malcolm says.

Small things like this can make a big difference, he explains.

Currently, Dow offers its training materials in Canadian French as well as Spanish as well.

Ultimately, he says, “If you’re training people, you have to make it interesting and engaging. Don’t try to teach too many things. Focus on the core principles and pay attention to those you are training.”


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