restoration business management | iRestore - Part 2

The New Age of Restoration Training

One of the greatest challenges in our industry has been finding “good” people. Once you do find a good one, they still likely need training and on-boarding, the next challenge. The year 2020 will go down in history as the year of challenges and it is in the spirit of overcoming these obstacles that rapid developments and opportunities present themselves. Training, employee development, and on-boarding solutions that are now at the forefront of our industry and may be the keys to overcoming many of our age-old challenges including but not limited to:

  • Technical Training
  • Soft Skills, Operations, Management Training
  • Employee Engagement and Development
  • On-boarding
  • Accessibility of Training
  • Time/Resources/Money
  • And more

The Journey of the Restoration Technical Institute

As I reflect on the last six months and how it has impacted training for the Restoration Technical Institute, the individuals, and the companies in our industry, I cannot help but to think of one of my favorite stories about a farmer, “Good Luck, Bad Luck, Who Knows?”. As events unfold, we do not know what is next, we do not know the end of the story; it’s not a single event that will define an outcome, but rather a series of events.

2018: We began “dabbling” in the world of on-line training. We had long-term goals and visions. However, for the next two years, our focus and development were on our in-person programs and hands-on approaches to training.

February 2020: Our training center was full of cheer as we held packed classes of IICRC WRT (Water Restoration Technician) and IICRC ASD (Applied Structural Drying).

March 2020: We had to cancel five months of classes that were planned more than a year ago. Thankfully, earlier in the year, RTI teamed up with ISSA to provide training and education for the cleaning and restoration industries.

April 2020: RTI recognized that ISSA offers a very robust Online Learning Institute, which is stockpiled with courses and content that is needed by everyone in cleaning and restoration. Although we have been working informally with ISSA for several years, the time came to go to another level. We are now a training partner with ISSA.

ISSA has a history of developing content and certification, with self-paced online learning. CMI, a division of ISSA, offers a high-quality learning management system (LMS) that is full of content and tools to engage subscribers and manage the learning process. Cleaning, disinfection, sales, management, and safety are just a few of the related subject matters that ISSA and their divisions offer. It is with great excitement that we have been given the opportunity to collaborate with and add to the vast amount of resources and expertise available through ISSA and its divisions.

May 2020: As the IICRC adapted, many of our courses became approved for online live stream. We hosted our first online, live-stream water class.

June – September 2020: The last several months have been an amazing whirlwind with the objective of offering accessible and affordable training and resources globally. The highlight reel of the last couple of months includes but is not limited to, what I describe as our continuous learning, adapting, and pivoting to the world, opportunities, and most importantly to the demand and expectations of those we serve:

  • LMS Subscription: Working diligently on content and curriculum to serve our industries.
  • Instructional Design: Learning about the technology, approaches, and the discipline of instructional design. Collaborating with instructional designers to develop courses and content that are effective for today’s learners.
  • Continuously evolving our live offerings both on-line and in person.
  • Self-Paced Course Development: Creating content, videos, and courses to present.

Learning Management Systems & Self-Paced Learning

In a Fresh Look at Online Training, you will gain some insight to the general training landscape, the benefits and some tips to utilize the new opportunities available to you and your teams. Although e-learning is not new (in 1924 the first “automatic teacher” was presented), if you have some reservations about the effectiveness of self-paced learning and learning management systems, I defer to many other industries in a variety of disciplines who have successfully utilized this approach and have enjoyed positive outcomes and some statistics:

Events that initially seemed like bad luck for industry training have turned into really, good luck. Learning management systems and self-paced learning are two viable solutions to some of our industry’s greatest hurdles. If you have not experienced these types of training approaches, it is not what one may imagine when you think of a recorded type course or training. It is not just a recorded voice and power point slides. Some of the elements you may see within this realm include but are not limited to:

  • Gamification: Content may be presented in interactive ways that help teach and engage the learner.
  • Knowledge Checks: Interactive and well-timed knowledge checks are used to engage the learner, give confidence in the understanding of the materials, and reinforce important learning objectives.
  • Video Demonstrations: Videos help to mix the media and can be used to communicate and tie together a variety of topics. Video demonstrations are particularly helpful to present practical applications and demonstrate tactile skills.
  • Micro-learning: As an approach, you may find content divided into small sections of approximately 10 minutes or less. This approach is getting a great deal of attention based on a variety of results and feedback from learners.
  • Experienced instructors guiding learners through curriculum and demonstrations.
  • Soon, expect to hear more about virtual and augmented reality as the technology and its availability is rapidly evolving.

The training world is evolving rapidly and could help us all achieve more, Restoring Success.

