Article > Opinion

Training? Who Needs It?

By Gerald Wheelus

Why do we not offer continuing education?
Gerald Wheelus
Why do we not educate our fellow employees? Why do we not have training schedules? Why do we not train our new personnel? Why do we expect our “rookie” to know what they need to know? Why do we not offer continuing education?

We could go on and on and on about the reasons why we do not train the way we should. Personally, the thought that goes through my mind is the oft-cited definition Albert Einstein gave to insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

The facts are that we throw our people on the counter without any real training, no personal attention, no one-on-one, no behind the scenes or introductory sessions and wonder why they get frustrated and lose interest in our business. Most of us could stop right there and say, “that is how we learned.”

In reality, is it? Many of us who learned the business in the late 80s or earlier learned that the books were our friends and we spent most of our spare moments looking at the Motormite or Balkamp catalogs learning the products in them. We had some who took a sheet of paper and asked us to figure out how many parts were in the ignition system from the key to the switch to the battery, to the solenoid to the starter to the flywheel to engine to the air fuel mixture, and so on. But, we don’t require that, and today we wonder why rookies lose interest.

Certainly, we are in tough economic times and with competition on every corner, our sales are stretched thin and the profit margins even thinner. That causes us an inability to offer pay incentives that we might have once offered. The relation in pay to training is not a very clear comparison as training does not offer any guarantee of productivity or added profits to our stores and that, in at least some small way, causes our superiors to sidestep the training issue all together.
The answers are very simple: We don’t offer rookie any reason to learn. We don’t give them a regimented training schedule. We don’t require any improvement over any given time frame. We don’t remember that we did not have the Internet and used the books for all of our information. We offer little to no incentive for anyone to learn a new role in our organization. What is the “carrot” we dangle to get our employees to move forward and grow in our organizations? There is not a one-size-fits-all training schedule, is there? That debate will have to take place another time but, what do we do to get our people trained?


We have to be willing to teach and learn to take the time to train them. In years past, we could rely on osmosis to get the job done but this generation is not running from the farm like we were. This generation has a gap that we have failed to recognize and that is higher education. Potential employees who come to us, for the most part, did not graduate with a four-year degree. That gap is there not because these potential employees are lazy, it is usually due to economics or simply life circumstances. Few of us who are lifetime members of the automotive aftermarket have any formal higher education, but we educated ourselves and that is what makes it difficult for us to train the rookies.

We have to distinguish between those who are taking the training seriously and those who are going through the motions. Yes, we have to be discriminatory on this issue. If we’re going to spend a bunch of money and more importantly, time, we have to be sure that an employee is taking it seriously.

We have to be able to give quantifiable measurement in the training we offer. Our training does not have to be gradable or a series of questions and answers but, it should measurable. As Einstein said, “It is not important to have all the answers memorized as a smart man only has to know where to find the answers.” This rings true in the automotive aftermarket.

We have to be willing to be patient. People are still people and have feelings. We do not have to be rude or demeaning but, they have to be held accountable for their actions. We have to be resilient in teaching them because learning is just a series of small successes. Failures are a part of success.

We have to learn that a more educated and enabled employee is not a threat to our job. Some managers may feel threatened by educated employees. But good employees make their managers look good. If you’re a manager and feel threatened, why not seek more training and education?

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