by Archie Bartel

Archie Bartel is a wholesale marketing director for Sherwin-Williams. In this position, he works with a wide range of painting professionals and learns of the challenges they face with finding and hiring talent. Here, he answers a question about training.

Q: What tips can you offer for training those new to the field, and keeping them happy for the long haul?

A: With a question like this, I think it’s important to back up and look at your hiring process, first. You want the right employee who fits your company culture. To find that person, you need a clear, concise job description in your ad. Don’t play games. Let people know exactly what you’re looking for, the expectations, the pay, and the opportunities available if they do well. Then, to me, the training part really starts with the interview. You are literally training a job candidate to understand your work environment as well as the expectations of the job.

During interviews, you’re looking for qualities like a willingness to go above and beyond—and care for others and the company as a whole. I encourage managers and company owners to ask questions such as: “Do you prefer to work in a team or alone? Why?” and “How do you handle disagreements with colleagues or bosses? Can you give me an example?” These answers can tell a lot about a candidate’s views on work and collaboration—and attitude is everything.

Know your own culture

It’s also important to be transparent during the interview. Explain your business goals and the company vision. If you have difficulty articulating this, take some time to reflect on those things before you start interviewing people. Think about it. You’re asking a job candidate to potentially leave another field. They want to know they’re involved with a quality organization, if they do. Clearly communicate the expectations of the position, too; and talk to them about the learning environment and ask about their comfort level in certain situations.

Training nuts and bolts

Now, let’s look at how to tackle on-the-job training for that motivated team player you’ve found. The new generation of painters is largely made up of millennials. Research reveals that this group values company culture and feeling part of something greater than the individual. Millennials also want to know you care about their growth and success.

It’s always best to have a new employee shadow a top performer but, before you do that, offer some classroom training. One resource available is to have new hires log on to and go through the course modules to learn about painting basics.

Once a new hire has completed classroom training, allow them to practice and ask questions. If you have a dedicated practice space in your shop or warehouse, that’s great. If not, let them learn on the job. Don’t assign menial tasks either. Match that new, motivated employee with workloads and learning situations that challenge, but where success can be achieved at the skill level they are at. And if the they do shadow a top performer, make sure that top performer understands their role is not only to teach but also to communicate company values.

As the new hire progresses, you’ll need an appraisal process to let them know how they are doing. Be honest, but remember to offer opportunities to improve. And as they improve, talk about incentives for crews to finish jobs on time and on budget, and other perks for a job well done. This can help them feel like they’re part of a winning team and can keep them motivated.

The key to keeping an employee happy for the long haul is to let them know there are advancement opportunities. Can they move into sales and marketing or other leadership roles?

Training hires that are new to the field requires welcoming them to the painting trade as much as it involves teaching hard skills. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting them to be productive fast, but showing that you care about their success keeps them motivated and may even expedite their learning curve. And that could increase the likelihood that they’ll want to stay with you for the long run.

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