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How to train and retain top talent in the pest control industry

GorillaDesk Staff

pest control technician training

Want to build a positive reputation for your pest control biz? Don’t underestimate how important a talented, high-performing team is to drive your business forward. The success of your pest control company hinges on the skills and commitment of your employees, making pest control technician training and retention pretty significant.

If you’re already running a pest control company, chances are you’ve run into some pesky problems that are common in the industry. Like the fact that, while the demand for pest control services is growing, with 5.2% annual growth expected over the next five years, finding and keeping skilled technicians is becoming harder and harder. Pest Management Professionals found that 18% of pest control companies had a retention rate below 79% and reported struggling with staff turnover.

These kinds of roadblocks highlight the importance of investing in the development and retention of your technicians. Well-developed training programs, employee engagement, and retention strategies all work together to help businesses create a loyal, high-performing team. 

This is all well and good, but creating and implementing all these strategies at the same time can be daunting. That’s where this article comes in; we’ve put together practical guidance to walk you through best practices for pest control technician training, keeping your employees engaged, and retaining your top talent. Let’s get into it.

Why does pest control technician training and retention matter?

Training and retaining skilled pest control pros is just as important for a business as drafting and training high-performing football players is for an NFL team. A well-trained, loyal workforce is the backbone of any local service business because it’s your people who engage with customers, deliver services, and help recruit new customers. 

First off, let’s talk about the benefits: 

  • High service quality: When you provide thorough pest control technician training, and your staff sticks around, they’re more likely to deliver high-quality service. Well-trained pest control technicians know how to handle various pest issues efficiently and safely, which leads to fewer mistakes and higher customer satisfaction. And 93% of customers are likely to keep working with companies that offer excellent service.
  • Reduced turnover costs: Recruiting, hiring, and training new employees can be expensive and time-consuming. It can cost up to six to nine months’ salary to replace an employee. That’s pretty pricey. By investing in pest control technician training and employee engagement efforts for your current team, you can save money and ensure consistent service quality.
  • Happier customers: Customers are more likely to trust and stick with a company that has knowledgeable and familiar faces. This trust translates to better reviews, more referrals, and in turn, growth in your business. Plus, when your technicians are satisfied and feel valued, they’re more engaged and motivated to go the extra mile — helping keep service quality consistently high and making customers happy. 

How to develop a pest control technician training program that works

Creating a solid pest control technician training program is the best way to build a team that’s knowledgeable, safe, and customer-focused. Let’s talk about how to develop an effective training program that covers all the bases. Comprehensive training typically includes:

Initial onboarding and orientation

Start with a welcoming and educational onboarding process. When a company’s onboarding process is thorough and comprehensive, it can increase new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. 

Cover the basics by first introducing new technicians to: 

  • Your company culture and values
  • The duties and responsibilities of their role
  • An overview of the main administrative processes that they need to know, like scheduling, routing, invoicing, tracking their hours and mileage, payroll and more.

Introduce them to your other staff and consider having new technicians shadow a current tech for a day or two to show them the ropes and make them feel part of the team.

Technical training on pest control methods and products

The best pest control technician training programs provide newbies with in-depth knowledge of pest control methods and products. This includes instruction on: 

  • The different types of pests in your area and their behaviors
  • The most effective control methods for each type of pest 
  • Specialized training for any additional services you offer, like wildlife removal, termite control, or bee removal/relocation

Make sure to build regular updates and refreshers into your business protocols to help your techs stay current with the latest techniques. Whether this involves quarterly day-long training meetings or monthly industry update Zoom calls, figure out what works for you and your team.

Safety training

In an industry where employees are handling hazardous substances, safety should always be the first priority. Employee safety training and injury prevention can reduce workplace injuries by up to 60%​​. Train your technicians on: 

The NPMA also offers a ton of online courses that you can easily incorporate into your training program to help supplement the material you deliver yourself.

