The importance of continued training

Andy looks at why ongoing training is so vital for professionals in the garage sector, as well as the businesses that employ them

Published:  26 February, 2019

By Andy Savva

One of the greatest challenges facing garage employers today is discovering and retaining good technicians, reception employees, as well as support staff such as administrators, valeters and drivers. As a previous serial garage owner, myself I know how difficult this can be in an ever-demanding sector which requires far more technical expertise and knowledge.  
I realised early on in my business career, focusing on recruitment, selection and retention was one of the most important steps towards building a successful business. The importance of continued training and development as a way of motivating, retaining and of course the recruitment of people cannot not be overlooked.
The implications of poor recruitment selection decisions for the business as a whole can be catastrophic. So, often when I am visiting garages up and down the country, I find staff members who are placed in positions without the necessary skillset for the job they are doing. I ask myself “why this is?” Well, the answer is garage proprietors are reluctant to pay a salary for the right person. Instead, they end up recruiting people without the right skills and then ask them to fulfil roles that they are just not capable of doing.

Correct person
You may ask me “What’s the right salary?” My answer to that is clear: If you have identified the correct person with the right skill level and pedigree, why not ask them what they would like to be paid to work in your business? That’s exactly what I did, and guess what – it always caught people by surprise because they were never asked that before. They never knew what to reply back to me, so I used to ask them what their current salary was, and when they replied back £32,000, I’d say well we are in luck then because I’m prepared to offer you £36,000, is that ok with you? If only I could take a picture of the reactions; SHOCK! But a happy shock.
If you are going to worry about £2,000 or £3,000 per year per employee or have a salary cap for specific positions or any roles for that matter you will never attract the right person in an already underskilled sector. My attitude was find the right person and offer them a package they could never say no to.
Attract and retain
Now it’s not  all about salary when recruiting and retaining staff,  although it is very important. It is also about being able to demonstrate to potential candidates that you have created a workplace that nourishes good people.
Provide an adequate staff room, and lockers for their belongings. Acknowledge good work, create an environment for thinking. Make sure there are logical and consistent operating policies and procedures crucial for success.  Along with this, provide  the correct tooling and equipment to carry out their duties. You also need to make sure they feel they are  a respected team member who will be involved in discussions and asked their opinions before business decisions are made that could affect them. Lastly, ask yourself, do they understand your vision, mission and values?
If it’s a yes to all the above before you know it you will have created a retention environment. Why would they want to leave you? Where would they go? Are there many other garages offering the package they currently have?
Above all, I insisted on a culture of openness and shared information. I wanted my team to know where the company they were working for was going and what it will look like in the future. I also made sure they knew where it stood in the marketplace. I wanted my employees knowing how their specific jobs fitted into the grand scheme of things and what they can do to help my business get to where I wanted it to go. My experience taught me if you operate in an open environment where information is shared you will certainly benefit from higher retention rates. I would have failed if I knew my employees had thoughts like:

  •  It doesn't feel good around here
  •  I don't get the support I need to get my job done
  •  They wouldn't miss me if I were gone
  •  I am not paid enough

The lack of opportunity with regards to  staff promotions in most independent garages can create problems as some employees who are ambitious to progress their career positions are very much restricted. This was always on the back of my mind, and to be honest there was not much I could do in this area if a particular employee decided to leave for a senior role which I could not offer, however hard that was for me seeing them move on to new pastures.
Luckily for me it only happened twice in my business career. In reflection looking back now, in that I am still stay in touch with both where it was am issue, I am proud that the grounding and professional growth that all my team members had, including these two individuals of course. The culture created allowed them to experience reception life, and taking over control of the workshop. Their continued external training and development meant both these individuals gained the knowledge and experience to continue their careers in senior positions within our sector.  
My overall goal as an employer was to make my business a place where people wanted to come to work. A place of discipline that is also  a fun place to be. A place of knowledge and harmony. A place where everyone respected each other, to cultivate a feeling of family. These are the fundamentals that are needed to succeed in recruiting and maintaining a stable group of team members. Yes, I may have been the owner of Brunswick Garage and the driving force behind so many ideas however none would have been implemented without the wonderful team that I assembled.

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