Your research on the relationship between training, knowledge, and improved operational KPIs has been on-going for the past few years. How is that work going?
When we started the study we honestly did not know what we would find, but we were driven to understand the relationship between training and performance. When we launched the I-CAR Professional Development Program (PDP) in July 2010, I mentioned during the presentations that the PDP would give us a benchmark from which we could measure role-based training before, during and after.
As can be expected, there were a few people who said there were too many uncontrolled variables that could influence shop KPIs. The research team did a great job of working closely with the shops to watch for those variables and record and account for every possible variable. Today we have had 28 collision repair facilities involved in this study. Since starting in Sept. 2011, we have tracked shop KPI performance while growing and maintaining higher levels of knowledge within the operations.
Can you share any conclusions from this work?
The bottom line is that training pays. In fact, collision repair operations will likely not survive without it. With technology growing so fast, staff training is the only reliable way to keep up with it.
Today we know that technician and estimator training can make a tremendous difference in a repair operation, especially in the areas of cycle time, touch time, CSI, and estimating accuracy. We have seen average improvements in cycle time of 14.35 percent, touch time improvements of 33.75 percent, CSI improvements of 5 percent, and an 11 percent reduction in supplements.
Within weeks of starting this project, our research team noted the tremendous differences in attitude and cultures from shop to shop. Luckily, they had the foresight to “score” the shops based on their willingness to train.
It was clear early on that management’s attitude was an indication of how the operation’s estimators and technicians would perceive the training opportunity. Many owners think of training as a requirement for a recognition program, not as a solution to business challenges. I even witnessed one shop owner apologizing to his technicians for sending them to class.
As you can imagine, our research team struggled with getting that shop’s technicians to attend training, and it was no surprise that this shop saw marginal benefits from the training.
In stark contrast, we had owners who helped their staff see this as an opportunity to learn and help the shop and its staff grow. These shops saw unbelievable ROI from their training opportunities, as well as performance improvements far beyond that of their less enthusiastic peers. Those shops with the “learning culture” had an average improvement in cycle time of 28.9 percent, compared to the average of 14.35 percent.
What kind of a bottom line impact can an investment in education and training deliver?
A shop with an eight-day average cycle time can easily shave a day off that average. In fact, with the right culture, you could shave off more than two days just by managing and increasing the knowledge within the operation.
The bottom line is that when training turns to knowledge and knowledge turns into changed behavior, shops can go from ordinary to extraordinary. More importantly, when new technology rolls in the door, your techs won’t stop work to scratch their heads. They will be able to keep on rolling, and so will your cycle time.