an owner or manager of an automotive repair facility,
you have many things to consider when training your
employees. For example, who should you train, how
often should you train, who should pay for the
training, how do you pick the trainers or courses, and
when should you train?
Who should receive training?
The answer is very easy -everyone! This includes
technicians, service writers, office staff, managers
need to be trained in the technical hard skills of
engine and transmission repair, suspensions, brakes,
emissions, painting, body work. etc.
office staff that deals with financial issues needs to
be trained in good accounting practices, taxes,
payroll, profit and loss statements, balance sheets,
and wage and hour laws.
administrative staff needs training in telephone
skills, human resource regulations, and compliance
with federal and state laws regulating your business,
specifically pertaining to the Environmental
Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and
on your payroll, especially service writers and
receptionists, needs professional customer service
need to be trained in effective leadership skills and
team building principles, and be given an
understanding of financial statements and business
often need education on business secession, estate and
retirement planning, and family members working
emphasis should be placed on bringing new employees up
to speed as quickly as possible and indoctrinating
them into the standards and manner by which you run
your business. You should do much of this training
in-house, and not rely on outside sources. If new
employees resist going to training classes and don't
want to he trained, you should think very seriously
about whether or not you should keep them. An
employee's eagerness to be trained can be a very
measurable gauge in predicting their future
productivity in the company.
reasons (excuses) why some employees don't like to go
to training classes are almost too numerous to list,
but the major ones I hear from my clients arc:
"We worked all day," or "We don't want
to travel," or "We already know it," or
"We don't want to sit for four hours," or
"We don't want to give up our personal or family
time." And the number one reason employees don't
want to go to training classes is: "We won't
benefit from the training."
you hear these objections, you should talk to the
employees. Explain how training is a long-term
investment in their future and that you are willing to
make a financial investment in them and pay for their
education (during business hours). Explain how
training will pay off by making them more effective
and professional. This should help since employees
often don't see the relationship between training and
making more money or getting a promotion.
How often should we train?
The answer is often driven by outside forces beyond
your control. For example, the tremendous changes in
automotive technology require you to train whenever
the technology changes.
in computer hardware and software upgrades require
almost constant training. The shelf life of computer
hardware is about six months and new software is
coming out every day.
advantage of current marketing and communication tools
such as Internet Web pages, e-mail and digital phones,
you must constantly train. You cannot stand still in
business - you are either moving forward or going
backward - relative to technological advances and
breakthroughs in your industry. An expression I borrow
from the animal kingdom is: "Change, migrate or
die." For business this means: Keep up with the
latest technology, get into another line of work or go
out of business.
training a measurable function in your business. I
recommend having a yearly training program so you have
a formal way to schedule classes and monitor and track
the results of each employ-ee's training record.
Customize a training program for each employee - from
apprentice training to ongoing continuing education
credits - to ensure everyone is covered.
Employees should never
go more than one year without receiving updated
information about their specific work skills. Training
is like high jumping - the bar keeps getting higher.
It is an essential element for the professional
development of every employee, regardless of their job
Who should pay for training?
There are three obvious ways to pay for training:
employer pays, employee pays or it is shared. The most
common is for the employer to pay for the training,
including tuition, books and materials, and travel
expenses. None of my clients require their employees
to pay for their own training. Employers generally do
not pay wages for training time unless the training is
held during regular working hours. There is nothing
wrong with the employee signing an agreement to
reimburse you if they terminate their employment
within a certain time after the training. You want
some protection that your financial investment will
pay off in terms of increased productivity and
profitability for the company. If you have questions
about paying wages or reimbursement issues, I suggest
you understand federal and state wage and hour laws
and regulations. "Protective legislation"
protects the interests of the employees, and you need
to stay within the current guidelines.
recommend you allocate a certain portion of your
budget to training. Make training a line item expense
on your annual budget, just like an advertising
expense. Training bud-gels should include attendance
to association meetings and trade shows such as the
International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE)
and the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week.
previously mentioned, let your employees know the
financial commitment you are making to their
education. Employees should realize that you are
taking a double hit while they are being trained: You
are paying for the training and the shop is losing
productivity (maybe you are even paying overtime)
while employees are attending classes.
you are not alone when you worry about paying for
train-ing and then losing the employee - all owners
share this concern. When I am asked, "What if I
train them and they leave?" my answer is,
"What if you don't train them and they
classes and instructors
When selecting programs, you first need to determine
what you and your employees should expect to get from
the training. For example, are you trying to qualify
for Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair
(I-CAR) Gold or Platinum status, achieve the
Automotive Management Institute's (AMI's) Accredited
Automotive Manager (AAM) designation or receive
certification from the National Institute for
Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)? Are you training
your employees to increase their loyalty to your
company? Are you training for certification to get
more business from insurance companies? Be very clear
on your reasons for training your employees and the
specific results you expect.
choosing a program, I strongly recommend you check
references and get feedback from your peers who have
attended the classes or used the instructors you are
thinking about using. It might be useful for you to
determine if the classes are AMI-approved, or
sponsored by I-CAR or other credible organizations.
