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What a crazy start to a year! 2020 is shaping up to be one we remember for a long time. It may even change how we go about our daily lives. Like major events of the past, this one will likely change us in some unique ways.
ESSENTIAL SERVICE. We must remember that what we do is important. Some see us as “just the bug man/woman,” but they haven’t been educated to understand the important role pest management plays in global public health. I’m going to touch on two services that really highlight this role and I encourage you to talk with all your customers, both residential and commercial, about the role you play in this effort. Not only will they begin to value your service more, they’ll begin to understand how the pieces fit together to bring food to the table or to prevent disease from pest vectors. It might even help them make a decision and the next time they have to cut a service for some reason, they may just choose to keep you.
COCKROACHES. We have all been in the recertification class where the instructor babbles on about cockroaches mechanically transporting pathogens from one surface to another. I’m one of those instructors. Sorry, sometimes it’s tough to make the topic interesting! When we consider the fact that these pathogens can cause a variety of different medical situations (in this case, a situation that really is the kind you NEED to stock up on toilet paper for), then we must take it seriously. Consider the fact that many people have compromised immune systems in some way. These pathogens or the illnesses they cause can make people very sick, or in some cases, die. Yes, sanitation will help as well, and we should continue to preach it, but eliminate the vector and you break the cycle down. Your service is essential.
RODENTS. Rodents are both interesting and gross. (They aren’t much different than people. Don’t believe me? Why are we having to remind people to wash their hands?) Rodents produce oil from their skin, sebum, just like the oil that makes your hair greasy. That oil on their hair and skin helps to collect pathogens from their environment. In addition, their hair, feces and urine can contaminate surfaces or air. Yes, washing your hands after touching contaminated surfaces is good and we need to be washing our hands at the end of every service (make it a practice) in addition to not touching our faces so much. Ridding rodents from our living and working spaces helps to keep surfaces clean and food from damage. We could go on and on about other reasons (like causing a fire via chewing)but we don’t need to. Your service is essential.
FINAL THOUGHTS. These are just two examples. I’m sure you can think of more. Mosquitoes, ants, stinging insects, wildlife…the list goes on. Protection of customer spaces from pathogens is essential. You are essential.
As an industry, we need to position ourselves as essential all the time. The fact that we have had to make this a campaign during this pandemic brings to light that we have done a poor job of marketing ourselves as essential to this point. It should be a primary focus moving forward to inform, market or discuss (whatever you want to call it) our services at both the national and local levels so that we are seen as essential from the start. We need to be ahead of the curve.
Educate your customers, your friends and random people in elevators about the role you play daily. Don’t be the “bug person,” be the essential defender of public health.
The author is senior technical services manager at Rollins in Atlanta.
Pest Management Systems Inc., is always looking to give back to the Greensboro, N.C., community it serves, and this year owner Billy Tesh decided to transform his mid-town building with a graffiti mural painted by Brian “Jeks” Lewis, one of the most highly sought-after East Coast street artists.
Tesh said, “I am all about expression in every form — that’s how we do our work. We express our professionalism when we get rid of people’s pests. We had this big, ugly wall here for years, and we said, ‘How can we express the reality of what we do and how we do it every day?’ We are so excited to reveal the final masterpiece. Greensboro, get ready for a hyper-realistic look at some very cool insects and wildlife.”
The 60-foot mural on the west side of the brick building at 424 Prescott Street contains images of insects and wildlife including: honeybees, yellowjackets, ants, termites, a bat, a raccoon, a butterfly and a praying mantis. As Tesh explained, “Some of these insects are pests one day and beneficial the next. Everything has a relative need to Mother Nature and we know the importance of that balance between what we do and what those insects do in a positive light as it relates to Mother Nature.”
Greensboro drivers and pedestrians are probably familiar with the work of Lewis. If they have driven down Battleground Avenue, they have probably seen more than one of his pieces. He is the artist behind the comic book heroes and action stars adorning the outside walls of Red Cinemas and all the exterior work done at the Pig Pounder Brewery just up the street from the theater. And Lewis has created murals for high-profile companies and individuals throughout the country. He was previously commissioned to paint at the Pabst Blue Ribbon headquarters in Los Angeles, the Optimo Cigars corporate offices, a stunning piece featuring Atlanta-based Outkast and many others.
Tesh added, “I just like doing unique things and if it feels good, we are going to do it as a company — that’s it. The purpose is just to turn something not-so-nice into something cool, unique and relative to what we do as a company.”
