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Automotive Service Management Newsletter
Vol 2, No 1, January 2008

The Difference Between Training and Education

I have been working in the field of human development since I was 25, I am now 58. The biggest frustration I have consistently run into is folks who believe that a one day workshop is a training event. It got even more frustrating when I started working in the automotive industry and the powers that be wanted to have a way to validate the results from workshops after folks returned to work at the dealerships. The idea being to show that the day spent at the workshop would increase future productivity and sales when the employee returned to work thus paying for the day of lost productivity and sales from being gone.

This is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for folks who work in this field - to validate that the one day spent outside of the business in a workshop is worth the lost productivity for the owners and managers of these employees who are gone for the day and will continue to increase productivity in the future. Well, let me assure you it can't be done. The problem is that most folks at the corporate and retail level don't understand the difference between training and education.

This discussion started for me years ago, when I was providing workshops for automotive dealership service and parts personnel. The complaint was that folks would return from a "training program" all energized and excited by the new ideas and information, but that it would wear off in a few days and the folks were back to their old habits. They would say, "What a waste of time and money."

My response? Of course it wore off! We did not train them to do anything. We educated them on some new ideas, reviewed ideas they had forgotten and in general got them out of their job environment for a day. The employees were excited to learn of new ideas, to review these things they had forgotten to use and couldn't wait to return to try them out because they knew it would make their life easier by taking better care of customers and improving their sales.

However, when the employees returned to their jobs nobody asked them about the workshops or cared what they learned. The most standard comment is usually, "Glad you're back, yesterday was super busy so let's get to work!" So the employees immediately go back into their old grind and consequently, their old habits, losing their excitement to use the new ideas. The worst part is that it creates an attitude in the employees that training is a waste of time because that is what they learned from their managers.

So if you want to increase productivity as well as make up for the lost productivity while they are out a day of their job to attend a workshop, here are a few simple suggestions to train your employees on the new ideas they liked from the educational workshop.

Review the Workshop After the Employee Returns

The first thing a manager should do is spend about 15-30 minutes to find out what was taught at the workshop. Learn about the key items that the employee wants to work on from the workshop. After each workshop I always ask each participant to give me at least one idea, or goal, that the person will work on when they return to their job. Many workshop leaders do the same thing so it will be easy to know how to best reinforce the employee's goals, or favorite ideas, after the workshop.

Next have a short department meeting so the employee can share the key points from the workshop. It will help clarify the ideas in the employee's mind and will add value to the time spent away for both the employee and the staff. It will also help everyone on the staff to be aware of some new ideas they may want to also develop in their work.

Set Goals Based on the Workshop

During the employee meeting, set weekly and monthly goals based on what was learned in the workshop, whether it be production, sales or CSI goals. A good time for goals is one to three month periods. In setting up the goals, use an improvement factor based on the performance over the previous one to three months with a minimum standard of performance to maintain. Several times a week review the progress of how well the employee is doing in trying to hit the goals. A good standard for setting goals is the
S-M-A-R-T formula:

S - pecific
M - easureable
A - ttainable
R - ealistic
T - rackable
Praise Progress and Improvement

This is where the real training takes place. Training is the repeating of a specific behavior with feedback until it becomes a new behavior pattern. This can take a few weeks or longer, but it requires someone to observe the employee using the new behavior and being given immediate feedback on results. It is no different than a sports coach out watching the team practice and yelling out praises or corrections as plays are being practiced until the plays are run as designed. As the manager watches the employee in action learning the new behavior, the manager must give the employee immediate feedback on results, praise when the behavior is done properly, correction if the behavior is off track, always focusing on improvements.

Time is Required

Most managers will complain they don't have the time to properly coach an employee to improve behavior. Yet somehow a manager always has time to criticize the employee's behavior when it is not as desired. A manager will only get out of the employee what is put into helping that employee improve performance. It takes time by the manager focusing on the employee's improvements to get those results.

As humans we all learn in steps. None of us are good enough to take a new behavior and execute it immediately.

Improving employee performance especially after returning from a workshop is not an accident. The investment in an employee returning from a workshop requires the manager to take the time to create a clear plan of action and a supportive environment for the improvements to be integrated in the employee's work habits. The return on investment is an excellent employee who is productive, a good team player and great with customers.

Copyright, 2008, J. Daniel Emmanuel

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