Originally Published: R&R Magazine Online

Morale and Engagement: Built on a Foundation of Trust

July 2, 2020

It is difficult to challenge the notion that good employee morale and strong engagement is important in our industry. In fact, being “happy” may be critical to our customer service. We spend much of our time at work, have 24/7 on-call rotations, and serve people who have experienced disaster, so why not do it with joy? In Is Your Organization Happy?, you will find some considerations and tips about creating a “happy” environment.

Morale and engagement are complex and have many contributing factors. Procedures, best practices, training, etc. will have limited value to your company if the individuals and team lack positive morale and are not engaged. Although there is much we can do in our day to day for Employee Morale Year Round, consider the notion that morale and engagement are built on a foundation of trust.

Trust is a big word that has many elements, synonyms, and influences in a variety of aspects of our organizations and lives. At times, there may be relationships within the organization that have voids of trust. If trust issues become widespread and unresolved or there becomes a feeling of distrust towards the organization itself, it will be challenging to successfully employ any morale-building and engagement initiatives.

Imagine for a moment…

  1. You are with a group of people you trust and are working together, collaborating, getting things done; you probably feel good and happy. If one of these people gives you a cookie and a note thanking you for a great job, it would make you feel good, happy, and encourage you to continue to contribute to objectives or the purpose.
  2. You are with a group of people you do not trust. The mistrust could stem from a variety of reasons, behaviors, and experiences with the people in the group and/or you may not even be clear on what is causing the mistrust; it is possibly just a feeling. If one of these people give you a cookie and note thanking you for a great job, may feel like there is an alternative motive, suspicious, and may not even want to eat the cookie!

Same gesture, same note, but different impact based on trust.

A culture filled with fear and mistrust will be a culture with a disengaged and unhappy team. Feelings of fear and mistrust could be a great motivator when perhaps running from an angry bear but imagine going to work every day feeling this way.

Start with reading “Speed of Trust” by Stephen MR Covey. If you are pressed for time and want to fast track your organization and team, watch the video: The Speed of Trust – Stephen M.R Covey @LEAD Presented by HR.com. You will gain the ability to understand, articulate, evaluate, and build trust within your organization. He presents what he refers to as three big ideas:

Trust is an Economic Driver

Trust is the #1 Competency of Leadership

Trust is a Learnable Competency

Where does it all begin? According to Covey, it starts with leadership.

#1 Job of Leaders

Inspire Trust

Give Trust

In building morale and engagement in your company, start with the foundation, trust. A person who is expected to engage in the mission, values, and goals of an organization needs to trust the organization and the leadership. As Covey breaks down the elements of trust, he lists the following “behaviors”:

1. Talk Straight
2. Demonstrate Respect
3. Create Transparency
4. Right Wrongs
5. Show Loyalty
6. Deliver Results
7. Get Better
8. Confront Reality
9. Clarify Expectation
10. Practice Accountability
11. Listen First
12. Keep Commitments
13. Extend Trust

These behaviors are a great place to start if evaluating or building your foundation of a happy, healthy, and productive work environment. The men and women in our restoration companies are the most valuable and important assets. They deserve to feel good and happy at work.

Share topics and ideas that you would like to read in future Restoring Success editions.

Happy Restoring Success.

Restoring Success: Red Flags

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “RED FLAG”?

restoring success red flags
June 5, 2020

You may be thinking of something bad or good. Maybe you are thinking about a situation that you saw “Red Flags” and the result was something bad? A red flag is, “a warning signal or sign; something that indicates or draws attention to a potential problem, danger, or irregularity” Is it good or bad?

Red flags built into your systems and embraced by the team can be a very good thing. The restoration world is complex and fast moving. It is very easy for even the best of the best to make a mistake or miss something. When we embrace and pay the appropriate attention to red flags, it gives us the ability to proactively manage things to have a positive outcome. Let us remember that a red flag is only a signal; if we react to a signal of a coming problem or irregularity, we can get things back on track.

True story about the purchase of RED FLAGs

We may think of reports, software, and alerts that present data in the form of flags, but it is equally important that team members understand that they can and should throw up flags. Team members should not lose sight of the fact that everyone in the organization is on the same team and should all be working towards the same positive results. There is no room for defensiveness or a “cover yourself” mentality in an organization that fully embraces red flags into their culture.

A particularly vociferous and enthusiastic supervisor charged with the reconstruction of a home based on a specific scope of work, came running into the building, “Red Flag! Red Flag! I am red flagging this job!”, he screamed.

He approached me and exclaimed, “I am red flagging this job!”

I replied, “Why?”

He said, “There are many things that were missed from the scope.”

I said, “Good job! Now, go speak to the estimator, get it corrected and execute.”

Nobody was offended. The supervisor did his job and reviewed the scope before executing, he threw up the flag, the estimator was open and thankful, they collaborated, got it done and successfully completed the job both from a service and profitability standpoint.

And so, we bought actual red flags for the team to throw up in the shop with pride.

