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All dealerships conduct training. It comes in many forms with varying frequency. No matter how the training is done though; internally, externally, virtually, classroom style or online, an immediate question arises when the training ends. How will you make it stick?

Does the training have the groundswell support and commitment needed to meet the objectives of the training? Objectives like selling and servicing more cars, improving CSI, increasing employee efficiency and effectiveness and reducing turnover. Or is the training bound to fail from the offset?

When training doesn’t stick it is not just a big waste of your time and money, but hurts management’s credibility too. Focus fades, old habits remain and the new program becomes the next item on the list of “the program of the month”. Seriously, could you even begin to count how many times you’ve seen this in a dealership?

The reactive environment facing frontline employees is a real threat to new processes. It’s so easy to fall back in to the routine and given in to the onslaught of phones, faxes, emails, pages and those pesky customers, especially in a busy showroom or bustling service lane. It takes real commitment and dedication to break through the old habits.

The process really doesn’t erode anyway; your commitment to the process erodes. After all, the training is over. The process, or act of doing and learning actually just beginning. So what do the dealer and management team have to do to make sure the training, or process doesn’t begin to erode the moment the trainer walks out the door?

Three vital components can make any training program take hold and become part of your culture; zero deviation, skill and heart.

1. Zero Deviation

Zero deviation is very important to seeing how the process works and getting results right away. I’m not saying that the new process is a “process in a box” that can be plugged in at any store and be effective. That is far from the truth. Training should be molded to fit the store. Changes and adjustments are made during the training but the final product, process map, etc. is the way it’s meant to be done. Period.

It’s even ok to change the process after a little while to meet the nuance of the store, but remap it, reprint it, whatever the case may be, so that the official instructions match what you’re doing in the course of business. It pains me to hear “That’s not really how we do it” from a frontline employee.

When I worked at Paul Miller Ford, there was a phrase written across the front wall of the training/meeting room. It said, “We do what we say we do”. Meaning it wasn’t ok to pay lip service. If we said this is how we are going to do something then we did it. There was no wiggle room, no one was exempt and everyone was accountable.

2. Skill Building

Besides doing it right themself, the best way for managers to develop their employee’s skills is to be a good “sidelines” coach and “coach in the moment”. Basketball coaches coach every minute of the game and they don’t ignore mistakes. If you’re out there on the court and you don’t perform the coach reacts instantly. Coaches instruct as the game goes on and if a player just isn’t getting it they find their self on the bench.

Learning in the moment develops muscle memory whereas reviewing it later does not. Think of it like a golf coach or batting coach correcting your swing. It is a real time adjustment that causes you to do it correctly now, so you will do it correctly again the next time.

Many managers will make a mental note to review a point with a salesperson or service advisor later. This is a mistake. Address it immediately and redirect the employee back on the proper path or method. Coaching during the game, not just in practice is great leadership.

3. Heart

Let’s face it, “if your heart’s not in it you’re not going to win it”! Success takes real commitment, enthusiasm and dedication. All emotional attributes that get people excited!

Accentuate the positive and celebrate progress. Employees will place importance on the things management places importance on. Talk about the process, track performance and recognize the minor victories that will lead to the major victory.

Too many managers don’t understand the power of celebrating progress. Employees repeat what gets recognized and rewarded. You don’t always have to throw money at them either. Recognition and “nice job” go a long way. After all, you are moving in the right direction. Maybe you’re moving slowly but if it weren’t for direction you would just end up at the wrong place faster.

I learned the power of direction back around the year 2000 when Ford rolled out the Blue Oval Program. Looking back I realize it was the emotion that carried us. Ford’s program meant big money to our store, about $500,000 a year! (By the way, if you want to see emotion, cost your dealer a half a million dollars and let me know if he, or she, gets emotional)

We went after Blue Oval Certification with tremendous heart and emotion. Everyone was involved and knew their role in the big picture. Our leadership was coming from the Dealer Principle’s enthusiasm and positive feedback and every employee felt it.

A lot of training went on too. We mapped everything and followed our processes rigorously. Skills were honed and results were fantastic.

Everyone was thrilled when we aced our JD Power onsite evaluation. Here’s where direction comes in. We were moving in the right direction and just kept going. The following year we were automatically certified. Then, in 2005, we won Ford’s Presidents Award for the first time in the dealerships 52-year history.

I hope this helps and I wish you success with all of your training; you deserve it. Stick to you processes; develop the skills in real time and fuel the whole thing with passion and all of your training will stick.