Preparing a training program can be daunting. Luckily, there are countless resources out there to help you organize your thoughts. On my first day as training coordinator, I was handed two books to read and study. These books were “Telling Ain’t Training” by Harold D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps, and “Preparing Instructional Objectives” by Robert F. Mager. Although I’ve read countless training and adult education books since then, these two created the platform on which I’ve based every training program, presentation and course I’ve created at Plunkett’s Pest Control.
In “Telling Ain’t Training,” Stolovitch and Keeps dive into the adult learner and provide a five-step model for structuring training. This model begins with the creation of a rationale. The rationale is designed to justify the training and give an overview of where the session is heading. The justification can be especially helpful if the reason for the training makes sense to and is valued by the learner. Then, the learner has more motivation to learn. Learners, especially adult learners, retain information more easily if their mind is open and ready to take in new information. The key is to show what’s in it for them. This is accomplished through providing a rationale. This overview also can build a desire to learn by emphasizing how useful, exciting and engaging the session will be for the learners.
The second step to designing a training program is creating learning objectives. As stated in “Preparing Instructional Objectives,” an instructional objective is a statement that will describe what the learner will be able to do or say after taking part in the training. Instructional objectives are specific, measurable, short-term, observable behaviors. They indicate the desirable knowledge, skills or attitudes to be gained.
MEASURING YOUR LEARNERS. As a trainer, your effectiveness is measured by the success of your learners. The more concrete and verifiable the learning objectives, the more quickly you can identify their successes or shortcomings. The level of success for the training can be assessed from the outcomes in relation to the learning objectives. In the case of initial training, success may be measured by scoring a passing grade on the state exam. In other settings, accomplishments may be measured by the technician’s ability to perform a new skill, respond to a client or control a problematic pest in a new way. There is no way to measure the success of the training and whether important instructional outcomes have been accomplished without clearly stated learning objectives.
Well-defined learning objectives also provide your learners with a means to organize their own efforts toward the accomplishment of the objectives. Experience has shown that with clear learning objectives in view, students at all levels are better able to decide what activities on their part will help them get where they need to go. This is especially true when teaching adult learners as they want to know what should be learned, what they will be able to do as a result of learning and see how all the pieces fit together.
The third step in designing a training program is to develop activities that lead to attaining the performance objectives. If learners do things that lead directly to meeting the objectives, there’s a better chance they will obtain the desired skills and knowledge. This means that the trainer creates or selects only those activities that lead the learner directly to meeting each objective. Selected activities must be meaningful. Active, conscious response during the training is essential for comprehension and recall. Merely telling the learner what you want them to know is not effective. The learner must be completely mentally engaged to learn. In fact, the more a learner actively responds to learning the content, the better they learn and retain it. Active responses can take the form of answering a question, filling in a blank, labeling something, solving a problem, making a decision, or even discussing and arguing. It can take any form as long as it elicits an active response to the content. Remember, “Telling Ain’t Training!”
The final two steps of the five-step model are evaluation and feedback. Evaluation is a crucial step in the program because if learners are assessed on what they are supposed to learn, they have a better chance of learning it. Evaluations should be done in terms of the performance objective and not the person. This means that you must verify the degree to which each learner has met each objective for the desired level of performance. By providing feedback, learners are able to understand what they are doing well and what needs to be corrected. Helpful feedback provides corrective steps and additional information to support learning. It is more than pointing out your learner is incorrect. When learners receive information on how well they are learning, they tend to learn better. For this reason, feedback should be consistent throughout the training session.
Putting it All Together. By applying this five-step model — rationale, objectives, activities, evaluation and feedback — you increase the probability of learning. Learning effectiveness is not in the packaging but the design and instruction. By taking the time to create a meaningful rationale and developing specific, measurable and observable learning objectives based on behaviors, you can set your learners and yourself up for success. Add a few active, meaningful activities and a process for evaluating whether the learner has met your objectives, and you’ll effortlessly have a successful training program or session.
Kirby has a master’s degree in adult education from the University of Minnesota and a B.S. in wildlife ecology — natural resources from the University of Wisconsin. She is also an Associate Certified Entomologist. She is the training coordinator at Plunkett’s Pest Control and a member of the Copesan Technical Committee.
Copesan is an alliance of pest management companies with locations throughout North America. To learn more, visit www.copesan.com.