5 Steps to Create an Onboarding SOP

May 21, 2020
Follow these five steps to effectively train in an apprentice or intern and create and SOP to use across all locations.

When it comes to training new staff for a collision repair facility, difficulties can arise. The collision repair industry is, of course, still experiencing a technician shortage. 

Steve Reinarts, dean of automotive programs at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, has been in the industry for more than 16 years and says he doesn’t see enough students coming into automotive collision repair programs. 

In fact, Reinarts says he has about 10 jobs open and available for every one student that passes through his classroom. 

So, as an MSO, hiring staff members becomes even trickier. MSOs have to hire for more locations and train employees on procedures that can potentially cross over to other locations. According to Sapling, a people’s operations platform that handles everything from onboarding to offboarding, great employee onboarding can improve employee retention by 82 percent. And, a negative onboarding process can result in new hires twice as likely to for opportunities elsewhere.

Adam Ross, general manager for AMERICAS at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, says it’s also easier for employers to onboard new hires that were previously interns or apprentices at the business. 

A lot of the necessary parts of the process have already been completed with the apprentice or new hire.  

“When you’re onboarding completely new employees, you have to basically go through the whole internship and apprenticeship period with them if you want them to do a good job,” Ross says. 

Ross details how an MSO operator can go about effectively onboarding apprentices or interns into the organization for long-term success.

Step 1: Avoid common onboarding mistakes 

Ross says one common mistake employers can make is to look at onboarding as a one-day event. It needs to go further than one day or even one week. Research from Sapling shows that most organizations stop the onboarding process after one week, which is not enough time for the new hire to feel comfortable and acclimate to the new role.

Another mistake employers make is not seeking feedback from the hire about the program. The hires should be asked how the training went and what areas could be tweaked or improved upon.

Ross says one large mistake is when the owner does not have someone on staff specifically dedicated to onboarding the new employee.  

Remember, the employee can easily get overwhelmed with too much information, paperwork and video training all at once. This can occur if the employer doesn’t enter the process with a clear goal in mind for the training.

Step 2: Pay attention to factors unique to the collision repair industry.

Onboarding for the collision repair industry is unique from other organizations, Ross says. For example, the training should focus largely on customer service training and teamwork building. 

Ross recommends the operator also include other factors like capacity-building for self-management, industry jargon and pre-boarding information on machinery and equipment with health and safety warnings.

Overall, the training should encompass lessons on the company’s culture and operational hierarchy.

Step 3: Create a standard operating procedure for onboarding that multiple locations can use.

Before creating the SOP, put together a team that can spearhead the process, Ross says. Creating an SOP requires defining certain areas of the onboarding process including the process, scope, purpose, responsibilities, terminology, procedure and metrics. (See Sidebar: Defining the SOP)

Sidebar: Defining the SOP

  1. Policy: Uniformly orientate new employees into the company culture and inform current employees of the addition.

  2. Purpose: To ensure new employees understand the range of policies and procedures that comprise work-life at our company.

  3. Scope: How long will the program last. Right from pre-boarding to the 90-day review.

  4. Responsibilities: Identify which departments and teams are responsible for the new hire during which parts of the process.

  5. Terminology: Define any complicated terms or acronyms.

  6. Procedure: Document the process using a checklist of exact tasks needed to be completed. Include workflow diagrams and methodology.

  7. Metrics: Measure how efficient the process is over time.

Step 4:  Enter the process with a clear goal in mind.

Before entering the first day of onboarding and training, the owner or body shop operator should have a clear focus on the process. He or she should enter with a first-day guide already in place and some pre-boarding done before the employee arrives at the doors of the shop.

Step 5: Give the employee feedback on the day.

It’s vital for a leader to give the new hire feedback on the onboarding process, specifically the first 48 hours, Ross says.  The employee should be able to leave the process having accomplished a clear goal. 

Ross says to stop using the “sink or swim” approach for new hires. Give the hire time to not just succeed or fail but actually learn the shop’s way of repairing a vehicle. 

Above all, make sure the process is fun and engaging for the employee.

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