Snr VP Business Development
I was talking with a shop owner the other day and he said to me, “I am having a hard time getting my crew, especially my service writer to understand what I want. I go blue in the face explaining over and over how I what things done and yet he always seems to be on a different page. He’s a good guy and sells well but honestly he’s driving me crazy. How do I get employees to be on the same page as me?”
Wow! That is what I call a quick question that does not have a quick answer. I told him I do not like to do off-the-cuff consultations especially on the subject of employees, but let me see if I can help you here. Before you pop a cork sit back take a deep breath and relax for a moment. Employee management is the trickiest part of a business. The reason most employees go off on a different direction from the owner is a lack of understanding what you the owner is trying to accomplish. There is no agreement. Telling people what you want done and how to do things only works when the understanding is already established. In other words when the employee twigs on how their job related to the overall plan.
What is the goal of the shop? What are you trying to get done? Have you put this in writing for yourself and your employees? You need to do this as a first step. If you are clear on where you want to go and what you want to accomplish and how you want to get there then it is easy to communicate those concepts to others.
You do this in the form of policy and staff meetings. You should have a meeting at least once a week to reiterate the purpose of the shop and what it is you want to get done. The next step is getting an employee to understand his/her job, the purpose of his job and how it all fits in with the overall big picture of the business. With a service writer you have to break it all down, how many jobs or hats is he/she really wearing? In most independent shops the service writer wears a multitude of hats: Reception, sales, parts, dispatching, quality control (checking the vehicle before the customer picks it up) etc. Each one of these has to be broken down into their actual components or functions and then taught on how the job is to be done according to company policy. Just telling people does not really work in most cases. You need to hold training sessions where the employee practices the new procedure or technique. But be careful here, you do not want a group of clones, you have got to leave room for initiative and creation on the position, other wise you end up with robots who can not think.
One of your biggest barriers to training people is if the person you are attempting to train feels there is nothing to learn; they already know it all. You have got to know how to handle this kind of person and better yet know how to spot this kind of person before you even hire them. You also need to know how to motive people to attend training. There are many ways of doing this, but beware of the person who you can not motivate, there are other problems in this case.
People learn in gradients; step-by-step. It is so easy to overwhelm a new employee by piling on too much too quickly. Owners tend to forget how much they know especially about their own business. Too many owners have trouble communicating want they want and how they want it done. To them it is too simple and too obvious. How could this new employee not get it? Well I am going to tell you to a new employee neither of these is necessarily true. It is not necessarily simple, or obvious.
You have got to break it all down. Remember, the only thing you ever have in an employee is willingness.
In the case of a service writer, break down all the hats they are wearing as I mentioned above and take one hat and work out step-by-step what you want them to know and do regarding the functions of that position.
There are many tools you must have and know how to use when you attempt to train people. But attitude is critical. If you do not have a high tolerance for stupidity you should not attempt to train anyone! You have to be willing to go over points time and again. Most people learn through repetition.
By the end of our talk this particular shop owner agreed that he had not spent enough time training his service writer and agreed to take some of the tools I gave him and would take a half hour a day to work with his service writer one thing at a time! I heard from him about a month later and he told me that things were starting to improve, and his service writer was not stupid after all!
Management Success is the leader in quality management training. As an owner you must have strong organization and communication skills, and a big part of organizing is training for yourself and your team.
Get trained and learn how to train others. Your life and the life of your employees will greatly improve. It is the only long term solution. Wishing you success!