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Training and Development: Getting Started

I may be biased, but I believe training and development has the potential to impact every part of a company. Pick up any issue of Forbes, Fast Company or Inc. and you’ll find articles written about this very topic. There’s no denying that companies across the globe are realizing that employees are the heartbeat of an organization and that company success can weigh heavily on the performance of its employees.

If properly trained, employees will feel better prepared to perform their job, which empowers them and contributes to higher self-esteem. This, in turn, can increase job satisfaction, productivity, and motivation, and decrease turnover. When an employee feels the company they are working for cares about their training and professional development – and acts on this – employees are better equipped and interested in helping the company reach its maximum potential. Not to mention the positive impact this has on company culture.

The question you’re probably asking yourself is, “How do we get there?” Although, in some cases, there may be training already in place, as a company grows, technology changes, millennials stake their claim on the workforce and Generation Z begins to enter, the old school mentality of handling training may not cut it anymore.

Let’s talk training in the modern era

One of the first steps to developing a training strategy is assessing, analyzing and researching what position your company is at when it comes to training your employees and identifying what your employees need from a training perspective. A great way to find out what is needed is to directly ask your employees. If you’re an executive or upper management at your company, this might be a tough pill to swallow, but your perspective on training and development within your company is often not representative of what is actually going on in the organization. Because let’s face it, your boots aren’t on the ground as often as you’d like them to be and your workforce is changing every day.

Here are a few components you can incorporate into a needs assessment:

  • Send surveys to your various employee segments
  • Hold in person and/or over-the-phone employee interviews of both tenured individuals and new hires
  • Ask around your company to find out who is currently conducting training, whether that’s new employee orientations, how to conduct a job briefing, or the proper way to use a chainsaw.

In this exploratory needs assessment, there are a few best practices you can follow to ensure you’re making the most out of every interaction.

Let’s talk about some ways you can extract information from your employees

  • Ask pointed questions and have conversations about the training employees are receiving as well as what they feel is lacking.
  • While it can be intimidating to ask employees, “What are we doing wrong?” or “How can we improve”, the feedback can create an open and transparent environment where feedback is encouraged and employees feel involved in future changes to the training program. It can also identify knowledge gaps and immediate training needs. This assessment is never ending as it is important to constantly gauge where you are and where you want to be.
  • Ask employees what they need from a training perspective in order to perform better.

While carrying out the above needs assessments another question to ask is, “What is the goal for our training and development program and how does this contribute to company success?” If the proper research isn’t done by gathering the above information from employees, it can be hard to answer this question. Identifying what the goal is drives important decisions in the on-going process of creating a successful training and development program.

Next, let’s dive into how to identify the goals for your training and development initiatives

Keeping the company’s success in mind helps keep the strategy development purposeful and on track. Our high-level goal at Wright Service Corp. is to provide quality, consistent trainings to develop our current employees through blended learning – which means the use of many different training methodologies (i.e. facilitated, video, learning modules). Another goal is to streamline our current orientation process. Orientation is a key piece in an employee’s life-cycle of employment. It is not only one of their first impressions of the company, it is where good habits can be formed and bad habits can be established. It is crucial to develop the good habits from day one. We feel strongly about bringing new team members into their job with the right training and preparedness, while continuing to develop the skills and knowledge of our existing employees.

When establishing a goal, it is important to consider any limitations you may encounter along the way, such as how the training will be delivered. For example, if a company is spread across the country, like we are, you cannot rely heavily on facilitated trainings. Instead, through our needs assessment, we determined that a digital platform would be the right step for us, so we implemented a learning management system (LMS) that we call Wright Service Corp. University. This is an online learning platform where we are able to reach employees in all areas of the U.S. by delivering and assigning custom content online, like training videos, learning modules, training materials, and more. Although it can take time and the proper resources to create custom content, it can be used over and over with consistency. This eases the burden on individuals in spread-out locations who are facilitating the content on an on-going basis. Other limitations we’ve encountered include internet access, and reaching those that may not have an email or access to technology. These are important factors to consider as it can take creativity and research to find solutions so that you can meet your training and development goals.

The important thing to remember is that no one has all the answers. Start small.

At Wright Service Corp., we are still in the beginning stages of making a successful training program and learning a lot along the way about what works and what doesn’t. We are moving forward to build a library of custom content that is assigned through Wright Service Corp. University to existing employees. We are also in the infancy of determining how these elements will be included to create a seamless orientation for new employees.

We still have a lot of work to do, and the program will be constantly evolving, but we are excited about our new training initiatives. The receptiveness from our employees and their enthusiasm about the continued improvement to the training and development program is already a step in the right direction, and we’re already seeing a qualitative return on our investment.


Emily Stumpf is a training and development specialist for Wright Service Corp. and its family of companies, which includes Wright Tree Service, CNUC, Terra Spectrum Technologies, Wright Tree Service of the West, Wright Outdoor Solutions, and Sustainable Environmental Consultants. Combining her love of graphic design and instructional design, Emily found a passion for training and development while working for a Fortune 500 company for nearly seven years where she designed, developed and built eLearning modules and facilitated company trainings. At Wright Service Corp., Emily leads the strategic training and development initiatives and administers the company’s online learning management system, Wright Service Corp. University. 

This article was published in the September-October 2017 issue of the Utility Arborist Newsline.