From The CEO - June - 2016

“The Beatings will Continue…”

Whenever you get businesspeople together to discuss management strategies, someone’s sure to drag out this old chestnut: The beatings will continue until moral improves. It always gets a few chuckles, even though it’s older than dirt.

Of course nobody actually considers beating their employees… not out loud anyway. But if you think about it, it’s not that far from some management techniques… at least, not as far as it should be.

For example, how many bosses stand over their employees, hounding them to finish a job so they can move on to the next one? Or spend their time yelling at their staff to keep them on their toes? Maybe it isn’t a physical beating, but the results are almost as effective.

I started thinking about this after receiving an email from a longtime ATRA Member. I generally love hearing from Members: They’re often the best source for new perspectives, right from the guys on the firing lines… guys who are out there every day, making it work.

So I was happy to see his recommendation for the ATRA webinar program… and then I read it: “Most shop owners think their employees are sluffing off… watching TV on the owner’s dime. Simply put, they think their employees goofing off.” He went on to recommend adding tests to the programs, to force technicians to pay attention and provide “some form of accountability.”

I began to wonder: Do most shop owners really think their guys are sluffing off and need to be monitored and watched over to get any work out of them?

Employee relations and development is a learned skill just like dealing with customers and selling work. It occurred to me that we saw the same phenomenon between shops with longtime employees as opposed to shops that have trouble keeping help. It’s a similar situation to shops that are successful versus those that aren’t doing well.

Back when we first started visiting shops for the What’s Working program, we learned that one shop might barely be squeaking by, while another, right across the street, couldn’t keep up with demand. It wasn’t the neighborhood or the economy… the difference was the shop owner’s attitude and approach to business.

That same attitude carries over to employee retention. So a successful shop is likely to have employees who’ve been there for years and years, while another shop, right down the street, seems to have a revolving door for help.

I wonder: Would shop owners with longtime employees consider a test with each webinar to be worthwhile? Or would they prefer to use the programs as more of a team-building and cooperative effort among their staff, and not worry as much about verifying individual retention?

The ATRA webinar program was specifically designed to help shops create a comfortable learning environment; one that can be shared. The programs are scheduled during lunch hours for the entire continental U.S., so shops can put a lunch program together without interfering with anyone’s day.

Many shop owners order pizzas or sandwiches and a few bottles of soda, and turn the webinar into a lunchtime training event for their entire staff. They enjoy a nice lunch, watch the webinar, and even have a short discussion afterward.

That investment pays off for those shop owners. Their employees become engaged and they come away with a better understanding of the subject being covered.

More important, they recognize that the shop owner supports their commitment and encourages them to keep learning. It’s that support that keeps them moving forward, to remain at the top of their game. So the value of the program goes beyond strictly instructional; it’s relational, too.

As our industry continues to cross generations, and more and more millennials begin to join our ranks, shop owners have to take a completely different approach to help their employees become productive.

At this year at ATRA’s Powertrain Expo, we’re adding a general session for both technicians and shop owners on Sunday morning. We’ll begin with breakfast and then Jim Cathcart will conduct a program on employee and management relations. Jim is a master of business relationships, and is the perfect discussion leader to help you build long term relationships with your employees.

Maybe now would be a good time to take a closer look at how you’re motivating your employees. Demonstrate your interest in their future and show them your support. Or let the beatings continue until moral improves!