Would you like a shop that makes more money, has more productive techs, with techs who are more committed than ever to the shop and their fellow techs? How about lowering your worker’s comp premium or just simply making your shop a better place to live and you and your employees happier? If any of this appeals to you, please take a few minutes and read on!
 
In a study of more than 3,100 U.S. workplaces, the National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce (EQW) found that on average, a 10% increase in workforce education level led to an 8.6% gain in total productivity. But a 10% increase in the value of equipment increased productivity just 3.4%. Source businessknowhow.com
 
The last time I wrote on the subject of training was in April of 2005. Well, after some research and talking to shops, many things have changed, not the least of which is training delivery. In fact, with all of the many programs out there is a wide-ranging number of choices from the “ethernet,” school based programs and a host of other options. We’ll take a look at these later.
 
Companies with a history of zero or only minor incidents can see their (worker comp) insurance premiums drop to 75% of what their competitors are paying for the same policy, whereas poor incident history can lead to paying insurance premiums as high as 300% of the going rate, according to IECI.
Safety Training
 
You MUST take the lead on this one. Everyone equates training to technical issues, and that is generally true. But, if your crew isn’t working and operating safely, and someone gets hurt or sick, you’ll have a huge problem on your hands that makes all of the tech training in the world seem pretty meaningless.
 
• Healthy back and knees: According to a number of sources, “body mechanics” are the source of many career-ending issues, or at the very least, physical issues for you and your techs. A short session in healthy lifting and body care along with a few bucks in gear and your commitment to ensuring the basics learned are employed all of the time will yield huge results now and in the long haul.
 
• Dealing with all kinds of cuts: It’s amazing how many times I hear “Rub some dirt in it,” tongue in cheek, as the answer for a cut. If you check you’ll often find that techs have no clue as to how they should treat or dress a cut. One owner shared that he learned the lesson after one tech developed a nasty infection and later had to file a claim retroactively.
 
• Handling materials in the eyes: Right up there with cuts and joints, there are many claims for eye injuries. This can happen even for techs using protection (everyone in your shop dons safety glasses as soon as they enter the shop, yes?). A simple eye wash station and some basic training will allow people to address specks or chemicals in the eye. Remember that ANY eye injury is a potential claim, and often should be treated at an urgent care or other facility. Don’t take a chance.
 
• Proper shop gear for techs: Referenced above, but you are responsible for providing basic safety gear such as the eye-wash station, safety glasses, whatever. A number of shops provide for steel-toe boots as well. Good insurance.
 
• Shop conditions inside: Training and a procedure for cleaning up spills and messes, policing benches and inventory, venting exhaust and the like will go a long way toward happier, healthier people. It only requires a very short training session.
 
• Shop conditions outside: Whoever is responsible for shoveling and salting in snow and ice areas or cleaning up the property will require some basic guidance. Saves on worker’s comp and customer liability claims, while making your shop appear more inviting.
 
• Handling employee emergencies: Training and establishing for shop emergencies such as sudden health issues (heart attack, stroke, etc.) or communicating issues of a personal nature to employees. We had our folks get CPR and basic first aid certified while a local health-care provider supplied information on knowing the signs of a number of sudden health issues.
 
• Handling crime issues at the shop: Have your local police come in to provide a short overview on how to avoid crime, handle issues as they arise and how to communicate effectively with them and others.
 
The top benefits of an effective workplace safety program were perceived to be: 1) increased productivity (42.5%); 2) reduced costs (28.3%); 3) greater retention of employees (7.1%); and 4) better employee/company morale and greater job satisfaction among employees (5.8%). Source: ASSE survey of
companies of all sizes
 
Environmental Training
 
There are two facets to this training. First, compliance with federal, state and local laws. But maybe more important, goes right along with the discussion on safety training.
 
• Handling fluids: Chemicals cause skin burns, eye burns and inhalation injuries. All really bad things! Your chemical suppliers should be your first stop for training and assistance. Otherwise there are a large range of online classes, and many are free from places like OSHA and your insurance carriers.
 
• Handling solids: Like liquids, solids are equally important to handle correctly.
 
• Handling spills: This part safety, part environmental, part appearance and a lot about pride in the shop environment. The best way to handle a spill is likely not grabbing a hose and washing the substance down the drain. That can get you in a lot of trouble. This is one area where a short bit of time online may well save you a great amount of money and bad public relations.
 
• What to do with filters, etc.: Seems simple enough. However, there are still issues here. Talk to your waste hauler for their rules and suggestions.
Technical Training
 
This is what most shops think of when they mention training. There are many options here. They include part-supplier programs, manufacturer and equipment-maker training, online, in shop or away, tech schools, remote manufacturer schools and many more. But nothing will happen if there isn’t a plan. Most important to this effort is twofold. First, categorize your crew to understand each person’s skills and limitations. Include the jobs they typically handle, and be sure to have a backup to each. Then, considering the person’s learning style and your budget, layout an annual training program and discuss this with the tech. No plan, no action, no improvement.
 
• Repair techniques
• Equipment training
• Specific diagnostic and repair information for makes/models
• Training specific to systems
 
Productivity & Process Training
 
Every person in your shop should have at least some knowledge of how to check in a vehicle, properly complete work orders, buy parts and supplies and payment and vehicle delivery when the job is done. Otherwise, what happens when the “regular” person is gone, or you want a vacation? One great source of training may be the company that provides your shop management software. No matter the source, the most important trainer here is YOU. Who else knows what you want and expect of your crew?
 
• Handling vehicle intake
• Processing work orders
• Processing part requests and use
• Vehicle delivery
 
“It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.” Source: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner
 
Management Training
 
Many shops make the mistake of thinking this is only for owners or front-end people. But when one considers that every employee in your shop either does, or has the potential, to be face to face with your source of income, the customer, it is critical that everyone has at least some basic skill set in these areas. Some of the best sources of training here are you and your desires for how customers are handled. Otherwise, consider the many, many online programs put on for shops and other small businesses. Or contact someone like a Dale Carnegie trainer or seek human relations courses locally. Asking other shops may not help since many do not bother with this training, but the fact that you are reading this publication at all tells me you want to be many steps above the typical shop!
 
• Handling customer complaints
• Meeting the customer
• Dealing with customer requests and questions
 
“It is six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.” Source: U.S. Consumer Affairs
 
Sources of Training
 
Options are plentiful. It is generally less expensive to look locally and online first. Be forewarned that people all learn in different ways. Some will thrive with online training; just make certain it is proctored and forget hoping they’ll do it at home on their own. Next, lean on your suppliers or equipment, chemicals and parts to bring planned programs in your shop. Another cost-effective approach is to get your crew out to local, regional and national trade and publisher shows that feature intensive training.
 
A few more options include your insurance companies, government agencies, local tech schools and publishers like Undercar Digest that offer targeted training each month with specific how-to articles. For a few special people, consider the investment of sending them to school away from the shop.
 
I have no doubt I have likely just scratched the surface of these issues and others. One final word. Just in case you are wondering, yes, you are typically responsible for paying the hourly rate for anyone training outside of working hours and may not deduct hours for time spent on the job training. Sorry, but my understanding of the rule (talk to your attorney too) is that if your employee does anything, anytime that will help you and the business, you pay.
 
The stats are on your side. Better trained employees are more productive, happier, more content and feel more valued.