Valuing Training

IN THE LAST ISSUE, I noted that training isn't always the answer to performance problems. Good training, however, is crucial when there truly are undeveloped competencies—gaps in employee skills and knowledge. Now, how do you get your employees to see the value in training?

Years ago, many employees looked at training as a reward—a show of their employers' faith and recognition of them as a key player on the team. Perhaps they got to travel, relax at night in a hotel, eat doughnuts in the training center... It wasn't necessarily a tough sell to get an employee to attend training.

Today, with most everyone's lives moving at breakneck speed, smaller staffs and the potential of income loss while an employee is not on the job, finding time for training is increasingly difficult. It is becoming easier and easier to put off continuing education, even with impending new technology creating an obvious need. The WIIFM ("What's In It For Me?") factor is frequently the most important consideration as employees decide whether or not they "need" training.

In the OEM dealer world, so much continuing training is tied to certification that there is less difficulty in getting employees the training they need. There are corporate-sponsored "Gold" and "Master" programs that technicians are required to earn and maintain with regular training attendance. Some technician certifications are even required for a dealer to even be able to sell a particular new model vehicle!

Fleet technicians, though, are not always governed by programs beyond initial certification for hiring, and continuing education goes amiss. A frequent comment among fleet operators is, "If I increase their skills, they'll just leave me for more money at another company."

So how is a fleet operator to compete when it comes to maintaining skilled workers? Employees need to know that upgrading skills and knowledge is of value to their employers, as well as to their own personal and professional growth. If not available at the company level, why not develop your own recognition programs at your fleet? This doesn't have to be an expensive, difficult to maintain program. Just a few gestures of appreciation can go a long way toward keeping trained employees in your shop. These can include, but are not limited to:

Certificates—This is the simplest and most inexpensive type of recognition. Ask your training provider if they provide a certificate for successful training completion. If not, create your own! It is easy to do with many computer software packages. Either way, display the certificates prominently in the employee work area or front office. Make sure you save the file for the certificate (if you created your own) so you can electronically add more courses to the list the employee has already completed and print an updated certificate.

Plaques—A little more permanent than the certificate, and still relatively inexpensive, these can be ordered at trophy and engraving shops just about anywhere. Be sure to leave some space if you desire to add more completed courses to an employee plaque. This can be done by simply returning the plaque for additional engraving.

Uniform Patches—If an employee picks up a new specialty, such as diesel engine repair, be sure to provide them a way to proudly display that skill on their uniform. ASE provides patches for technicians passing a skill category test, and you can custom-order patches online through many mail-order providers.

Gifts—This can take many forms. Perhaps you can provide something as simple as company wearables (shirts, hats, jackets etc.) or gift certificates for a local restaurant. If you're already spending a few hundred dollars for training, an additional $30 for an employee to take someone to dinner should not break the bank. After a certain number of courses are completed, perhaps you can up the stakes to include tool certificates (always popular with technicians!) or even monetary bonuses.

You can also consider starting your own "Masters" program for employees who reach a certain number of continuing education hours.

These are just some of the ways to recognize the extra effort of your employees who maintain and upgrade their competencies through training. It also shows your commitment to their growth and a belief that education is life-long. I'm sure you fleet operators can think of others ways to show your appreciation for well-trained workers!