Customer service and communication skills

Excellent technical skills are a must, but so is the ability to communicate well with customers. Train your technicians to explain procedures and answer questions clearly. Make sure they’re familiar with your standards for customer service and any do’s and don’ts your company has, like:

  • Making direct contact with a resident before you begin the service 
  • Always referring any billing questions to the office manager
  • Sending a reminder text to each customer 24 hours ahead of a scheduled service

How should you deliver your training?

The training programs with the best results usually combine a few different delivery methods, including:

  • Classroom-based training: No, you don’t have to hold these in an actual classroom; an office or conference room is perfectly fine. These more informative sessions cover standard pest control information like pest types and behaviors, safety protocols, and customer service techniques. A more structured environment for this type of training helps technicians learn and remember foundational knowledge.
  • On-the-job training and mentorship: It’s always a great idea to pair new hires with experienced technicians for hands-on training. This mentorship model allows your new techs to learn best practices and practical skills in the field while also getting a better feel for company culture and customer service standards.
  • Online courses and webinars: Online learning is a great option for ongoing training since it’s more flexible, and your team members can access it at their convenience. Use webinars and online courses like those offered by the NPMA to provide continuing education and supplement classroom and on-the-job training. This is a useful approach to keep your team up to date with the latest industry trends and techniques.

3 steps for engaging and motivating employees

Keeping your team engaged and motivated is huge for retention. A positive work environment, growth opportunities, and a supportive company culture can make all the difference.

1 – Create a positive work environment

When your employees actually enjoy coming to work, it helps keep morale high for everyone — coworkers and customers included. We recommend:

  • Encouraging open communication and feedback: Work to create an environment that prioritizes open communication. It all starts with you: model transparency and an openness to listen to employees’ concerns and feedback. Regular check-in sessions with your techs can help address concerns, recognize achievements, and foster a sense of community. You could also set up an anonymous suggestion box to give people the opportunity to share input more comfortably.
  • Recognizing and rewarding employee achievements: Find ways to celebrate your employees’ hard work in a way that aligns with your company values. From a formal recognition program to employee bonuses or simple shout-outs in a team meeting, choose an approach that makes sense for your biz. And with employees who feel recognized more than twice as likely to be engaged at work, it’s bound to pay off for business​.

2 – Provide opportunities for growth and development

When employees have opportunities for professional development at work, retention is 34% higher. This is why investing in your employees is an important part of investing in your business. Consider:

  • Offering continuous education and certification programs: Offer continuous learning in the form of regular pest control technician training (whether monthly or quarterly) and support employees who want to complete advanced certifications or specialized courses. Consider funding these endeavors or at least offering a professional development stipend to help cover the costs of specialized training.
  • Encouraging participation in industry conferences and workshops: We love industry for both the learning and networking opportunities they offer. Encourage your team to attend conferences and workshops to stay updated on industry trends and innovations. Consider attending a local conference together as a team if possible.

3 – Build a supportive company culture

Did you know that 87% of employees today expect employers to offer avenues to help them achieve work-life balance? It’s no longer enough to just say that you care; your actions and policies need to prove it. Start by:

  • Promoting camaraderie and teamwork: Make sure employees don’t feel isolated. Even though pest control is often a one-person job, find ways to foster a collaborative environment and encourage teamwork whenever possible. This could involve organizing team-building activities, having technicians team up on larger pest control appointments, and celebrating company milestones together to strengthen team bonds. A party for your company’s 1-year anniversary? Sounds like a great way to build camaraderie.
  • Helping facilitate work-life balance and employee well-being: A healthy work-life balance is directly tied to employee satisfaction. You can help support this balance between your team members’ personal and professional lives by offering flexible working hours, providing mental health resources, and promoting wellness initiatives. Happy, healthy employees are more productive and less likely to leave.

When employees are truly engaged and invested, it’s good for business — all the goodness you pour into your people will come back around. Imagine one of your long-time technicians raving to a friend about working for your company, “Dude, my boss is the best. He paid for me to get my advanced termite control certification and gave me time off when we had the baby. He really cares about his employees.” This is the best type of buzz for your biz. And who knows, from that one comment, you may have just recruited a new employee — or customer.

