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Train to Gain

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Andy Crook of GotBoost discusses workshop culture and how we view training.

Training staff is a conundrum that a lot of garage owners struggle with. I have spoken to countless garage owners about training over the years and the reasons given for not sending staff on training astounds me. Even when the training need has been established, some business owners are still reluctant to send their technicians on any form of training. Excuses such as ‘I can’t afford to lose a member of staff for the day’ or ‘what if I train them and they leave’, are commonly used to justify not investing in training. 

Another way of looking at this – can your customers or the business afford your staff taking longer than they should, or misdiagnosing the problem and fitting parts that are not required? What if you don’t train your staff and they stay? 

Worse still, is when the workshop owner, who doesn’t work on vehicles day-to-day, attends the training hoping to pass the knowledge onto their staff. How effective do you think this approach to staff training and development is going to be? 

What if the reason a garage doesn’t want to send staff on training is that they don’t see any benefits? They may have been on training before and nothing has changed. They continue to struggle with the work they struggled with before. They simply don’t think training is effective for them. So, they buy equipment, trying to close the skills gap with more capable tooling, which requires… yes, you guessed it, training, to get the most out of it – the same sort of training they are reluctant to attend. It becomes a vicious circle and the tool, or the technician, is blamed for the shortcomings. If you have all the gear, the issue lies with the people using it, doesn’t it? This could lead to a recruitment campaign with possibly disastrous consequences, for the new employee and the business, as they may not be a good fit for each other. 

Staff are hired by their qualifications, skills and experience but nearly always sacked because of their culture. Think about that for a minute, what is culture in the workplace? 

Workplace Culture is the personality of your business and it is what makes it unique. It is the combination of your beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. When the organisation culture is at odds with the employee’s culture it causes huge problems. In this example, the new member of staff who is highly skilled and qualified has joined an organisation that does not send staff on training. The new member of staff will have gained those skills and qualifications by attending training courses and will expect to continue to develop in their new role. When this does not happen the two cultures clash. 

Most businesses just allow workplace culture to develop organically, which is a huge mistake. If you are reluctant to send staff on training, the inferred culture is one of stagnation for both the individuals who work there and the business itself. 

The culture of an organisation is as important as its strategy, as it strengthens or undermines the business objectives. So, it must be thought through and demonstrated in everything the business does. This culture must be communicated from the top and reinforced by the actions of the leaders. It’s not just words on a mission statement. 

So, what is needed is the right person in the right role, with the required skill set and equipment to carry out that role effectively. How can this be achieved? 

If the workplace culture allows the staff to provide feedback on the work they struggled to carry out effectively, the business could identify areas for improvement. Instead of criticising the staff they could support them, with relevant equipment and training courses that will bring benefits to both the individual and the organisation. 

During my ‘Business of Diagnostics’ course, we encourage garage owners to carry out a gap analysis on the diagnostic work that either: 

1. Didn’t result in a first-time fix
2. Took longer than expected, or
3. The actual fault was very different to the first hypothesis. 

If this becomes part of the culture in an open, blame-free environment, the root cause of the inefficiencies soon becomes apparent. The four areas we suggest you investigate are: 

1. Technician knowledge
2. Technician skills
3. Equipment/information shortcomings 4. System or process shortcomings. 

Gathering this data can provide the basis for future investments in tooling and information systems that will increase capability and provide a return on investment. Instead of buying what is convenient or what other garages are using locally, which may or may not improve on the current equipment capabilities. 

For the technician, it can be difficult to admit you have shortcomings in your skills or knowledge. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes it is more subjective. A great place to start is the free Autotech Online Tests. Once registered, techs can assess their own technical knowledge, process and diagnostic capabilities. The multiple-choice tests cover vehicle systems and theory, as well as skills using real-world diagnostic scenarios. Once completed, the score sheets marked with the correct answers are instantly emailed back to the participant, along with supporting learning material. This will help the technician to identify their individual training needs, which can be addressed with a combination of on the job training and suitable training courses that match the needs of the technician. 

Register or login at www.autotechnician.co.uk/registration

‘Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to,’ Sir Richard Branson tweeted in 2014. 

Gathering enough data for reliable decisions to be made, means carrying out diagnostic performance reviews regularly, which will also provide feedback on how effective any training has been, including on the job training. This may be uncomfortable to begin with – you will now know what you didn’t know, plus it won’t be easy changing the culture in the workplace, put no pain no gain. You never know, you might find training might be worthwhile after all. 

www.gotboost.uk 

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