House Rules

Feb. 26, 2024
A winning strategy for onboarding new employees in your auto repair shop.

“Onboarding is your opportunity to explain the rules of the game and make no mistake, this is a game,” Bill Greeno, owner of Quality Automotive Servicing in Truckee, California, says.  

Think about it, would you bowl with a blindfold on? Not knowing where the ball was going or how many pins you knocked down? Doesn’t sound fun, does it? That’s the comparison Greeno uses to describe hiring an employee without proper onboarding. If you don’t onboard your employees, you’re leaving them to guess and make up their own rules, which they will do. Employees, much like athletes playing a game, need to know exactly what the rules are and what penalties are to be expected if they break those rules. That’s where a well-thought-out onboarding process comes into play.  



Greeno has been onboarding employees for decades. In the '90s, for example, Greeno traveled from college to college, recruiting and interviewing students for various positions at a ski resort. He would conduct an average of 30 interviews per day so he developed a system and process for getting the most qualified people possible. Greeno says that his onboarding process started back then and has continued to evolve with him. 



Greeno is a coach in the industry and says that he’s been lucky enough to learn from horror stories that his peers have told him about what he describes as “ruining employees.”  

“We will go into a facility where someone has not been onboarded properly and they have all of these bad habits,” Greeno says. “This person is beyond help, you have ruined them. With employees, we need them not to guess.”  



Greeno says onboarding is the solution to “ruining employees.” It helps set clear expectations for what exactly the person who is hired should be doing and what they can expect if they are not performing the duties expected of them. Greeno details his onboarding process below.  


Step 1: The Interview 

Onboarding starts before the employee is hired, Greeno explains.  

“The interview process is your first opportunity to communicate with an individual about the company in its entirety,” Greeno says.  

From the big picture stuff to the nuts and bolts, this is your time to tell potential hires what they can expect if they are hired. This helps weed out people who will not be a good fit.  

“The training begins the moment you talk to them,” Greeno says. “You’re setting the foundation for everything else.”  

Greeno’s interview process includes speaking to them on the phone, having candidates take the CliftonStrengths Assessment, and a group interview.   


Step 2: Breaking Down The Handbook  

The first day the employee comes in, Greeno goes over the handbook with them. The handbook is 57 pages long, and it’s extremely detailed. This is your opportunity to explain to your hire what their responsibilities are outside of their everyday opportunities. What exactly does that mean? Greeno says a common gripe he hears amongst his peers is their people are always on their phones. Well, onboarding is your chance to set those expectations and you can spell that out in the handbook. Greeno has pages in his employee handbook about the use of electronic media, what his social media policy is, and even information about bathroom usage. This part of onboarding takes roughly two hours, Greeno says.  


Step 3: Phone Training  

No matter what position they are hired for, everyone in Greeno’s company gets phone training. Why? Well, that’s precisely the question that he asks his employees after the training. Talking on the phone translates to talking to people in person, and he wants everyone on his team to understand the importance of customer service.   


Step 4: Job Training  

The length and details of this step vary based on the candidate, but it’s the part of the onboarding where the candidate sees how to do the actual job that they have been hired for. Greeno strongly suggests that even if they are extremely qualified, they don’t touch a car or write any tickets on the first day.  


Step 5: Understanding Their Strengths  

Greeno’s onboarding process comes full circle as his last step is bringing in an outside coach to break down the new hire’s CliftonStrengths assessment results from their interview process.  

“You need to understand your strengths and how to work with other people’s strengths,” Greeno says.  



If you come to work at Greeno’s shop, you know what to expect. You’re not guessing at what his policies are and what will happen if you bend the rules. 

That being said, turnover is unavoidable and if an employee needs to be fired, they need to be fired, Greeno explains. Having a solid onboarding process in place helps make letting an employee go easier because you know the hiring process will go smoothly. Having this onboarding process in place has been extremely helpful for Greeno in staffing his new shop.  



Proper onboarding will save you a lot of headaches down the road. Set your employees up for success in the beginning. If you don’t have a solid onboarding process in place right now, Greeno suggests starting by writing down three to five things that are needed to onboard an employee successfully and develop the process from there. Every time you think of something new, add it to the list.  

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