Education for a Challenging Labor Market

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In today's tight hiring market, companies need to place more emphasis on education to retain and develop their own employees as well as to recruit and hire new staff. Many in the pool and spa industry are taking an innovative approach to retaining and finding new employees by focusing on “human capital” from the individual worker’s perspective. Companies that make significant investments in training and education are building their workforce more systematically. Employees who are learning are more likely to be engaged and want to stay. Additionally, potential employees who are considering a particular job are looking or the “investment” a company is willing to make in them as employees.

Employees who are learning and love their jobs are also more likely to “tell a friend” and potentially recruit new employees to the business. Building experience or education- based “human capital” is good for employees and good for pool and spa businesses. Education, whether it be through classes, hands-on training, or cross-training within the organization, is an important part of solving the challenges of a tight labor market.

THE BENEFITS OF EDUCATION 

When discussing the benefits the company offers, today’s employers need to focus more on the satisfaction of working at the pool and spa business. The compensation package offered should include more than discussing salary or hourly wages but also the learning investment the company will provide its team of employees. It is important to stress the benefits that employees want and need. For companies, investing in the education and long- term growth of their employees has become more important than ever. Continuing education is one of the best investments pool and spa businesses can offer employees to help hire and retain talent.

INDUSTRY-SPECIFIC CLASSROOM TRAINING

While in-person training is coming back, online and virtual options continue to be an asset for educating not just new employees, but also veteran staff. The “all the time, any time access” is in line with the new generation of pool care professionals that are entering the business today. Many of them experienced much of their education in a variety of digital formats, and they are most comfortable in front of a screen. This is a huge part of planning for the future state of education. Instead of trying to force them away from screens, companies can use that to their advantage. Today’s advances in online training allow pool and spa service professionals to take courses online from the convenience of their phone, tablet or desktop computer. Employees can now take a course while sitting in their truck between jobs or in the breakroom when retail store traffic is slow. 

LIVE TRAINING OPTIONS

Zoom-style classroom training has made huge technological strides and has become commonplace throughout the current education system. This type of live training not only provides invaluable skills, but also gives employees a chance to meet new people — albeit virtually. In live training courses, for instance, one can schedule training, pick the topic of interest, and select a customized session to problem-solve issues in pools and spas or refresh their knowledge on water chemistry. Employees can get a well- respected instructor with more than 20 years of industry experience, right there on their phone.

Nadine Nuzzo, retail division manager of Arvidson’s Pools & Spas in Chicago, Ill., which has three retail stores and a large service department, says live training is a central tenant in the success of their company. “Before the pandemic, we routinely did live training with vendors and within our own company,” says Nuzzo. 

With three separate retail locations, Nuzzo makes sure all staff, from all locations, have the same information and are doing things the Arvidson’s way, consistently across every location and department. “Our service and retail staff need to always be on the same page and training is the only way to ensure this consistency,” says Nuzzo.

Nuzzo has continued to embrace virtual “live” training, so staff can be located anywhere but are still together in the training sessions. “Our goal has been to sustain and expand our knowledge base in these virtual ‘live’ training sessions,” says Nuzzo.

Pool and spa business owners are realizing that knowledgeable employees provide better service to customers and as employees, feel supported in the workplace. 

PRE-RECORDED TRAINING OPTIONS

If live training does not work for an employee’s schedule or style of learning, there are also self-paced training modules that provide in- depth coverage on a variety of topics. Pre-recorded training modules are widely available from several sources. The author’s company offers pool and spa chemistry topics on everything from the use of enzymes to phosphate removal and hot topics such as staining, scale, and the Langelier Saturation Index (LSI).

“We are big into virtual training because it allows our staff to listen and learn on their own time,” says Nuzzo. “With novice and veteran modules, as well as service and manager modules, they have something for everyone on our staff.

“It’s terrific these pre-recorded training sessions also have testing, which we require of all our employees to ensure an accurate and updated knowledge base for our entire team.”

Companies should have built-in times for employees to take advantage of these pre-recorded training options. Some in the industry even suggest setting up professional training days in which employees show up at work but spend the day learning rather than working.

Getting advanced certifications is not just about adding credentials to one’s resume. Employees also learn valuable skills they can apply to their day-to-day job. This can help them become better at regular tasks that might otherwise be time-consuming. After participating, employees can also take on new challenges and offerings they once were not qualified to do.

For instance, maybe an employee wants to learn how to install variable- speed pumps (VSPs) and safety covers or learn about new stain- removal techniques or even master leak detection. Hard work is only one important part of career success. Learning new skills can make it easier to get more work done and do a better job overall. 

EDUCATION LEADS TO JOB SATISFACTION, RETENTION, AND HEALTHY WORK-LIFE

What many people do not realize is there is a strong link between education, health, and job satisfaction. Continuing to learn even when one gets older helps keep the brain active and healthy. Learning new things can also help improve memory. In fact, some research shows there is a strong link between learning and overall health, as it is a form of mental exercise that keeps employees healthy and satisfied with their jobs.

Even learning a new technology or downloading a new app on one’s mobile device challenges the mind. Something as simple as downloading a helpful, industry-specific app to a mobile device, can provide pool and spa service professionals new insight into water chemistry and offer techs a powerful tool with an added mental exercise bonus. forms can also lead to amazing and unexpected networking, as well as access to opportunities like finding seasonal and eventually long-term employees.

Nuzzo says she has a regular stream of new, young employees as a direct result of keeping education central to the way Arvidson does business.

“I have built close relationships with the science chairs in our local high schools and offer science students an opportunity to learn real- life chemistry lessons in our stores,” she says. “We offer internships that turn into summer jobs and science students really enjoy continuing their education in our stores, which has led to a regular stream of great employees who tend to come back every summer while in high school and even college, too.” 

EDUCATION ALSO BENEFITS THE COMPANY’S BOTTOM LINE

Continuing to gain new certifications, training, and education is necessary for pool and spa businesses who want to retain and recruit new and better employees. Education is a benefit not only to employees but also to businesses. Employees who have more skills tend to be more satisfied and willing to take on new responsibilities or allow a company to take on new business offerings and avoid having to outsource profitable business opportunities.

Education is truly a win-win for employers and employees. Investing in continued education provides networking opportunities, promotes innovation, and helps employees stay sharp, engaged, and satisfied with their jobs and their employer. Investing in human capital is one of the best ways pool and spa businesses can solve the challenges of a tight labor market. 

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