How to Prepare for Training New Employees

A thorough and systematic approach to training new employees will help them get up to speed quickly

How to Prepare for Training New Employees

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So you finally hired a new employee. Do you have a training plan in place?

Training is such a critical element and if you aren’t prepared, important items could get overlooked. The following are just a few ideas that I hope helps you get organized to maximize proper training — even while you are busy and trying to keep up with your workload.


Training a new employee takes a lot of patience. Depending on the level of experience the new employee has, each requires their own unique level of training. Even a person who has had a lot of training previously might not have been trained to do things the way you want them done. Maybe they learned a lot of different terminology.


Make time on the very first day to review safety and stress its importance and your company’s commitment to safety as top priority. On the first day for new employees, I meet with them and we sit down and discuss safety in both general and very specific terms. Each item we discuss has a page that is signed by the new employee for their file and they get a copy for their folder that we provide. Those sheets spell out several things: 

  • That safety is first and foremost, and even they as a brand-new employee have every right to stop any job function that is occurring if they have a safety concern 
  • The requirement that all personal protective equipment is properly used 
  • Our truck backing policy. (Staying out of the swing radius of a machine and not walking or standing behind trucks or equipment that are backing up.) 
  • Hazard communication

There are more, but this could be an entire article. Yes, a lot of this sounds like common sense. But there are two reasons you are doing this: one is to train the employee, the other is to have (signed) proof that you did indeed train the employee.

Within the first week or two of being hired, new team members at our company attend six-hour certification training for trench safety/competent person, and then another for confined-space entry.  


Get the licensing or certification process started quickly. In Wisconsin, most onsite installers are licensed as Master Plumber restricted service or journeyman plumber restricted service. Restricted service refers to all plumbing outside of a building such as onsite systems, sewer and water, etc. To test for our journeyman license, the applicant must first have their "learners card" for a year and accrue a minimum of 1,000 hours of hands-on training and experience plus the following very specific items:

  • 10 hours first aid and safety (certification)
  • 20 hours plumbing-related math
  • 10 hours transit/builders level (laser)
  • 20 hours blueprint reading
  • 40 hours plumbing code

These last five items used to be taught at local tech schools, but now it’s on the master plumber to make certain (and certify) that the applicant completed all of this training prior to taking the journeyman test. Although it’s on the master plumber to provide these training modules, in Wisconsin we can still purchase the training manuals for each section. 

For the first-aid training, we bring in a third party such as the Red Cross to teach a certification class for first aid and CPR.  

When training the other modules, it’s great to work in the order shown because working on teaching math first (fractions, decimals and converting one to the other, and percentages) works great so when you move to the next unit (builders level/laser level), they understand the math you are using and the laser unit goes so much easier once the math is behind them. 

It’s good to get this started early since we need one year and 1,000 hours of experience prior to testing for the journeyman license. Other licenses and certifications we work with employees to obtain include commercial driver’s license, soil testing, POWTS maintainer, well pump installer, etc. We try to maximize the amount of licenses and certifications our employees get as well as several safety-related certifications.

I realize your state’s licensing procedure could be quite different. I just wanted to give you ideas of what some do for training, and even if your licensing is different, these are still great ideas to train. And also you might be able to contact Document Sales in Wisconsin to purchase the training manuals (, 800-362-7253).

Don’t forget specifics

It’s important to remember some things we take for granted and think everyone should just know — but they don’t:

Terminology - Tools

Keep your terminology uniform and consistent. Today’s easy DIY technology really helps. For tools, I took a picture of all of our most common tools and made a handout. It visually shows the tool and what we prefer to call it. So if you ask the new person to grab a Channellocks or a tile spade off the truck, don’t assume new hires are familiar with the names of different tools. And don’t belittle them for not knowing. The entire process is a learning curve if you hired someone without any experience.

Terminology – Pipe and fittings

It’s really important to review terminology for pipe and fittings, and explain what the differences are. Example: Schedule 40 pipe and fittings versus lightweight or schedule 35 sewer pipe and fittings. Show them the difference, and explain the difference. Don’t expect most people to remember everything the first time through; most people will require these explanations several times, or at the very least a few patient reminders. While I’m doing this we are in the shop with the new employee physically showing the pipe and fittings, in some cases fitting them together to show how some are meant to be used. 

I was talking to a relatively experienced master plumber one time as he was checking in an order. He said someone ordered the wrong parts. When I asked what he meant, he said, “Look, these fittings don’t have a hub on each end, so these are obviously wrong fittings.” Although I was taken aback, I reacted calmly and explained what a street fitting was. It showed me that no matter how much training he thought he had, there was always room for more. Obviously he was never shown nor taught about street fittings (the terminology I use for a pipe fitting with male spigot on one end and female hub or socket on the other.)

In the field

While working in the field with a new hire, it’s smart to think out loud. Talk through why you are doing certain things and how you are doing them. A new hire won’t understand just by watching someone who isn’t explaining what they are doing. Keep repeating your thoughts until it is obvious the new recruit has the skills down. Then make them think out loud and explain to you what they are doing and why.

Don’t stop training. Repetition is key. Continue to train both the new hires and everyone on your staff. Training should be considered an ongoing priority. At safety meetings and at other downtimes, use breaks in the action to discuss different skills and learn best practices from each other. 

The best thing I can recommend is to make yourself a checklist. A comprehensive training checklist of everything you want to teach the new hire. From the first-day safety meetings to cleaning the burrs off the PVC pipe you just cut — everything, and in order. This checklist will never be completely finished; it will take a long time to compile and you’ll keep adding to it. 

But remember, the reason this checklist should be comprehensive isn’t because you might forget something. It’s so the next trainers don’t forget something. You are training the future trainers. In a growing company, there will come a time where you might not be with every crew all day long; being thorough with training now means your level of service will remain high for years to come.


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