Unfortunately during most month end financial reviews the question of training expense will surface when a dealer is looking at the financial statement, and that is the problem. It is viewed as an expense and not as an investment for the profitability of the service department for years to come. Here is the second flaw: Most service managers or directors have a pay plan that typically pays them after all expenses, again creating the flaw of viewing training as an expense and possibly having the service manager making a not to train decision based upon their own pay plan or lack of expense control in other controllable expenses.
Obviously training IS expense and very costly due to the fact that you need to send our technicians out of state to get the specialized OEM training required to help them grow and achieve the higher certifications. Also, keeping in mind the loss of production in the shop. Taking it a step further, how about those shops that have a huge deficiency in manpower and are forced with the need to staff immediately would be more likely to make a bad hiring decision, over pay wages to entice the new tech transfer and ultimately start the relationship on a one way street based upon need. If we sat down and figured how much this typical scenario costs the dealership, the numbers are staggering and would open your eyes to a few of my suggestions.
Training is a necessity and helps you retain your technicians. By passing difficult, manufacture tests, certified technicians prove their technical competence to themselves, to their employers, and to their customers. Moreover, shop owners and managers who encourage their employees to become certified can be counted on to be concerned about the other aspects of their business and their commitment to fixing the vehicle right the first time.
Here are a couple of basic thoughts
Create a Budget – Have a conversation with your service director and factory trainer and develop a game plan on what it would take to improve your shops competency without creating financial peril on the store yet still allowing your technical team to increase their knowledgebase and growing your employees.
Incentivize the management team – It might be as simple to say you have X amount of dollars to spend on training that will not count against your overall expenses, therefore our common goal of creating a culture of a well trained workforce does not only lie on your wallets shoulders.
Create buy in – Training is a benefit and should be treated that way. Create a value system that encourages the steps that enables the additional training by putting a premium on those that have spotless attendance, high production a team player or whatever metric you see that would help you drive the message, those who help themselves will be sent to the specialized additional training.
Monitor activity – Have a healthy relationship with the regional training center and the instructor so you can follow up on how your students perform. This may seem a little over the top but if you are spending your hard earned cash on training you may want a report card of how serious your student took their training. It is crazy, there have been times where I would send 2 technicians at different times to the same class and get different results. After a quick phone call I would find out that it seemed that one of the technicians used the training as a vacation and was not as diligent on the classroom activities as the other one. After a quick conversation those extra curricular activities when out of town simply cease.
Overall it is fairly simple, create a culture that fosters training and building employees. Although this article is pointed more directly to the technicians the same methods can be applied to all employees. By increasing training you will decrease the cost associated with turnover, improve customer satisfaction by improving competency and help create job satisfaction.