Holding onto your best employees: Our fave retention strategies

Retaining top talent in the pest control industry should be an ongoing effort to keep your team satisfied and motivated. Here are some of our favorite retention strategies for keeping your pest control technicians around for the long haul:

Competitive compensation and benefits packages

To compete with other pest control businesses in your area for the best talent, it’s important for your new hire offerings to be up to snuff. Make sure to:

  • Offer fair wages and performance-based incentives: Make sure your compensation is in line with industry standards in your area and consider implementing performance-based incentives. It may come as a surprise, but 61% of employees are motivated by performance-related pay. Set clear performance goals and offer bonuses or raises based on achievement. For example, you could offer a bonus for technicians who consistently receive high customer satisfaction scores or who exceed a certain number of service calls each month.
  • Provide health benefits, retirement plans, and other perks: With 78% of employees more likely to remain with their current employer if their benefits are attractive, it’s important not to sidestep this offering. A comprehensive benefits package may sound daunting to a small business owner, but thankfully, there are way more options available today for affordable benefits plans that will still be appealing to candidates. A basic benefits package typically offers health insurance and a retirement plan at minimum, with other common perks, including gym memberships, wellness programs, emergency savings accounts, and more. Make sure your benefits package is competitive and tailored to the specific needs of your employees.

Career advancement opportunities

When employees can see where their current job fits into their future plans, they’re more likely to stick around. You can encourage this by:

  • Creating clear career paths and promotion criteria: Give employees a clear path for advancement by outlining career paths and promotion criteria. For instance, detail the steps required for a pest control technician to advance to a senior technician or a managerial role. Regularly review and update these paths as your business evolves.
  • Providing leadership training and development programs: Invest in your employees’ future by offering leadership training and development programs. This differs from professional growth opportunities and instead focuses on skill development and coaching to prepare individuals to assume leadership roles. 

Employee engagement initiatives

Make sure your employees feel involved in the growth and evolution of your business. When team members feel like they have a voice and some level of influence in a company, they’re more likely to stay invested. We recommend:

  • Conducting regular employee surveys and feedback sessions: Employee feedback helps you understand your team’s needs so you can make changes to improve workplace satisfaction. Use anonymous employee surveys to gather honest feedback about what’s working and what’s not. Follow up with in-person feedback sessions to discuss the survey results and develop action plans. This approach shows employees that you value opinions and are committed to making improvements.
  • Organizing team-building activities and social events: Build a sense of community and camaraderie by organizing team-building activities and social events. These can range from monthly team lunches to annual retreats. For example, you could host a “Pest Control Olympics” with fun, pest-themed challenges to build team spirit. Happy hours or family picnics outside of work hours help employees bond and create a more enjoyable work environment, which can reduce turnover.

6 steps to get these strategies up and running

Put these retention strategies into action by following these steps:

  1. Review and adjust compensation: Benchmark your wages against industry standards and adjust if necessary. Introduce performance-based incentives if it makes sense for your biz. 
  2. Enhance benefits packages: Assess your current benefits package and look for areas to improve. Consider adding perks like flexible working hours, wellness programs, or additional leave options.
  3. Define career paths: Create detailed career progression plans and go over them with your employees during performance reviews. Regularly update these plans to keep them aligned with your business goals and industry developments.
  4. Offer development programs: Set up leadership workshops and/or mentorship programs. Encourage employees to participate by highlighting the benefits and providing time during work hours for development activities.
  5. Conduct surveys and feedback sessions: Develop a regular schedule for employee surveys and feedback sessions, whether bi-annually or annually. Use tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms for easy data collection and create action plans to address common concerns.
  6. Plan team-building activities: Schedule regular team-building exercises and company events. Get creative with activities that foster teamwork and are enjoyable. 

Get going with your pest control technician training so your top techs stick around for longer

Investing in your employees through training and retention programs offers long-term benefits. Not only will it help reduce turnover costs and improve service quality, but you’ll also build a team of dedicated professionals who are truly invested in your business’s growth and success.

Here’s to building stronger, more resilient teams!

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