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Retraining for Success: COVID sends businesses back to class

by Ben Spradling | Jun 11, 2020 1:33:14 PM

Doing things differently does not just happen. Not usually, anyway, and certainly not during a pandemic. There is a learning curve associated with upending operations. Right now, business owners know that better than anyone else.

Finding success in the midst of the coronavirus has meant retraining their employees to satisfy evolving customer needs and meet ever-changing government regulations. For any of these businesses, class continues to be in session.

Kanon Electric, a residential electrical contracting company based in Milton, Washington, depends on going inside customers’ homes to perform their services. Because the introduction of social distancing demanded a new way for providing those duties, retraining became a requirement.

“That’s been a little bit of a challenge just because we're out in people's homes or residential sites,” says Bonnie Boucher, Human Resources Director for Kanon Electric.

Boucher’s role asked that she collect information necessary for the Kanon Electric team to continue operating during the pandemic. She sat in on countless webinars and made repeat visits to websites like the one hosted by the Washington State Employment Security Department in order to gather retraining resources for technicians. Sharing those tools for retraining came with its own set of struggles.

“We actually were doing our training meetings all along on Zoom,” says Boucher. “That was an interesting thing because a lot of us had never Zoomed before. Now we've all learned how to do it, so it's been a little bit easier.”

The bulk of their retraining centered on safety. Four months ago, the regular use of personal protection equipment was not a featured part of anyone’s protocol. Then circumstances changed. Technicians are now taught when and where to use facemasks and gloves. Training is held for how to wash hands before entering a client’s home and how to put foot coverings on before their feet hit the floor.

Equal emphasis has been placed on equipping the Kanon team with updated consumer communication techniques. Those practices now go into effect as soon as the phone rings.

“When people call in for service, we’ve changed what we tell them,” says Boucher. “Now, we ask them questions like, ‘Is anybody in your home sick?’ We explain to the customer over the phone what it's going to entail when we get there, what the guys are going to do.”

All those instructions are either updated or reiterated during retraining meetings that are currently being held for staff each week. Repetition has gone a long way toward reinforcing safety steps that were not even considered at the start of the year. Frequency of the trainings has also helped Kanon keep pace with government guidelines that change frequently and are not always to find or absorb.

“It's so hard when you don't have clear information,” says Boucher. “I understand we’re all having a hard time figuring this all out, but if we have clear information it'd be so much easier. You do what you can do, you do the mandates, and then you have to be okay with that because everything is so fluid and moving all the time.”

What has not moved is the priority Kanon and other businesses accredited with Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific place on feelings of the community they serve. Along with appeasing whatever governmental guidance has been issued, a primary motivation in installing these retraining efforts is to continue learning what customers need right now.

“It's challenging when you're dealing with customers in their homes,” said Boucher. “It’s important for you to be really sympathetic to their feelings and be aware of how they perceive all of this.”

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