Training Best Practices – A Model for Canada?

by Andrew Shepherd, Senior Director – Industry Programs and Executive Director – I-CAR Canada

The Car Care Professionals Network (CCPN), an Auto Care Association advisory committee made up of successful repair shop owners and managers, has released a recommended set of best practices for repair shop education and training.  Although the CCPN deals with mechanical repair issues, its recommendations could serve as an ideal model for Canadian collision repairers as well.  In this article we’ll look at the roles and responsibilities of shop managers and staff in training.

In keeping with I-CAR’s focus on knowledge management as the most important driver of success, the first and foremost role of the shop manager or owner is to position training in the knowledge development cycle (create and instill a vision for success; determine the skills needed by the organization to achieve that success; plan and execute training to build those skills; ensure that the knowledge acquired through training is disseminated as widely as possible.)

The manager should be planning training for the year, with a dedicated financial and time budget and specific skill needs in mind.  The plan is mapped against staff capabilities – are there new staff who need fundamentals? Have you got functional areas of the shop that are facing new technology and equipment challenges? Are there technicians who should be ‘training models’, acting as mentors and team leaders for others?

Another important aspect of your training plan is a reward system.  This doesn’t need to be exclusively financial, although few technicians will say no to a training bonus – public recognition, time off and/or small gifts can go a long way to signaling the priority you are putting on training.

The role of the technician, estimator and other staff in training can’t be ignored, of course.  Learner buy-in is key to success – they must understand why they are training and they must commit to growth for the entire group.  One way to create and sustain this behavior is to keep the learner informed of their training and recognition/certification path, in addition to any rewards waiting at the end of the road.

Now that your training needs and focuses are set, map out a rough training schedule (keeping in mind seasonal workloads, of course).  Contact training providers or prepare for on-line training.  Since so much training is delivered virtually these days, consider a dedicated work station in a quiet environment, with supportive materials and manuals nearby.

Once training is completed, think about how to distribute the new knowledge within your organization, and how to measure training results.  Have the trainee explain key learnings to you and to team-mates.  Have him or her mentor other technicians in the new skills.  Where possible, examine the impacts of training on key performance indicators – has cycle time improved?  Have CSI scores increased?  Has employee satisfaction been enhanced?

And finally, start your cycle again.  What knowledge gaps remain (or indeed have emerged over the past months)?  Is everyone on the team ‘on board’ with training and its place in profit and success?  Are you as a leader planning and engaging your group to make the most of training?

These “best practices” are key to the success of your business.  In future articles we’ll examine the roles and responsibilities of the training provider, and how choosing the right training partner can make your life a whole lot simpler.