A major challenge today for any collision facility owner is ensuring that team members are trained on the latest repair standards and company processes. It is always a balance of three things: 1) the time commitment for training that can take employees away from their daily tasks, 2) the cost of training and 3) the ever-changing repair standards.
With three CARSTAR locations in Sidney, Troy and Piqua, Ohio, we have a lot of team members and thus a lot of training needs.
My philosophy on training has never changed, even as the industry’s has. I’ve always believed in training – because we don’t know it all! Plus, procedures, vehicles and materials are always changing, and you have to stay current with it. I’ve always shared that vision with my employees and why I feel so passionate about it. After all, our customers are trusting us to do the best job possible to repair their vehicle, and I take that seriously. In fact, we built a 30-person training room at our Troy facility just for this purpose. That’s how much I believe in training my staff.
We use a variety of resources for training, with I-CAR and CARSTAR University being the two primary ones. A lot of I-CAR training is now online, so we have a computer at each location that employees can use if necessary. Many of the CARSTAR University training modules are online as well, so these computers make it convenient for our employees to get the training they need.
We also take advantage of training programs at the training facility of our paint company, BASF, in Whitehouse, Ohio. We attend CARSTAR EDGE Performance Group events and other CARSTAR training programs as well as Franklin Covey training.
Time and Money
One thing I’ve learned about training is you have to budget time and money for it. Our training budget depends on staff needs, but I usually forecast to spend around .05% of sales on training each year.
We provide training for all roles in our facilities, from customer service representative to estimator to technician to manager. All employees get training at least in their role areas and are welcome and encouraged to take training in other areas of interest to help them grow.
The amount of training varies depending on their level. If it is a new employee, training takes place at least monthly until they’re up to speed for their position. If they’re a seasoned veteran, then training is usually semi-annual. But, we constantly review the repair updates and other training needs with our team during daily and weekly production meetings.
It is important you set aside the time for each employee to participate in training. In your workflow forecast for each week, budget downtime hours so employees can participate in online classes or work with mentors for hands-on coaching.
I have found that investing in training and helping employees grow is critical to retaining them and keeping them motivated to produce the highest-quality work. With the competition for talent today, it is much more efficient to train and retain your team then have to hire and retrain new people.
Another important factor is keeping track of the training and certifications for each team member. I keep track of the I-CAR Gold statuses and what new classes the techs have to take yearly. I then let the managers of each store know there are classes for their techs to take. The managers also keep their employees enrolled in CARSTAR University and make sure they’re current with the courses needed for their roles. With OEM certifications and DRP programs, being able to document your team members’ training is very important.
One challenge you hear is that employees don’t see the benefit of training. I usually address that in the interview process and explain that we are an I-CAR Gold facility and believe in training our employees. It is our culture, and we expect them to take the training with the intention to grow and improve. If they don’t embrace that culture, we probably aren’t a good fit for them.
The bottom line is that our customers rely on us to have the right training to provide the highest-quality repair for their vehicles. Whether it’s a 15-year-old pickup truck or a late-model sedan with advanced technology, they trust us to get them back on the road in a safely repaired vehicle.
Tom Martin is the owner of three CARSTAR locations in Ohio – CARSTAR Sidney, CARSTAR Troy and CARSTAR Piqua. He started working in a collision repair shop at 15, then went on to purchase the business. He joined CARSTAR in 2003 with his first location. He opened his second CARSTAR location in 2014 and a third in 2019. He has long been a champion of advanced technology and also training for his team. He also donates his time to a variety of volunteer organizations, veterans in need, the homeless and youth sports. He can be reached at [email protected].