Perhaps, the person answering the phone notices frequent phone calls from one customer with lots of questions; a flag to the manager that the customer may need a complete review of the process may be in order. A possible communication issue headed off at the pass?

During high volumes, the team is working around the clock, mistakes can happen in the field; put the flags on high alert. Explain to the team that when dealing with high volumes and long hours, it is easier to miss something or make a mistake, everyone is on the same team, keep an eye out and communicate or fix things that someone else may have missed.

The following are a few considerations in using Red Flags to proactively manage positive outcomes:

  • Culture: Our culture is an important ingredient as there most be unity amongst the team.
    • Objectives should be clear so that everyone can rally common goals.
    • Safe: Our environment should feel safe. If an occasional problem or mistake occurs, an individual should be able to see it as an opportunity to improve, learn and grow with the support of colleagues and leadership. We should be able to celebrate the success that the red flag helped the team achieve.
  • Systems/Data/Reports/Software: The following is just a short list to get the wheels turning; the are many complex considerations to using the flags that lie within this area:
    • Less is More: Be cautious of looking at too much information at once and losing site of the “flags”.
    • Proactive and Timely: Workflows, information, and operations should be designed that flags can be used proactively. As an example, looking at job profitability after the job is complete has limited or no use as a “flag” or signal and gives no opportunity to change the outcome.
    • Accessibility and Communication: The flags must be accessible or communicated to the right people within the organization so that they can use them to positively impact the outcomes.
    • Training and Understanding: We must understand and be trained on the information that we are looking at to use it properly. There are infinite ways to present information and flags; the key is understanding it. Simple example:

6/1/2020: In Progress – Water Loss – Start Date: 5/22/2020

At a quick glance, by the dates, something is going on with the loss. At 10 days, if the file is reviewed there should be clear documentation that tells the story explaining 10 days of drying. The dates are a flag indicating irregularity. (And someone should be accountable and compelled to look at the job file)

  • People: As with most things in the operation, our people can be the most important. With the right tools, training/education, and culture, the team can be the best flagging system out there.
    • Consistency in using flags: Flags should create action consistently when they present themselves.
    • Praise and encourage flagging with constructive communications and the collaboration of solutions.

Next time something goes off track, consider the systems and culture. Flags help us better proactively manage desired results.

Happy Restoring Success.

https://www.randrmagonline.com

A Fresh Look at Online Training

restoration business development, restoration business management, continuing educationOnline training, e-learning, virtual classrooms, and other terms are becoming a new norm. In the landscape of education, there are limitless resources that are accessible to us and applicable to a variety of disciplines from technical to soft skills. Although there is a new light, none of this is new. As we operate and adjust to a world stricken by the challenges and changes brought on by the pandemic, in last month’s restoring success, A Cultural Shift, we considered some adjustments and speculate on what a new post pandemic world may look like. As an industry, we can embrace, adjust, and utilize training opportunities in new ways.

Children, college students, and adult learners have been nimble; educators have rose to the challenge to help others learn in new and innovative ways. For the first time, the IICRC has approved certain courses and certifications to be offered online via live streaming. The transfer of knowledge and experience to those that serve our industry’s training needs must rise and challenge the status quo in delivering education. Companies and the individuals can benefit from the value that training and education can bring to careers and company results. As with most things, there is not a crystal ball about the training landscape that may exist at any point in the future. However, we can easily speculate by understanding of ripple effect of the pandemic both culturally and economically. We can also look at trends, other industries, the rapidly evolving learning technology and the understanding of distance learning. As individuals and organizations, we can anticipate, seek opportunities, and shift so that we may best embrace the potential benefits of expanded online and virtual training opportunities.

All good and valuable things require effort and nurturing. Training is a tool and an investment that can be utilized to grow, develop and create opportunity. It does not necessarily define success but can help lead us to it. It has been a long-time hurdle to on-board those new to our industry and organizations in a way that is engaging, efficient and productive. Benefiting from on-line training opportunities starts with choosing engaging and valuable courses that meet your learning and possibly credentialing objectives. As well, our organizations’ cultures and individual’s desires for growth and self-development must be fostered to support training initiatives.

The following is a list of a few considerations in embracing on-line training for your Restoring Success:

