In a world where time is the most precious resource, finding moments to enhance your team’s skills can seem like an impossible challenge.
At Interplay Learning, we understand the struggles that many companies face when it comes to training their workforce. That’s why we were thrilled when Freeman Webb, a property management giant based in Nashville, Tennessee, showcased an exemplary commitment to training, landing themselves in the top 10 customers embracing mobile training.
Jeff Hass, the Director of Training and Development at Freeman Webb, shares their journey from underutilizing Interplay to transforming it into an essential, time-saving tool for their team’s development.
Jeff Hass: A New Beginning
Freeman Webb manages over 12 million square feet of multifamily, office, and retail property. Our dedication to providing top-notch property management services throughout Tennessee and the Southeast keeps us on our toes.
I’ve spent the past two decades working in the property management business and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years in this industry, it’s that time is a precious commodity.
Upon joining Freeman Webb over a year ago, I realized that we had been utilizing Interplay for a couple of years without fully unlocking its potential. There was a clear need for better integration of it into our training and development strategies, and it was evident that this valuable tool deserved more attention.
It made me wonder: Why aren’t we using this resource? Why aren’t we talking about it more? Why aren’t we recognizing the hard work our team members put into their training? And how can we motivate them to use it?
My primary goal was clear: I wanted to create a robust maintenance training program that would fully embrace Interplay, provide structure, and recognize our team members’ achievements.
Phase 1: Building a Training Program
With Interplay’s courses, we established a plan to roll out three different levels of training: Tech Level 1, 2, and 3. Level 1 was rolled out on January 1, 2023, a substantial commitment, requiring all 176 maintenance supervisors and technicians to dedicate 35 to 40 hours to complete the 23-course pathway.
At this time, we also used Interplay’s skills assessments before training completions as a benchmark to measure knowledge gain as they progress through the levels of the training program.
We worked closely with our remarkable marketing team to create collateral that effectively promoted the program to all levels: our executive team, regional team, community managers, and maintenance team members. We highlighted the benefits of this training for each level of our organization to solidify buy-in.
Recognizing Achievements: A Grand Celebration
The initial Level 1 rollout resulted in roughly 34% of maintenance employees completing the program in the first few months.
To show our appreciation and recognize our maintenance team members who completed the Level 1 training, we organized a special luncheon celebration. We awarded them with a plaque and certificate highlighting their accomplishments, and each tech received a canvas tool bag branded with the Freeman Webb logo.
As a unique touch, we also designed a special pin for the occasion, featuring a custom logo. This logo incorporated the Freeman Webb emblem, with wrenches replacing the pillars, each wrench symbolizing the technician’s level of expertise. It was a small yet meaningful way to showcase their progress and commitment to their training.
This celebration was an important gesture, bringing together regional and community managers to honor those who excelled in their training. Our COO and President also attended the event, and we featured it prominently in our company newsletter, ensuring that their hard work received the attention it deserved.
Challenges: Finding Time for Training
Despite the early successes we’ve achieved with our training program, the resounding challenge we continually encounter is finding time for our team to engage in the training.
This time constraint stems from the constant demands of our industry, such as the busy A/C season, mandatory recertifications for core classes like harassment and fair housing, and the unpredictability of job-related emergencies. The familiar refrain of “there’s not enough time in the day” echoes among our team members.
To get more Level 1 completions, we relaunched the training with new due dates and a keener focus on communicating the importance of carving out dedicated time to training at all organizational levels.
From regional managers to community managers, everyone understands how crucial it is to allocate dedicated time for our maintenance teams to engage in training. We wanted to emphasize that training is a priority, underlining our deep appreciation for our team members and their ongoing growth.
While we expect everyone to allocate at least an hour each week for training, we understand that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, so we left it up to them to carve out time based on their unique schedules and property demands.
Tackling Time Constraints: The Power of Mobile Training
The introduction of mobile training options has been instrumental in creating the flexibility necessary to meet our training commitments and combat time constraints.
Several of our team members have fully embraced Interplay as a valuable resource.
In situations where they encounter plumbing or HVAC issues, they can conveniently refer to the relevant training module on the fly, gaining insights and solutions to address the challenges they face in the field. This accessibility to expert-vetted training materials, whether in the shop while gathering supplies or before and after jobs, provides a practical reference tool.
It allows our team members to quickly refresh their knowledge when encountering new or unfamiliar situations, enhancing their preparedness and competence.
The flexibility offered by having accessible training on various devices, such as computers, laptops, iPads, and mobile phones, has been a game-changer for our team.
An In-field Sidekick
In an industry where every minute counts, being able to engage with training materials on their mobile phones has allowed our team members to make the most of even those spare five minutes they might have. This on-demand accessibility empowers them to start and stop the training as their schedule allows.
As more of our team members embrace the training, I foresee it gaining even more popularity, becoming a go-to resource for in-field support.
What sets Interplay apart is its unique structure. It’s not just about videos; it combines content with knowledge checks. This multifaceted approach allows our team members to navigate to the specific areas they need to focus on, fostering a more personalized and effective learning experience.
We’re witnessing a shift in the exposure and utilization of Interplay. It’s gaining more recognition and engagement than ever before. We take pride in the significant mobile usage our maintenance teams are enjoying with Interplay, positioning us among the top 10 mobile users on its platform.
In line with our company’s culture of celebrating achievements, we’ve shared this news with our regional managers and vice presidents. This recognition reinforces the value we place on their professional development.
A Bright Future Training
While measuring productivity in our line of work can be challenging due to the variable nature of the job, we firmly believe that the increased growth and understanding of various systems and field situations are tied to increased productivity for us.
Our plan for 2024 is to roll out the Level 2 designation in January. I anticipate even more participation and completion by the end of this year for our Level 1 group. It’s been encouraging to see some team members proactively take on Level 2 even before the official launch.
Our experience with Interplay has been transformative. It’s helped us overcome the challenge of time constraints and provided our team with an invaluable in-field resource. We’re excited to see the continued growth of our training program and the positive impact it will have on our technicians’ skills and our company’s overall success.
Director of Training, Freeman Webb Company
Jeff Hass is a seasoned Senior Learning and Development Executive with a 20+ year career of building successful training and development strategies for organizations like Freeman Webb, Fairstead, and more. He excels in driving growth, managing high-performance teams, and implementing operational best practices to enhance market share.