When possible, choose programs that qualify for
continuing education credits that lead to a
Make sure it is
hands-on. Students like to be involved and want to
leam by doing. Workshop formats are usually more
effective than lectures. Students want to disassemble
and assemble products and use the equipment.
classes where there is no product, students want to
participate in the discussion by asking questions and
sharing their opinions.
classes that minimize theory. Knowing "why"
is important, but most students want to know
"how." A good rule of thumb is two-thirds of
the time should be spent "doing" and
one-third "reading or listening."
sure the courses are relevant. Does the instructor use
real-life situations and examples? Does the training
pertain to the size and operation of your business?
Don't get involved if the training is not relevant to
your business situation in terms of gross sales,
number of employees, customer base, etc.
of realism, don't ignore the opportunity to meet your
you are probably involved in Ten Clubs. Whether they
are called "Ten Clubs." "Twenty
Clubs" or something else, the concept is the
same. You and your key managers should meet on a
regular basis with owners you trust and with whom you
share a common business philosophy. Open your books
and discuss real examples. You can invite guest
speakers or just share information among yourselves.
training should include a pretest and post-test. This
is one way to measure the effectiveness of the
training and how much the employee learned. Look for
classes that include some type of testing process. For
example, the instructor's evaluation could include not
only pre-testing and post-testing, but also the
employee's participation in class, their verbal and
written skills, and their attendance record. Ask the
instructor to suggest the next appropriate level of
training for your employees.
current vendors and suppliers for courses. Many
vendors will provide training at no cost, so why not
take advantage of this opportunity? Of course you hear
the stories about vendors who are just pushing their
products and slamming the competition, but I think
this practice is decreasing. Explain to the vendor you
don't want a sales pitch. You want a professionally
qualified instructor to train how to use the equipment
and provide the latest information in the industry.
vendors are providing "value added"
training. They will sponsor training in areas outside
of their primary products or services. For example,
some paint and major equipment manufacturers provide
management training and customer service classes,
either by their own employees or third-party trainers.
Contact your vendors and inquire if they will provide
classes on topics you need. It is certainly in the
manufacturers' best interest to increase the
survivability and success of their customers.
should we train?
Weekdays, weekends, evenings? All of these times are
appropriate, and it often depends on the availability
of the classes.
in-house training is probably done after work. For
evening courses, whether you have classes on your
premises or go to a local hotel or meeting room. 1
suggest you stop the training by 9 p.m. No matter how
important you think the material is, remember your
employees have been at work all day and may have
another hour to drive home. It is better to have two
or three shorter evening meetings than to go too late.
Training tends to be most effective in shorter, more
frequent sessions - rather than a marathon meeting. If
you meet once a week, you may choose different nights
to accommodate your employees' prior commitments.
give the employees as much notice as possible. Don't
surprise them with one or two days' notice and then
expect them to have a positive attitude about
training. They will attend because their jobs depend
on it, but they won't appreciate the lack of respect
you have for their personal and family lives. If you
have evening classes, serve food. You should not
expect the employees to give up dinner. Pizzas or
sandwiches usually work fine. Never serve alcoholic
beverages at these training meetings.
you send employees to classes, it is most often during
the day and you don't have any choice for the
scheduling. However, you should give them as much
notice as possible. Allowing your employees to choose
the classes they want to attend will increase their
commitment and enthusiasm for the training.
companies stick to the traditional school year
training, September through May. This schedule often
works out best for vacation schedules. Of course you
should consider your seasonal workload and schedule
your training at slower times.
Other keys to
Focus on in-house training as much as possible. When
practical, dedicate a part of your facility as a
training room. Equip it with a VCR, overhead
projector, screen, reference library, white boards,
etc. Make it an environment that reflects your
commitment to training. Require employees to read and
study on their own. Set up an internal schedule of
material you want them to study, and include written
tests - just like taking a correspondence course. You
can also establish internal performance standards and
have the employees take hands-on tests while you
measure their time and accuracy.
employees teach each other. Pick a topic and have an
employee, or team of employees, prepare a class for
their peers. Have them include handouts and other
material. This is excellent training for the employee
who is teaching the class. Or, if you paid for
employees to attend classes, have them teach what they
learned to the rest of the employees. You shouldn't
expect them to be professional trainers, but give them
the opportunity to share what they learned. If done
properly, this can be a motivator and enhance their
status in the company.
training a reward. Give employees special recognition
for doing an outstanding job. Send an employee to a
seminar, trade show or convention and allow them to
take their spouse or significant other. Let them spend
an extra day or two at the training site (just as you
probably do when you attend out-of-town classes). If
you want to really emphasize the value of training and
education, allow your technicians and office staff to
enjoy some of the perks that go with attending
seminars and shows.
your employees to participate in local association and
other industry meetings. Local chapter meetings
usually have guests speakers and your employees can be
exposed to new ideas and information. It also enables
them to get involved in your industry - for the price
of a dinner.
remember that "the great aim of education is not
knowledge, but action," Training should focus on
results. The results you want are: fewer comebacks;
less waste; increased productivity; increased customer
satisfaction; better leaders; and more competent,
effective and professional employees.
Beau Hamilton founded Hamilton Consulting Inc. in
1984. His automotive clients include collision and
mechanical repair facilities, dealerships, recyclers
and aftermarket parts distributors. He is an
instructor for AMI and conducts automotive seminars
and training programs throughout the United States.
For more information, contact Hamilton at (800)