How to professionalize the Resin Flooring Trade
Having spent nearly 6 years working on the industry, not just in the industry, I started to notice some of the traits of the resin flooring industry that could well be holding back the industry from evolving into a valued profession.
Our industry is built on the back of installers. People that are the more hands-on types that like to do rather than plan or manage. It is not to say that there aren't the other types of people in the industry. The industry is full of managers, planners, sales people, chemists etc but they are typically not the ones that are on their knees trowelling out a floor.
In many parts of the world, the installers are also the face of the industry. They are often the ones who are the first point of contact with the public, or the people wanting the resin floor installed. The installers are therefore the ones that represent the industry and if the industry is to become a valued profession, then they are the ones that will be first judged as to how professional the industry is or isn't.
Resin flooring has been around for over 50 years, so it is a well established industry and as installers have usually been paid for their work, you could certainly argue that their job is already professional. It is probably important that I clarify what I mean when I am looking for the industry to professionalize.
My hope in pushing to have a recognised qualification for resin flooring is that we start to develop a consistent way of installing, promoting and supporting resin flooring so that it can become a genuine alternative to traditional mainstream flooring.
If the aim is to establish consistency, best practices or standards for our industry, then it is the installers that are the first line that
need to embrace the concept and evolve from their existing ways in order to collectively promote the professional way.
The first issue that I see that could hold back our industry from evolving is that our installers naturally value learning by experience over learning the knowledge and applying the knowledge in the day to day trade. If you value learning by experience, you don't learn until you have done it at least once, and some of us have to do things many times before we have actually learnt the lesson.
The problem with this approach to learning is that everyone will develop different interpretations of how things are done based on their particular experience and lessons learnt.
If I was to use the medical profession as an analogy, if doctors were to only learn by experience, they would buy the tools of the trade and learn how to remove someone's ruptured appendix by doing it. I am not sure I would pay a professional doctor that is looking to learn by experience (on me)
OK, so perhaps that example feels a little too extreme if we are comparing a medical practitioner to a resin flooring installer. So let's use the example of another professional trade.
If the electrical industry worked like the resin flooring trade, the electrician would go and buy himself the tools of the trade. He might start with cheaper tools because he is not quite sure what he needs or if this is the trade for him but after the first flash or two, he realises why electrician tools are insulated more than normal handyman tools.
He might run some circuits and connect up some appliances to a circuit breaker. To the inexpereinced installer, the installation looks ok but the installer has not learnt how to choose the right circuit breaker or cable.... or even what colours should be connected to what terminal on switches. However once done, with care, the circuit is turned on.... if it did not blow up and it actually worked then he must have done it right. Right??
If you apply that same line of thinking to the resin flooring trade, that is pretty close to how many installers started. Once the installer has done a floor a couple of times a certain way and did not get any call backs, then it becomes precedence and that "way of doing things" is now adopted as their system moving forward. Now if a problem does arise, then minor tweaks are typically adopted to overcome any immediate issues and a new and improved system is adopted. These tweaks and changes are now considered Intellectual Property and because there was a cost of learning the lesson, this newly acquired IP is deemed valuable and guarded.
It is this line of thinking that has resulted in our industry not having a proven approach to common problems. For example, measuring for moisture content and following a known process for overcoming moisture issues. Perhaps even worse, if an installer does happen to stumble upon a genuine approach that does work well, this knowledge is not shared unless the installer employs and is prepared to share with their new employee. If the industry is truly to evolve to become a professional mainstream flooring alternative, then the knowledge needs to be shared and allow the next generation to step up rather than just repeat the same mistakes that has been learnt again and again over the past 50 years.
In my opinion, if we want this trade to become a profession then the first issue we need to tackle is value learning by education more than learning by experience. If that concept is accepted as the way forward, then focus turns to figuring out the best way to deliver the learning so that it is engaging to people that are not particularly academic. Through the recent advances I have seen with online learning, education is no longer the boring old "Chalk and Talk" of the old classroom.
There are many installers out there now that have a great deal of experience and could be considered successful. They could well look to make the point that they are leading the way of how to be professional based on their successfully completed projects and yet there could be some fundamental indicators that are not reinforcing their image of being an industry professional.
To illustrate my point, if we look back to our medical industry for a moment, at the simplest level of professionalism,
doctors use PPE because they are taught and they understand the risks associated with not wearing PPE. Well in the old days, they did not
wear gloves or even wash their hands but once it was understood why it was important, the medical practitioners learn and adopt a better
way. Would you want a doctor examining you without wearing gloves?
In the resin flooring trade, installers are provided with clear instructions as to what PPE is required for their safety and that of others. However, how many installers do you see that choose not to wear gloves, safety glasses, long sleeves or long pants. These basic requirements would be on most of the safety data sheets for the products used every day. I know far too many installers that are showing the consequences of not using PPE and yet they continue to create further sensitisation and personal suffering.
It is one thing to learn by education, but if we don't follow the instructions, accept the advice then our industry will never be perceived as a professional trade.
Although much of this post has been focussed on how we can professionalize starting at the installer industry face, it is obvious that the next level of professional evolution needs to come from the manufacturers, the trainers and the specifiers. We each have areas that we can improve on personally, as a business or as an industry. I hope that I am not the only person that is wanting to realize the true potential of resin flooring as a mainstream flooring option.
What are your thoughts? I would love your feedback on this key industry topic.