Training — Essential to success

Wm. Craig Bonham
NTEA Board Chairman
Vice President, Commercial Vehicle
Safe Fleet
Belton, Missouri

This article was published in the July 2019 edition of NTEA News.

Looking back on what helped me most throughout my career, I’d have to say training. Though the instruction I received from others was key, my own disciplined regime has been vital. I realized, if I was going to do something, I’d better love doing it and then study and learn from the best.

Training lays the foundation for you to become a resource for customers and colleagues, and empowers individuals to drive any business forward. I’ve found people want to deal with those who make things happen and get the job done right.

We all know the first few days in any new job can be extremely stressful. Anyone could hire the most qualified candidates in the world, and it might still take weeks or even months to onboard them effectively on the inner workings of the business. When we are new to an industry or job, there is so much to learn from company direction and norms to process flow. Importantly, new staff is striving to be recognized as part of the team and contribute to the organization’s mission.

Have you ever sat in a training session and said to yourself, “Why am I here?” Training should show employees how it pertains to their job and drives the company’s strategic direction. If the educational format is not energizing, it’s not a productive use of time. If you’re the trainer, it’s up to you to make the event meaningful for attendees. A training event or curriculum without purpose produces no benefit for the employee or even the business. In fact, it costs the company money.

Training opportunities should be collaborative and challenging at the same time. Presenters need to be enthusiastic so much so that participants should feel the commitment to the cause and the event’s direction. 

Align resources with event goals. Make content interesting and engaging by breaking it into modules. Include visuals in your training curriculum that depict real-world examples.

Training types. If it’s product training, present the features, advantages and benefits of purchase then cover the cost or loss of going without the product. For operational training, demonstrate technique and efficiency for the employee and business, and how both (including the customer) will benefit. Lean principles work well for this. Customer service training should focus on phone skills, qualifying the customer, assessing client needs and owning how the customer perceives your business.

Public speaking and time management training benefits businesses and should be an area of constant employee development. Speaking at local chambers of commerce, associations or truck club type events is a great professional development activity at any career stage. Learning to manage time with technology, tools and resource allocation takes practice and discipline. When onboarding new team members, focus on cultural productivity norms and expectations. Learning the pace of a new environment is critical to an employee and employer’s satisfaction and success.

Field trips. Another way to grow people is to shadow more tenured staff at key events. The Work Truck Show® and Truck Equipment 101 and/or 201 (NTEA online educational courses) are outstanding development opportunities.

I personally take staff to NTEA’s Executive Leadership Summit and Truck Product Conference to increase industry interaction and understanding. Many times, I have taken operational employees to a meeting, and they thanked me for exposing them to how our product works for customers in the field.

Trainer prep. As the trainer, rehearse your event and provide takeaways. Previously, I provided training certificates and engaged attendees with unique rewards. Put questions you cannot answer on a visible list, and make sure you report back with answers. 

Lastly, there should never be an end to training. Training should provide the vision and create a path for personal and professional development. Give teams the tools for personal development. I am always reading about the business. For me, periodicals and books are a constant reference and motivation for my self-discipline. Consistency, along with investment, is extremely important to millennials and generation Z, as it reinforces how much our employees mean to us and the business.

There is simply nothing more rewarding than employees saying they learned something today. It’s even better when they drop a note and say what they learned and how it helped them.

I encourage you and your staff to train for the long-term; the rewards are priceless.

Learn more and register for NTEA’s Executive Leadership Summit at