Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2000   by Robert Greenwood

“Training” has evolved to a new definition for “ROI”

Modern Service Management

It is time to recognize, and essentially understand, the evolved and expanded concept, that “training” of shop technical personnel, and its owners/managers, in today’s world has matured to new additional definitions for “ROI”. The standard meaning of “Return on Investment” now elevates to two subsequent important definitions to include “Return on Intelligence” and “Return on Information”.

To retain valuable employees, and enhance management growth, shops should be willing to invest in training that supports the professional growth of individual staff and management, as well as their general well-being. Comprehensive, on-going, training has become a necessary requirement for the new millennium. Shops that fail to realize this will fail.

It is critical for shop management to have a professional relationship with employees. Owners/managers must revolutionize the traditional view of only being worried about maximizing the output of employees into a much broader form that now involves participation with every level of management and staff. The interaction between the shop management and staff on effective training, and its evaluation, is the key to success for high shop morale. High staff and management morale in today’s business leads to quality customer/client service.

Employers should prove to their employees their worth to the shop. In other words, always operate with the philosophy “train to retain”. I was asked once, “what happens if I train him and he leaves”? My reply was “what if you don’t and he stays”? Training should give employees the tools to develop technical skills and soft skills necessary to perform well technically as well as socially. By enriching your employees through professional knowledge in many areas, it increases the companies loyalty.

Competent training should be carried out regularly to keep all minds fresh and the morale high. Shop owners/managers should be aware of the fact that many competent employees are lost through lateral movements to other shops. This is scary because management didn’t understand the real reason for the employee leaving, nor took the interest, and time, to really find out why.

Don’t be one of those shop owners that cancels training because of a busy schedule. There is nothing worse than an employee being psychologically ready to participate with the owner and then “management” pulls the rug out from under him/her because of personal reasons. Its a morale and credibility killer.

Another way to reduce turnover would be to eliminate “grunt work” and develop more challenging tasks. This can usually be done through embracing “high technology” as well as establishing policies throughout the shop that are seen by everyone as been progressive. Most of these routines can be done programmatically, which requires training on using newly installed software ; this is well worth the investment, since it increases morale and retention rates. This process also changes employees “job tolerance” for boring tasks into “job enrichment” facilitated by meaningful training. Some simple examples include on line parts ordering, technical manuals on line, bookkeeping, work-order/invoice processes, and customer/client file management. More concepts, such as technical and management training on-line, will be developed in the coming years, but the message here is, embrace it with your staff for all to grow with the new experiences.

It is important to diversify your training as well. Training in this new millennium should include skills for electronic communication. Since most customer/clients now rely heavily on electronic mail as an external communication medium, employees should be up-to-date with the necessary technical and communication skills. Electronic mail, however, does not convey emotional expressions, is instantaneous, and there is no turning back if the employee sends a message which the recipient may interpret differently than what was intended. Therefore, the choice of words and language requires professional training. Don’t forget training on ‘Internet” usage as well since most research can be done conveniently and efficiently with this medium. This investment is clearly justified, since a lot of capital costs are eliminated when paper documents and storage space are reduced.

In addition, providing training opportunities for skills and interests outside of work life is a way to increase staff loyalty and reduce turnover. Before launching such programs, a popularity “survey”, through discussion, should take place giving the employees options to choose from, and asking for suggestions. This increases communications, employee participation and shop loyalty. These additional training experiences can be brought in-house to strengthen team spirit or held at some place, or institution, to encourage “meeting of minds” with outside experts.

Consider training programs that offer “phase training” to the employees and management. This is much easier than learning the whole process at once. The training can be broken down into a session of technical skills and then a session of soft skills and continued on with this manner. Consider offering incentives as a retention strategy, as there is nothing wrong with recognizing and rewarding a good effort. When training is broken down by skills, it is easier for the shop owner to seek out training modules and set up the training date and agenda’s. Also consider that certification and standardized professional accreditation, can increase yours and your staffs professional knowledge as well as retention rates.

Training should not stop after any initial step is started. Employees and management need to be enriched with continuous, up-dated, knowledge to remain “at the top” of their career. One of the biggest mistakes from any training program involvement is to sit back and say “oh I took that stuff three years ago, I don’t need that”… as if the world hasn’t changed in three years!!

Staff and Management training in our industry today is a real and very serious issue. To overcome the shortage of competent staff by ensuring you hire and retain the best there is in your market area, management must understand their new role in the shop and consider new methods, and alternatives, to ensure the business you own receives the best “ROI” it can possibly obtain during your tenure.

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