Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2008   by --Andrew Ross, Publisher And Editor Aross@jobbernews.Com


If there is one perennial bugaboo in the automotive aftermarket it is training. Despite the myriad options for people at virtually every level of this industry, low attendance is regularly cited.

To paraphrase the sports personality and author Pat Williams, we won’t train at home, we won’t train on the road, and I can’t figure out where else to train.

It is not a supply issue. There are more and better training opportunities on the road and on the Web than ever before. Despite the many admirable efforts by manufacturers, distribution organizations, independent trainers, associations, and individual company representatives, this industry continues to struggle with creating a learning culture.

There are certainly jobbers across this country that regularly host sessions for their learning-focused customers, but too often the faces partaking in training are the same time and time again. While those individuals should also be commended for taking their competence, learning, and their future seriously, there are quite simply not enough of them to secure this industry’s prosperity.

Five years ago, the Automotive Industries Association of Canada commissioned a study into aftermarket training that concluded in part that “A coordinated effort by all stakeholder groups in the automotive aftermarket is necessary to address the lack of engagement by industry in business skills and personal development training, the continued existence of training barriers, the lack of coordination and promotion of business skills training, and the need for training-related information to assist businesses in developing human resource plans.”

I have seen no evidence to suggest that there has been any significant movement on this front.

Simply put, this industry has failed to respond with enthusiasm to any of the many training models that have been put before it.–this is despite huge advances in the quantity, quality, and variety of training.

I am forced to conclude that the real reason so many jobbers have trouble getting training initiatives going is that they fail to turn their commitment to training into a long-term action plan.

Training remains a largely separate activity; few companies have integrated into their total business plan, and too easily set it aside when business gets tough, or busy.

But do not despair. There are some simple ways to boost attendance at these events. One is to make it, in fact, an event. Emphasize the quality of the training of course, but don’t forget that the networking and discussions are important too. And you’re going to have to feed those who do turn up.

You can also turn Web-based training into an event, though you may need to secure a few computers and Web access.

Plan it with your customers. Ask them what they would want and when they would be willing to come. Then deliver it and hold them to their commitment to turn up.

Never cancel a training event for low attendance. Commit and deliver. In the end you’re going to have to keep your expectations within the realm of reality. If your expectation is 10 and you get 12, you end up feeling positive about it. If you “expect” 20, you’re going to be disappointed at the dozen who show up. Training is important. I have yet to attend a single session where I haven’t learned something of value.

The bottom line is that everything is a training issue, even the bottom line. Training benefits the person and the business. Better-trained people do better work and feel better about themselves.

And that is a message you should communicate to your staff and to your customers.

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