How Orkin Creates Personal Coaches

Some 400-plus certified field trainers extend Orkin Universityメs presence into each branch location across the country.

By Margery Weinstein

When Stephen Watson launched his career as an Orkin commercial pest control service specialist in Costa Mesa, CA, his initial training was a blended curriculum including self-directed interactive videos on demand (IVODs), videos on demand (VODs), and live interactive satellite broadcasts where entomologists and experienced field personnel introduced the basic concepts of pest biology, pest habits, and pest control. Orkin University’s challenge is to ensure that training results in workplace performance that meets company standards and customer expectations for exceptional service. So how does Orkin bridge the gap between knowledge and the practical application of skills when Watson’s instructors are located 3,000 miles away in Atlanta, GA?

For Watson, the answer was Juan Diaz, his certified field trainer (CFT). Diaz is one of 400-plus CFTs who extend Orkin University’s presence into each branch location across the country.

Using cockroach treatment training as an example, here is what Watson experienced during his training process:

  • He watched a live, interactive, satellite broadcast that taught him how to identify the four most common types of cockroaches he will encounter on his route, the signs of an infestation, and how to control and prevent the problem.
  • The next day, Watson accompanied Diaz as he serviced his pest control route. At each appropriate stop, Diaz demonstrated proper cockroach treatment strategies, observed Watson perform the same tasks, and after providing feedback, allowed Watson to perform the tasks again. Once Diaz was confident Watson could perform a cockroach treatment without supervision (this takes several days in the field), both of them signed Watson’s Cockroach Performance Checklist and placed it in his verifiable training folder.
  • Months later, Orkin’s internal auditors, who conduct annual QA reviews of each location, will review this folder. If any of the signed checklists are missing, the auditors will deduct an audit point.

CFTs multiply Orkin University’s effectiveness by helping new hires acquire the skills they need to successfully run their pest control routes, decrease their time to competency, and make the experience engaging and challenging.

Because CFTs are so important to the success of Orkin’s training program, only the company’s top specialists are selected. Diaz’s branch manager used a competency-based screening process to identify and then nominate the best candidate. After his region manager approved the nomination, Diaz attended an intensive facilitator-led workshop where he acquired the skills needed to be an effective CFT. His learning did not end with the initial workshop. Each year, Diaz must successfully complete an adult learning refresher course via Orkin’s satellite network to maintain his CFT status.

Prior to 2010, Stephen Watson would have been at risk to quit after only five months on the job. A statistical review of turnover data revealed a spike in new hire frustration as specialists transitioned from the initial training period to working on their own. As a result, the responsibilities of CFTs were expanded through the first six months of a new hire’s tenure to include daily instruction, skills assessment, feedback, and mentoring in an environment that previously was focused on accountability for production and not providing ongoing support.

Why would a service specialist sign up for all of this extra work and responsibility? Many specialists become CFTs because they have a passion for helping their fellow employees. Additionally, CFTs benefit from increased compensation, recognition as an informal leader, and enhanced opportunities for career advancement.

Since these changes were implemented, Orkin has seen specialist retention increase 7.85 percent.

Certified field trainers help Orkin University deliver a thoroughly planned, consistent, structured on-the-job training program that ensures newly hired specialists can apply the skills and knowledge required to succeed. CFTs ensure that new hires stay with the company and provide great service to customers because they know and can do what it takes to be successful at Orkin.

HAVE INPUT OR TIPS on this topic? If so, send them our way in an e-mail to with the subject line “Orkin,” and we’ll try to include your advice in an upcoming edition of the Training Top 125 Best Practices/Executive Exchange e-newsletter.

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