Creating a Career Path for Employees

April 1, 2017

Reduce turnover rates by setting employees up for success with these six steps

It’s not just some mantra—it’s everything Joe Amodei has built his business around:

“When our company grows, everyone within it grows.”

As The Collision Centers expands to its fifth location in the New York City area, Amodei credits the success of his business to that mindset. With each new location, he has a number of quality candidates waiting in the wings, ready to help lift the multi-shop network to new heights and help his mission of providing quality repairs to customers. 

As the technician shortage continues to affect shops nationwide, Amodei says it’s not enough to simply recruit quality employees. Because if you don’t put just as much effort into creating a career path for those employees, they won’t feel like they’re growing individually, no matter how much your company grows. It’s a practice he says single-location operations can replicate by utilizing their own employees and resources.

Tanya Mulvey, researcher for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), would have to agree, especially after surveying 800 businesses for the SHRM/Globoforce Influencing Workplace Culture Through Employee Recognition and Other Efforts study to determine best practices for improving retention.

The study shows retention isn’t just a problem for collision repair: 46 percent of surveyed companies cited employee retention as their top challenge in 2016, an increase from 25 percent in 2012. And investing in employee growth consistently turned up as an indicator of success.

There are plenty of ways to clearly create that career path for your employees—Amodei and Mulvey detail just a few of them.

1. Communicate a clear vision for your company.

In order for your employees to properly envision their futures at your company, it’s important they can see themselves carrying out your values, Mulvey says. 

“The companies with the best retention rates typically had certain values and mission statements that were important to the company,” she says.

Clearly defining your company’s “vision” can be tricky, and shouldn’t be taken lightly, Amodei says. He claims nailing that vision down and finding the right workforce culture allowed his third shop to break from its struggles and expand into the fourth and fifth locations.

Amodei says feedback is crucial. At meetings, discuss with your employees the true value that your company provides, and then around that, shape your mission statements. That way you can ensure employees are personally invested in the vision.

2. Recognize and reward employees for living up to those values.

Then it’s time to take it one step further, Mulvey says: Tie recognition to whatever your values are.

“That shows employees that these values matter and that we stand behind our statements. It’s not something we just talk about,” she says. “These are our values and we believe in them and will reward employees for taking action and living up to those values.”

According to SHRM’s survey, employees are more likely to have positive impacts on their companies when those companies have employee recognition programs in place. And when an employee’s impact is recognized, he or she feels directly tied to that company’s success, and is thus more committed to furthering that company’s growth.

Mulvey says it’s much more effective when recognition is made personal. Take the time to get to know your employees and present them with rewards they value in their personal life.

“Gift cards are often seen as generic and not very personable. But if you know an individual and provide them with a gift they’ll care about, that goes much further,” she says. “For instance, if they value their time, you could give them an extra day of vacation.”

3. Develop a farm system.

Part of Amodei’s growth plan (he’s looking to open one new shop per year) is ensuring there are quality technicians always waiting in the wings. Comparable to professional sports teams using minor league teams, he calls it his “farm system.”

“Have the right people in process that are going to be able to handle what’s coming down the pipe is key,” he says. “It’s going to get busier and busier as we expand, and we want to make sure we have the right people in place to make it easier.”

Amodei works with a local vocational school to hire students and veterans into the trade. He typically brings in 10 students at a time (for a smaller operation, a couple apprentices would do), and they stay with the shop for one year working 10–20 hours per week between the five stores, shadowing technicians and helping where they can. When Amodei opens another store, he says he’ll pick the best candidates and bring them onboard full time.

4. Assign entry-level employees to mentors.

Developing a mentorship program has a dual purpose, Mulvey says. Not only does it help integrate entry-level employees into your business, but it provides established employees the opportunity to oversee another employee’s growth at the company.

Amodei assigns veteran employees to new hires (including the ones that graduate from his farm system) for several weeks to help break them in. He also hired a full-time coach who performs regular training with new employees.

Eventually, the mentees will become mentors, providing employees a sense of advancement as they shape the quality of the team. Mulvey applauds this practice, as people are more likely to remain with your company if they feel like leaders within it.

5. Perform regular performance reviews.

Annual reviews are a thing of the past, Mulvey says. Performance management should be a key focus for managers—especially when managing millennials, who crave feedback and constantly want to improve.

“Having an ongoing conversation with our employees is important,” she says. “You need to be giving regular feedback and coaching your employees.”

Mulvey says that practice took on several different forms in the survey, from implementing an apprenticeship program to assigning a mentor to employees to developing a peer-to-peer training program. As a manager, simply passing by during the workday and offering tips for improving efficiency is beneficial.

“If you can provide employees with some kind of coaching so they are able to improve their work, they feel like they’re moving up the chain,” she says.

Amodei’s full-time coach is entirely focused on developing the skills of team members.

“When you have one person making it a priority, they get really good at it and have time to work with everybody’s strengths,” he says.

6. Focus on personal development.

In addition to improving skills in the workplace, Amodei has made personal development a way of showing he’s invested in his employees’ growth. Once per month, he sends two employees—from technicians to estimators to CSRs to managers—to Discover Leadership Training, which is an intense two-day workshop that aims to improve leadership skills.

“At the end of the day, when you succeed in your personal life, you become better at your work,” Amodei says. 

Mulvey says personal development can come in many different forms, from sending employees to classes (as Amodei did) to simply having regular one-on-one meetings with employees to gauge their personal growth. Through that, you can find ways of offering outlets for personal development

Offer a competitive benefits package

Tanya Mulvey says benefit plans are scarce with smaller businesses, which affords you the opportunity to separate yourself from competition and improve employee retention. Those benefits could include health plans and extra vacation days, as well as training incentives and financial aid for education.

“If people want to go back to school to get a degree, or get additional training that is relevant to the work, employers can help pay for those costs,” she says. “A lot of the companies [in the survey] said it ends up benefitting their organization as well as benefiting the employees.”

“It's a really great benefit in terms of recruiting people if you're providing benefits and educational opportunities,” Mulvey adds. “They feel like you're helping them to advance their career and make their lives better outside of work as well.”