Off-season training can be a bit boring, especially if you have a seasoned team of lawn care technicians. But don’t let that get you in the habit of skimming over the essentials. There’s nothing wrong with repeating the same message each off-season, especially when it comes to LCO training. “
A good bulk of (our training) is the same stuff every year, but it’s always good to refresh,” says Nate Leadenham, field supervisor at Killingsworth Lawn Kare in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Ever year to kick off the season, the six technicians have two, 8-hour days of training led by Leadenham in mid-February. Technicians go over the basics like safety training, application techniques and product information.
While the bulk of his classes are refreshers, Leadenham also focuses on any new problems that have popped up over the winter, including Zika and a crape myrtle bark scale, a pest attacking crape myrtle trees.
He also has employees identify grass types and has a plot of land on site where technicians can receive equipment training.
At the end of two days, everyone is tested on what they’ve learned. “It’s an opportunity to see where one guy may be strong and another one may be weak,” Leadenham says. “You can see where he needs to focus on. ‘Hey this guy is really good at identifying weeds, so how about you ride with him for a day and learn a little bit more?’”
Josh Demers, owner of Pacific Lawn Maintenance in Spokane Valley, Washington, says he also uses his off-season training as a refresher and mixes information about any new products they may be using and new chemical laws.
His technicians want to be ready for any questions customers may ask them about a certain product or when kids and pets can play on the lawn.
“We try to get our crews and spray guys really well-rounded so they are knowledgeable and educated when it’s time to get out in the field both obviously for our company to keep things rolling forward and then for the customer so they can be well informed,” he says.
During Pacific’s off-season months, Demers will have 4-5 in-house classes and two full days of state required classes. And while employees aren’t laid off and have work to do, like snow removal, Demers still wants to keep them engaged in lawn care.
“It’s important to me to keep a close connection with my crews and top guys so we aren’t going December, January and February without any communication,” he says.
“Then all of a sudden, everyone is MIA come the springtime. That’s a very important part of my business is keeping everyone kind of tight knit during slow times.”
John Bannon and his two lawn care technicians at Coastal Care in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, take advantage of training courses hosted by distributors, as well as educational sessions at tradeshows.
“Two of my employees have been with me for a while so they are pretty well trained on the basics. It’s the new products and techniques we get trained on,” he says. Bannon likes using the outside training courses and doesn’t mind paying for them because it allows his employees to hear lessons from someone besides himself.
“It’s not that they don’t believe me. But it’ reinforced way better when the professor or the person from the distributor speaks to them than when I do.”
He’s also keeping an eye out for articles in the news and in trade publications that pertain to the industry, and sharing those with his employees.
All three companies pay for employees while they are trained, and Leadenham says it’s well worth the expense.
“It’s extremely important,” he says. “If you don’t train, you pay at some point. I believe it pays to train and it hurts not to train.”