Finding Success through Employee Training
Building capital at your shop is not necessarily defined by the tools you have, but by how well trained your staff members are. When technicians are comfortable working on multiple vehicles, utilizing new techniques and methods, as well as knowledgeable in various areas of the industry, success can become easily accessible.
In order to create success, it’s important to look ahead and plan how training can help further educate your staff members and bring more through your doors.
Seth Thorson, owner of Eurotech Auto Service in New Brighton, Minn., and fellow automotive educator, has found that technicians need to spend a total of 30–40 hours per year on training. Thorson says while a lot of shops think that technicians can get training done while at work, it can push back repair time when the repair has to be stopped.
“I’m a big believer in training and ongoing training because the world is constantly changing,” Thorson says.
Much like Thorson, Adam Liu, president of M-Spec Performance in Middle Village, N.Y., believes that in order to make your shop profitable, training needs to be a necessity at the business.
“I really believe in training tremendously,” Liu says. “Unlike other trades, it’s a lot more prominent in the fact that you need to stay on top of car technology. There’s always new advances every year.”
Both shop owners discuss how their operations have been able to successfully send employees off to training through budgeting, selection, and ensuring that the shop can see positive growth from the experience.
Determine a Training Amount for Each Employee.
As more training opportunities arise in the industry, it’s important to tack down a specific budget that can help you and your shop accomplish the right educational tools needed to become successful. For Thorson, establishing a set budget allowed the shop to look at potential training opportunities that could work in the future.
Thorson’s shop puts aside 3 percent of sales, or $60,000 for training at the shop each year. In doing so, this leaves each employee with roughly $10,000 per year for training, which can be divvied up through the following: salary while at training, travel expenses, as well as the cost of training classes.
“It seems to be about 3 percent to train the staff,” Thorson says. “It’s going to depend on your shop.”
In addition, budgeting has given Thorson the chance to offer employees a tuition reimbursement or provide help for employees taking educational courses in the automotive field.
It’s important to recognize the importance of putting money into opportunities that can grow your shop, Liu says.
“Training is so vital,” Liu says. “In my opinion, investing in your staff and your team [results] in money in the bank no matter what.”
Work Through Training Decisions as a Team.
When introducing your shops to training, be sure to make known the importance of training at your business. When a shop emphasises the importance of continued education, employees may take into consideration how he or she can help bring about positive change for the business.
In order to fully understand what your employees are capable of, take into consideration who you work with, Liu says.
“Training is different for everybody and how you set it up,” Liu says. “We kind of have a good pulse on what people need and what they’re efficient at.”
Along with determining the needs to employees, it’s important to gauge how employees feel about traveling needs.
“I think the most successful method that we do is I’ll find training, we’ll have a meeting and I’ll say, ‘Hey guys, I found this class and maybe it’s something we have to travel for,’” Liu says. “We have an open discussion about it usually goes pretty good.”
Liu has employees vote on who is interested in taking the course, and he says most are interested in attending.
“Usually most people, or a majority of us, want to go,” Liu says. “That’s been the most successful when we can go to class together.”
For Liu, being able to comfortably send employees to training is worth budgeting for.
“Nobody likes to spend money, but in this business, there’s certain things we like to spend money on,” Liu says. “One of the things I find very fulfilling is being able to send my team to training, pay for their meals, get the feedback from them that they had a great time, and see their productivity rise from it.
“The energy of our business goes up whenever we get to go to training.”
Create In-House Opportunities.
Training doesn’t have to be limited to weekday or weekend trips. By bringing in-house training opportunities into your shop, you have the ability to create a positive environment that further educates your employees on the shop floor.
With experience as an educator in the industry, Thorson has brought training into the shop as way to get employees to learn among one another.
“I just want the best trained staff out there, whether it’s inhouse or it’s out of house,” Thorson says. “Sometimes employees are just like children where they don’t listen to their parents or the owner, so I’ll have to send them over to class.”
In order to keep training a constant flow at his shop, Thorson has implemented a weekly research activity called, “10 Minute Tips,” that each employee has to take part of at some point. Although the presentation takes around five minutes, research time can exceed an hour, Thorson says.
“We have a service manager and a shop foreman that work together to host their own meetings and assign a technician a topic, and the next week, the technician has to give a five-minute presentation on the topic,” Thorson says. “They learn something, research it, and that technician gets to call someone else out.”
The idea was created as a way to keep technicians constantly learning and looking at training in a new light, Thorson says.
“It was something I came up with,” Thorson says. “I kept thinking, ‘What can I do to get these guys thinking about more training?’”
Thorson says training attitudes have shifted more positively with the activity.
“It’s been a pretty positive experience at the shop,” Thorson says. “We’ve had to implement some rules where you can’t just name the person that names you.”
By creating a fun, easy activity that involves all employees and is routine in the shop, employees can use the information gathered to further build their skills during the repair process.
Follow Up After Training.
Upon returning from training, it’s important to set aside time to refocus on key takeaways that your employees experienced. By rehashing with employees, it gives you the opportunity to learn whether training was successful, if it was an appropriate level for the employee, as well as gauge how the employee feels afterward.
“When we come back from training, I tend to set up a meeting and debrief about what they learned which allows me say whether it’s beneficial or not,” Thorson says.
During the meeting, Thorson says he can determine if the employee should be sent to a higher training during the next round or if it was the right fit.
“If they learn one thing, it will pay off over the year,” Thorson says.