Training: An Ongoing Commitment

Rémy Rousseau is the founder of Collision Management and Rousseau Automotive Communication. You can reach him at remyrousseau@rogers.com.

Integrating learning as part of organizational evolution.

In my last column, we agreed that simply talking about training, rather than adopting a training imperative, puts us on the wrong path. How do we ensure that training is a reality? By making it an ongoing part of our organizational culture, rather than a response to a sudden need or an annual ritual.
It’s an easy first step in our industry, where automotive technology makes it necessary to constantly stay in the vehicle design loop, to recognize that learning is part of everything your organization does. Take the aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 as a dramatic example.
A continuous process
Learning is an ongoing process, not an event. The introduction of every new type of vehicle can be used as a learning tool for all staff. Vehicle introductions tend to concentrate in the fall, but that’s just the busiest time of a continuous stream. Consider how new materials being used in the latest vehicles and new equipment to address them impacts your business. Consider too how that impact will increase over time as the use of aluminum; carbon fibre, advanced plastics and new high-strength
steels increase.
It’s your role as a leader to support the expectation of learning and provide both resources and opportunities for making it possible. A company shows that it values learning by including employee training and development in the budget and viewing it as an investment in the future. Items included in the annual budget reflect the priorities of the operation. Say ‘yes’ when approached for training and propose it regularly. Make it an expectation rather than an exception.
Additionally, don’t just train your technicians. Counter people and, yes, administration needs to be up to date. While they may not need to rivet aluminum, they need to uwnderstand what’s involved. They need to care and show they do. They also have to understand the process to assist with explaining an estimate, dealing with insurers and especially with owners.
By supporting the expectation of learning, the line item will already be in your annual plan. That may require some significant budget planning, but once done, the shadow of the expenditure—everyone feels it—won’t hang over the important training needs of the team.
Providing time
The toughest part is providing time for training. Traditionally, employees have been expected to use their own weekends or evenings. That just isn’t fair. Satisfied employees are those whose training needs are recognized alongside their need for balanced lives. Retention and productivity must trump the cheapskate urge to economize on paid hours if the organization is going to prosper in the long run.
The winner is the company that has the most informed, skilled employees. Employees know, they talk to customers and they discuss their working lives in the community.
Those employees also need to be loyal, enthused and proud that their operation values training them to make sure the vehicles they encounter get the best possible attention. You cannot generate pride by simply putting slogans on the wall but you can create a culture of learning that enforces employee competence and satisfaction.

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