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From the VP: Make Training a Part of the Culture at Your Auto Body Shop

Lack of training not only inhibits productivity, expertise and skill development, it also exposes your company to liability and increased insurance premiums.

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Lou Berman is vice president of sales for Collision Care Auto Body Centers. He also consults (out of market) nationwide. He can be reached at [email protected]

Today’s collision repair industry has faced many changes quickly. Shops need to be resilient in order to deal with the upcoming changes and keep them aligned with the advancements, but also to cope with an aging workforce that has traditionally been resistant to technology.

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Stiff Competition

In the most collision repair business models, body shops are faced with an acute shortage of staff with premium skills, an aging and diminished technician population that has the required skills, and stiff competition for quality employees. In other words, many are fighting over the same piece of pie. All those employers that are investing in training and development will ultimately harvest the benefits of an improved working environment and labor force. In such an environment, there exists enhanced productivity and higher levels of staff retention. I can tell you firsthand that our training for our employees serves many purposes, productivity being No. 1.

Liability Protection

Additionally, training acts as protection against liability. According to the Department of Labor, eye and back injuries represent the most common and expensive injuries technicians can sustain. While all of these injuries aren’t 100 percent preventable, many are. This is where training comes in.

All Collision Care stores have mandatory eyewear protection requirements. You want to talk about efficiency and profitability? Try achieving both of those objectives when your best tech sustains a preventable eye injury when he was grinding and prepping metal for repair, or lifting a newly mounted heavy truck tire off a mounting machine by himself. Are you doing all that you can? Not only to protect your company but your employees as well?

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Simply put, lack of training not only inhibits productivity, expertise and skill development, it also exposes your company to liability and increased insurance premiums. I’ve seen many cases where employees were injured and simply claimed, “I just did what I was told” or “No, I received no training.” I can tell you emphatically, without question, that you and your company are extraordinarily exposed when you don’t have mandatory documented training for even the simplest of tasks for seemingly skilled technicians. Things like proper vehicle lift operation, tire machines, anything electrical, etc. Your shop is your responsibility. Anyone you bring into it is your responsibility, either to properly train them or to ensure that they have the proper skill and expertise to work in your shop safely and productively.

This is not what you thought I would be discussing about training, huh? As I travel around the country consulting, I find that this topic is without question the most commonly overlooked one that actually exposes the shop to some of the most common costs and liabilities: staff injuries. Try appealing a judgment rendered for an injured employee with no verified documented training certificates and tell me how successful you are. Safety and productivity in the workplace is everything, and it all starts with training.

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All Facets

Of course, training doesn’t end there. It covers all facets of body shop operation, from skilled techs to seasoned estimators, all of whom require training.

In recent years, we’ve all seen how many different operating systems become part of our collision repair environment. From Performance Claims to PartsTrader to updating and changing how estimating systems interact with other communication programs from insurance companies, all of these systems require training to not only master but to enable you, the body shop owner, to speak their language.

Mom-and-Pops

How about the stand-alone mom-and-pop shops? Think they need training? No? Think again! How about when the insurance adjuster comes in the door and offers you the completed estimate. Perhaps there’s a star or underline next to a standard replacement labor time entry? What does this mean? Without training and by just looking at the bottom line, you might be happy with that estimate. Now, let me help you with some training and teach you that the bottom line never matters and that reading between the lines and looking for manual changes to standard labor times or miscoded labor entries in the body column that should be in the paint column could be why you’re not turning the profit you had hoped for.

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Let’s say you’re losing an average of $75 per vehicle per estimate. Multiply that by 800 cars a year, and that’s a whole bunch of money! If you think about it along those lines, some simple training or having a consultant come in for a refresher can be worth 10 times what you pay.

Summary

Training should encompass every aspect of your organization. New hire orientation, which includes shop policies, procedures and technical training schedules, will start to condition your employees on how seriously you take training and education and prepare them for what’s to come. Just as we do with customers, we need to set the proper expectation level with employees.

With Collision Care, training is beyond a requirement. To us, it’s a culture. We commit ourselves to finding, training and retaining the best talent, and teaching employees to work smart and hard. Often, by achieving the first, you achieve the second. Whether you want to fix the latest cars, ensure compliance and safety in your company or just create a sense of pride and increased skill levels amongst your employees who work for you, training is the way to achieve an area of common ground that everyone can participate in and reap benefits from.

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