  • Online training benefits: The are many benefits that when deliberately embraced can be fully enjoyed.
    • Accessibility: We can access subject matter, skill training and development, educators and expertise, anywhere in the world at any time.
    • Flexibility: In the 24/7 world of organized chaos, programs that offer flexibility can be very helpful. In addition, self-paced learning allows individuals to move through curriculum at a comfortable pace on an individual basis.
    • Cost Savings: Some programs may present the opportunity to save.
  • Choosing Training Programs: Use the proper due diligence and thoughtfulness in selecting courses and programs. Consider specifically what you are looking for from your educational choices:
    • Gain insight and understanding to a discipline
    • Gain or develop a certain skill or competency (technical, soft, other)
    • Consider the level: Fundamental, Intermediate, Advanced, etc.
    • Practical Application
    • Certification/Credential/Documentation of Competency
  • Company Tips: As an organization, training and career development can be proactively managed, celebrated and be a part of the culture.
    • Be Deliberate: In the New Tech Under Your Wing, there are a variety of tips to help incorporate training and learning in your day to day operations. One of the most important that applies to in-person or on-line is to encourage field training and mentoring when applicable.
    • Engage: Reward and celebrate learning and growth.
    • Invest: Time, resources, and attention to the utilization of on-line training as a tool.
  • Individual Tips: There are a variety of resources available on-line to help individuals with being on-line and/or adult learners.
    • Be an active and engaged learner
    • Limit distractions
    • Scheduled your courses and be as committed to your commitment as you would be with a live, in-person course.

The time is now to develop your company and individual training and education programs while enjoying all the benefits in the worldwide land of learning opportunities.

Best wishes for happy, safe, restoring success.

Restoring Success: It’s All a Matter of Culture

restoration business managementCulture! I searched R&R’s website for the word “culture”, and it yielded over 200 results. There are lots of golden nuggets from industry experts that lie within. My first Restoring Success in January 2014, Core and Shared Values, spoke to understanding them, putting on paper, and living them. Six years later, I’m now realizing nearly every column I write circles back to one core topic: culture.

We have all read about it, talked about it, and understand how it impacts our organizations. It is a fairly abstract concept and there is not necessarily a right or wrong culture. Can such a gray area like culture be the ultimate key to success as defined by your organization?

Have you ever gone somewhere or to someone’s home and you felt uncomfortable? Have you ever brought someone in your organization and then questioned if they will fit in? Do people in the organization who become ingrained in the culture seem to thrive?

From a business standpoint, culture can impact an organization’s ability to adopt new technology, overcome challenges, provide world-class service, provide opportunities for growth, learning, development, and more. Descriptors of these attributes may sound like innovative, customer-centric, and adaptable. If I was asked to describe the culture in our organization, I would also use the word happy. It’s part of our culture to be happy. I like to work in a happy place, happy people serve others with joy, we attract and hire happy people, and if someone joins the team and exudes “grumpy”, they either get happy or … you get the idea.

Culture: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.

I love the restoration industry as a profession and my passion is in operations. There is nothing I enjoy more than process and order, developing it and the excitement of doing it in a world with intricacies and challenges. I love even more when processes, systems, and orders are followed consistently. In classes, we focus on standards of care that often become integral to companies’ SOPs, safety practices, workflows, and more. The reality is that drafting an SOP and distributing it does not make it so; culture and engagement are the keys.

A good restoration friend of mine, Chris Zahlis, the owner of Restoration 1 of Columbia-College Park-Annapolis, referred to the movements that naturally happen within an organization or in any given moment as “muscle memory.” Muscle Memory is a great way to describe the moment when the processes, procedures, and order become the culture of the company.

Culture is not just the “practices”, but also the attitudes and values and other characteristics that ultimately impact every facet of the organization and its outcomes.

One of our shared values is priding ourselves on our presentation and professionalism as a company. This value applies to our dress, communications, building, vehicles, equipment, and more. Although most of us in our organization think it is never good enough, our warehouse is typically organized and clean. I get on-going positive feedback about our warehouse and there is certainly methodology, process, and order but it is really just part of our culture. Nobody is “in-charge” of the warehouse; everyone naturally pitches in, tidies, and keeps it looking good.

Messy Vehicles and Culture Change

In spite of our values, clearly written expectations, making random announcements, holding individuals accountable, we have been challenged to keep the fleet, specifically the interiors, of our vehicles up to company standards. Why? It is part of our culture to keep our warehouse neat, orderly, and everything in its place and it is not part of our culture to keep the interior of the vehicles in pristine condition? Why is it not part of the company culture? How do you change the culture?

What are the options in tackling this cultural shift? Let’s try consistently leading with some standby clichés that have a track record of being effective:

  • Inspect what you expect
  • Keep it front and center (consistently)
  • Lead by example
  • Publicly praise

It is time for a change. The leadership talked about it and showed passion. We committed to weekly inspections, publicly praised, tweaked forms and processes, and after a couple of months, the culture started to change. People would walk up to me with pride and joy, “I cleaned my vehicle!”

Then, for the leadership, everything else became more important and the momentum of the cultural shift stopped. As soon as the elements that contribute to the culture shift stop or are inconsistently (Inconsistency, The Silent Enemy) exemplified it will unravel.

Culture is complex and the backbone of your intricate organization. Next time you are challenged by something in your organization, in addition to the process, people, and systems, consider it as a matter of culture. Be inspired by others, be observant, be thoughtful, and check out some of the great ideas found within the R&R archives.