5 Ways to Perfect Your Shop’s Onboarding Process

Sept. 26, 2022

Use these five tips to perfect your onboarding process for new hires.

One of the best ways to grow a shop is through an onboarding process that sets up a new hire for success. Employees can't be effective assets if they're unclear on what they should do and how they should do it. 

Confident employees take ownership of their new roles. With clarity, new hires can perform to your expectations and exceed them, as they’ll have a measure of what success looks like. 

"In many instances, a shop foreman should spend at least two business days onboarding," says David Askwith, director of operations for AutoStream Car Care in Maryland. "It's important to show new hires to see the layout of the shop, introduce them to the team, show them the test drive path, and ensure they have a path for success.”

AutoStream Car Care has eight locations in Maryland, with 70 employees. Their average car count is 1,500 a month, with a shop size averaging 1,500 to 7,500 square feet. AutoStream Car Care's revenue is $12.5 million a year. 

Here are five ways to perfect your shop's onboarding process and set up new hires for success. 

1. Streamline Employee Orientation

Creating a smooth employee orientation process is essential. This is a new hire's first exposure to your shop—what they experience will affect their time as an employee.

Automation can help. You can create a series of videos in a company portal that trains the new hire on various aspects of their position before they set foot in the shop. You can automate some of the paperwork aspects and save time. 

"We have a system and upload all our documents and training videos to software called Trainual. We make it clear what our expectations are and allow new hires to get certified," says Askwith. 

How you train new hires should be kept updated and relevant to the changes in your shop. Askwith notes that who trains a new hire is essential in ensuring success. He recommends having one or a few key people train new hires. 

"We try to have each new hire train at each of our locations to get a feel for how we do things. We like to touch base in each part of the process and make sure new hires know they have support," says Askwith. 

2. Develop Clear Human Resources Materials

New hires should access material that allows them to read and get clarity on your shop's processes. They will have questions about their new working environment and how to handle sensitive issues. 

"Shop owners must have an employee handbook which covers all the common questions and processes," says Tony Whatley, owner of 365 Driven, and co-Founder of LS1Tech, an online automotive performance community, which sold for millions.

Whatley notes that your material should cover:

  • Expectations around workday starting and ending times 
  • Which holidays are off
  • How to request vacation time
  • Dress code
  • Work area cleanliness and order expectations 
  • The Org chart—with contact info
  • Emergency procedures and contacts 
  • How raises or bonuses are calculated or earned 
  • Payroll and payment schedule 
  • Skill, education, and certification requirements
  • Discipline and corrective action process 
  • Communication process 
  • Phone, smoking, controlled substance, alcohol, break policies 
  • Benefits and medical policy information 

Again, automation can help distribute and have your HR material readily available for new hires (and all employees). 

3. Have Defined Work Areas

As humans, we value having our own space. You may own the shop, but the goal is for new hires to take ownership of their new role—having their own space can help.

"Each technician should have a designated work area with room to perform duties," says Whatley. "Don't make the new person clean up the mess left by the last guy. Welcome new hires by providing them with a fresh, ready-to-use work area."

As you walk the new hire through your shop, explain who does what and where. You can have regular team meetings to ensure employees are good with their work area and allow any concerns to be raised.

4. Build in Time for Employee Socialization 

Culture and community are fundamental ways to ensure each new hire feels connected to your shop. Socialization time is a great way to do that—especially when an employee is starting.

"We invite new hires to any team functions we have scheduled and over-communicate," says Askwith. "We want them to participate and become part of the team as soon as possible."

Regular socialization events build a strong culture and helps every employee feel more connected. 

5. Invest in Your Employees' Growth 

Successful shop owners invest in improving their employees. "New hires thrive when you assist them with continuing education, certifications, communication, and leadership training," says Whatley. 

The best shops build in professional development, along with working on vehicles. Take care of your team, and they will be loyal. They will improve, become allies, send referrals, and become ambassadors.

"We actually train anywhere from two weeks to 30 days, with 30 days being optimal,” says Askwith. “We make sure to touch base with each new hire often to answer questions, handle any concerns, and make sure they’re being given everything they need to succeed.”

Streamlined training and orientation are just the start. The more you invest in continuing training for new hires (and all employees), the better they can become at their jobs. 

Growth for new hires happens when they're equipped with tools for success. Create an onboarding process that represents the value of your shop and company. 

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