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Rock’s Rants: Training (Lack Thereof)

by Ken Rock

Here’s what I’ve noticed in dealerships: the problem isn’t just a lack of training, it’s the general lack of a thought process that any training is needed.

At dealerships, we often take people who do their jobs well and make them a manager. The problem is, we don’t teach them how to manage. The job of service manager requires an entirely different skill set than the job of service advisor or technician.

Of course, these skills can be learned, but it requires training. When you’re promoted to a management position, you’re not supposed to do your previous job any more. As a manager, your job is to teach the people reporting to you how to do their jobs well.

You’re also supposed to figure out how to keep your department profitable. Again, this wasn’t your job in your previous position, but now it is. In order to learn this new skill, you need training.

Factory classes teach advisors and technicians what they need to do for the factory, but that’s only a small fraction of everything that’s required to do the entire job of advisor or technician.

Here’s the problem with lack of training. A new employee comes to work on day one. The boss shows him or her around, then gives that employee a list of tasks they’re responsible for.

The new employee has no clue how to do half of what’s on the list, and the boss looks really busy, so they ask a fellow employee how to do it.

The employee has half an idea how to do the task, because they had to figure it out themselves a while ago. The old employee teaches the new employee. The untrained is training the untrained.

Now the new employee knows how to get the task done, but probably not in the most efficient manner. They also don’t have any context on why the task needs to be done, or how that task affects customers or other employees.

This sad story is repeated every day in dealerships across the U.S. You take a perfectly good new employee, who was as promising as a blank canvas in Picasso’s studio. They were willing and eager to learn, and learn they did—all the wrong things and all the bad habits.

Then three months later you blame the employee for ineptitude or lack of productivity.

I always like to draw comparisons between the service department and sales departments. In sales, training is part of the culture. Sales meetings are held every day. Bagels are brought in by the bucket load. Here are ten different ways you can sell a car, how to get a test drive, how to overcome an objection, how to connect with customers.

The same thing should be happening in service, with service advisors and even the cashier. They need to know more than how to do a list of tasks. There are a hundred nuances to these positions that can make the difference between just doing a job, doing a job well and knocking it out of the park.

If you want your employees to knock it out of the park, train them. And train your managers how to manage.

The next time you’re tempted to blame an employee or a manager for poor results, ask yourself—do you have a right to blame them, when you never taught them how to get the results you want?

If you’re in a leadership position, it’s your job to make sure your employees learn how to do their jobs in the most efficient way possible. It’s your job to instill passion, dedication and desire to do that job well. It’s your job to check on them, mentor them, answer any questions and most of all, train them. If you don’t have the time, and nobody else has the time, hire an outside trainer. Truly, it’s worth the investment.

Finally, when you do train your employees, don’t just train them for today. Train them for next week, next month and ten years from now. Train them like the future success of your dealership depends on it, because it does.

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