Hands-On Training

Hands-on training is the most widely used and most improperly conducted training style there is in the trades. Many owners/managers mix training with production in a misguided attempt to have their cake and eat it too. The results are always wasteful and usually stressful for the trainee as well. This can result in failure of a potentially good employee when it needn’t have happened.

Here is the scenario: The manager realizes—too late—that he needs another technician and hires the first guy that looks like he could do the job. He puts the new hire with his best technician and then loads them up with jobs hoping that the new guy learns something through osmosis. The training team goes out every day the same way and gets the jobs done. That is good, right? It may be, if production is your goal, but it isn’t training.

In addition, the productivity is costly because you’re using two guys to do the work of one technician and likely paying overtime to do it. Does that make sense? The sooner you get the new technician trained and productive, the sooner you can make real money by having the two guys out doing two separate runs and saving overtime.

I know that the work needs to get done, but if the manager anticipates the need in advance, he eliminates the trouble that comes with combining training with productivity. Many managers train their techs following the scenario above and think they are doing the right thing. Instead, they are slowing down their most productive technician, putting stress on that same valuable individual, stressing out and possibly ruining a good installing prospect, taking much longer to get a new hire to productivity and losing valuable revenue.

I’m not going to comment on anticipating the new hire. That is subject matter for a different blog. However, I do want to address the training techniques that have worked for me over the past twenty-five years. Anyone can use these techniques to improve the training process. Keep in mind though, that the best trainer may not be your best technician. Your best technician is your best producer and may not have the patience to be a trainer.

  • Demonstration – Demonstrate the procedure and then allow the trainee to complete the same procedure. DO NOT do the work for the trainee. The student will not learn if you do all the work.
  • Job Limits – The training team should limit the jobs to no more than four per day when the trainee begins installation instruction. Too many jobs put undue pressure on the trainer and the trainee. Gradually increase the workload as confidence improves.
  • Singular Concentration – Singular concentration means that we must instruct one step at a time until that procedure is mastered. If the trainee is swamped with too many tasks, none of them will be learned in an effective way.
  • Tool Mastery – Our tools require a certain learning curve to master. The tools that are targeted for mastery are:
  • Cable knife (cold knife)
  • Utility knife/scraper
  • Long-handled utility knife
  • Plastic paddles/hook tool (for gaskets)
  • Molding release tool (chrome tool)
  • Insert tool (filler strip tool)
  • Various power tools.
  • Caulk gun


Utilize the singular concentration method of training tool usage. It may take as many as 30 to 50 uses of the tool to become comfortable.

  • Part Diversity – Don’t hesitate to take the difficult jobs. Show the trainee all the diversity that is out there. Train on windshields, door glasses, vent glasses, back glasses, quarter glasses, gasket sets, rain sensors, PAAS and all the variables in between. Easy jobs spawn ineffective technicians.
  • Weather DiversityAs a trainer, you would be doing your trainee a disservice if you do not expose that trainee to the conditions he/she will experience. Don’t train only in the shop. If your company does mobile installations and your trainee is expected to do mobile installations, make sure you train for that eventuality. Check with your adhesive manufacturer on the procedures they recommend and train accordingly.

I do not believe in coddling a trainee but I also do not believe in the “sink or swim” method of training either. You may get a person that can keep his head above water, but you will seldom find the guy that can swim across the river.

In the words of Ben Franklin, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”