With a geographically dispersed workforce of 6,000-plus employees serving more than 1.6 million customers in their homes or businesses, Orkin Exterminating Co. (ranked 58) faces some tough training challenges. The company's 27 training professionals make it their personal mission to provide the best employee development service possible. In fact, the department operates under the acronym SERVE (speed, execution, ROI, versatility and excellence) to stay motivated and focused on delivering stellar training programs to Orkin's employees.
Atlanta-based Orkin, a division of Rollins Inc., has a strong track record of investing in its employees, but the executive team wanted to take the training department to the next level. Bob Price, vice president of training, was hired in 1999 to transform the training department into a true performance improvement department. With Price's leadership and the financial support of the company, Orkin University evolved from a team of 10 employees, who were issued a mandate to meet regulatory training requirements in 1988, to a team of 27 performance improvement specialists who now work with the executive team to support Orkin's performance goals.
Orkin's culture supports employee development from the top down. Not only do its core trainers teach classes, but the company's divisional vice presidents and regional managers also coach employees in the field three days a week. When Orkin's 10 classroom training professionals are not in the classroom, Craig Goodwin, director of training, requires that they conduct ride-alongs and coach employees in the field.
At a time when most companies are downsizing and slashing training budgets, Orkin has reorganized, restructured and continued to invest in its people. Orkin's training budget equates to 7 percent of the company's payroll, and Price and his team, led by Lisa Metcalf, design manager, have 10 advanced training programs and advanced level management schools planned for 2003. In addition, Orkin is piloting a one-touch satellite system to communicate with all of its 400 branches.
A major element of Orkin University's outstanding training program is its $3 million training center in Atlanta, which boasts a full-size, fully functional house that provides hands-on learning for new employees studying pest and termite control. Trainees can see normally invisible areas in the walls, such as utility pipes and wiring, where pest infestations are common. "The training center gives us a unique ability to make a connection with a new employee," Price says.
This year, Orkin will continue to invest in the training facility by adding a $600,000 commercial training area—designed by Ron Harrison, training center manager—that will contain exact replicas of a hospital room, grocery store, restaurant and more.
To help meet customer service challenges, Jenny Evans, director of instructional design, created the Give the Signal Customer Satisfaction Training Program, an 11-week program to improve customer retention and branch profit, and to endorse teamwork and communication within Orkin's branches.
"We developed this program through benchmarking, field research and task analysis," Price says. "We use a learning transfer strategy that is built into the employee's performance and his or her manager's performance. We want this program to become a habit for employees—not just a three-hour class they forget once they go back to work."
The result? Employees have retained customers by applying Orkin's five-step process for solving problems and creating a customer-focused work environment. Both management and employees report improved morale and teamwork, and the program has shown a 13 percent ROI. Recently, one of the company's six divisions kept 52 customers by using the Give the Signal program—generating more than $200,000 for the company.
Price says Orkin is an incredible place to work because the training team comes to work focused, motivated and ready to serve. As a result, they have accomplished about four times what Price expected. "Not only has the department kept up with training for the industry's regulatory requirements, but they have grown and implemented new programs at the same time," he says. "I have never in my 22-year career worked with a team so committed to their cause. It's very humbling."