How to Effectively Educate Your Employees

I want to tell a quick story about my time as an employee at a local pool supply store.
I started as just a kid off the street with a basic knowledge of pool care from my childhood job working for a REALLY small pool supply and janitorial supply store (yes, chlorine and toilet paper). Of course because of my already acquired knowledge - and my natural good looks - I was hired on the spot and started testing water, stocking shelves, and helping customers.
My manager at the time, Alice, was very strict when it came to education. She made sure to spend time with me and each new employee so we would learn everything we needed to know to help our customers. You can say she was my pool mentor. Quite the mentor, too. Some customers referred to her as the “Pool Nazi” because of her no BS approach to pool care. People loved it.
She was smart and personable, and had a hands-on training approach with every single employee. She ran a tight ship, and because of it, she was able to turn a brand new store branch into the top performing store in less than 5 years.
How? The answer is quite simple.
She was VERY knowledgeable and VERY likeable, which enabled her to build a loyal fan base of customers who would come in the store and say, “I know you can probably help me, but I would like to talk to Alice.”
She would be chased down by customers if they saw her at Wal-Mart or the grocery store. NO JOKE! I even witnessed this once. She told me it happened all the time.
Long story short, she not only educated her customers, but she educated her employees. In fact, I am one of them. She made me sit down with pool care books when we weren’t busy, and I followed her around as she taught customers how to use the products and how to take care of their pool. Needless to say, I learned a lot from her.
How can you employ this type of education in your own business?

Well, you could look for an “Alice” to hire, or you can put the necessary tools and protocols in place now before you hire new employees.
One thing I’ll mention is that our business is seasonal and we are prime for hiring college kids and employees just for the summer. And because they only work for a short period of time during the “crazy” season, it can sometimes be hard to train and educate them properly.
Sometimes you just end up throwing them in the “lion’s den,” and this can do more harm than good. I have seen this first hand. Customers WILL walk out if they feel the person they are talking to really has no idea what they are talking about. Even worse is when they give bad advice and now the customer comes back screaming mad because his or her pool chemistry it messed up.
You can’t let this happen, and to avoid this, you need to suck it up, create a new employee training program, and use it on everyone you hire.
Now is the best time to create such a program, so that when the summer comes, you will have the tools in place for proper training, and you can use those tools each year. You only have to do the job once and update from there.
So how can you build an employee training program and make it effective? I have a few ideas.
1. Create a series of videos that will teach your employees basic pool care knowledge and product knowledge on some of your most popular items. You can easily burn DVDs for them to take home and learn off the clock.
2. Hold weekly, early morning training sessions before your store or service company starts working for the day. You can even hold these meetings at night. Be sure to keep everyone happy. A good idea is to provide coffee and donuts during the early morning meetings to help build a positive environment.
3. Create an employee training book. This can be a simple binder filled with important information that the employee can bring home and carry around with them while they are helping out customers. Customers won’t mind if the person who is helping them has to look in a book for the answer, in fact, they may even appreciate it.
Now it’s up to you!

You can take anyone of these ideas and run with it. Get creative too! The more creative, the more you can get out of your employees. You want them to be extremely knowledgeable. We all know knowledge is power, but even better, knowledge is profit - especially in our industry.
If you enjoyed this post, I want to invite you to sign up for my soon-to-be launched blog about Pool Business Marketing. I will be posting articles, videos, and how-to guides to help you market and promote your pool business on a budget. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Happy Swimming!
Matt Giovanisci is the creator of Swim University and has over 15 years of experience in the swimming pool and hot tub industry. He is also an award winning web designer and has been featured on Martha Stewart Radio as a pool & spa expert.  Follow Me On Twitter | Like Us On Facebook | Got Pinterest?

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