Tire dealers who espouse training have to show workers they support it in every regard. When the boss approaches training halfheartedly, workers follow suit. The end result is a mediocre return on the training investment.
Regular readers know I urge all service personnel to upgrade their knowledge with both technical and non-technical training. It's encouraging to meet owners and managers at industry functions who rave about the difference training has made at their dealerships.
But it's equally discouraging to hear bosses and workers griping about the cost and challenge training presents. For example, the boss is all for training, as long as it doesn't interrupt his service department's schedule. Consequently, he won't send techs to daytime classes on weekdays or Saturdays.
Can't do daytime? That leaves the options of self-study and evening classes. More and more service shops I visit have TV's and VCR's in the break room where techs can view training videotapes at their leisure. Also, managers prod their techs to either review videotapes at home and/or take correspondence courses.
But real-world experience shows self-study takes lots of commitment and discipline. Some service personnel thrive on the challenge of self-study. But many others see it as just another annoyance or interruption of their daily routine.
Clearly, evening classes are the most popular form of training conducted in the aftermarket arena. Many owners and managers admit they choose night classes by default. It's the only time they have a prayer of a chance of getting their troops to learn something.
Obviously, night classes present their own challenge to bone-weary techs who'd rather be home relaxing with a cold drink in front of the tube. The harried tech has to scrub up, change clothes, eat dinner and race to a class that probably starts at 6:30-7:00 p.m.
I teach as well as attend classes. Why is it that I usually see all the same faces at seminars? A combination of empathy and dedication probably explain this pattern.
First, the boss of these regular attendees accepts the imperfect situation by declaring some training is better than none at all.
Second, the boss has spelled out as a condition of employment that all techs accrue so many hours of update training annually.
Third, the boss or service manager takes responsibility for keeping a calendar of upcoming training events—regardless of who sponsors it—and always has ``antennae'' up for worthwhile seminars being offered.
Typically, seminar sponsors notify prospects at least a month in advance of a class. By taking responsibility for a training calendar, an owner or manager eliminates unpleasant surprises: ``Holy smoke! We're signed up for a class tonight. We'll never make it!''
Fourth, the boss reinforces the store's commitment to training by requiring the service manager to monitor the training calendar and schedule work accordingly. He or she knows weeks in advance that the techs are leaving work 90 minutes early on specific days in order to get ready for class.
Allowing time to shave, shower, change clothes and eat a hot meal is a small additional investment that helps maximize the return on the seminar fee. Why? Because this courtesy (in some shops, it's a requirement) rejuvenates the tech mentally and physically.
In this imperfect situation the worker is put in the best frame of mind to learn and retain as much as possible that evening.
Causing someone to race to a class by forcing him to do last-minute repairs is disgraceful. Not only is it counterproductive, it's also downright demeaning to the technician. The message this tactic sends the worker is: Your growth and well-being is paramount—provided it doesn't cost the store a repair order!''
Also, keep a box of notebooks and pens handy for those techs headed to seminars. Too many arrive at class without these essentials.
Recently, some readers took me to task for a suggestion I made in my April 28 column on the true cost of comebacks. Feeling frustrated by hardheaded owners and managers who treat ongoing comebacks so cavalierly, I made an outrageously facetious suggestion. I recommended that these fellows hire a special tech specifically to make good on the work their service departments foul up!
I thought the idea was preposterous enough to jolt some people into taking a fresh look at how their service departments operate.
Hey readers, I was just kidding!
Sorry for the goof. I never, ever thought anyone would take that suggestion seriously.