Clear paths to career development are pivotal to long term business success.
It is no secret that of all of the challenges facing the aftermarket automotive sector, labour pool shortage and talent development are among the greatest challenges threatening the long-term sustainability of many collision repair centres.
However, as I write this article, our operations team are finalizing the promotion of five different employees as they move on to graduate either as journeymen, painters or members of management, finding placement in our franchise system locations. This is truly a celebratory event. We bid farewell to these staff but carry no concerns as to their replacements, because this was always the plan.
Career development for employees is an exceptionally valuable asset to provide. It demonstrates that the leadership of the repair centre cares about the employees’ career and long-term well-being, which boosts employee morale, employee retention and a culture of continuous development.
In the collision repair industry, however, we need to change the paradigm around how we lead versus manage our teams. The following are some of the key attributes that any collision repair centre leadership must consider when developing a system for employee career development.
• Top-down leadership support—Whether you lead a network, MSO or independent collision centre, there must be buy-in and support from all levels of senior management. This is critical to ensure that all stakeholders understand that this is for the long-term sustainability of the organization, not just a fad that we thought we should attempt. Leadership support will also ensure that resources that are required will be provided and have been considered through the planning phase.
• Alignment with Strategic Objectives—Developing an employee career development plan will not be an easy or brief project. Employee career development plans take time to deliver the fruits of your labour. Therefore, it is important that we have consistency and commitment to the process. This requires our previous point (top-down leadership support), so we ensure we have the wherewithal to see the plan through, as the plan is in alignment with the organization’s strategic objectives.
• Setting Expectations & Providing Effective Feedback—This is critical to ensure that all participants recognize their individual responsibilities within the plan. For example, structuring performance reviews on a quarterly basis is critical. A structured process on areas of advancement and opportunities for improvement is the road map to development and allows the employee to have a greater degree of autonomy in the process.
• Access to Training and Alternate Resources—Training and development is an invaluable component in the career development plan. However, most critical is identifying the training needs assessment. For example, you and your employee need to determine what skill sets need to be developed in order to advance to the desired position. Following this, you can begin to develop a plan tailored to exactly what the employee’s needs are for advancement. This process ensures engagement and effectiveness during the implementation of the development plan.
As for alternate resources, learning management systems are an excellent and inexpensive tool to assist in tracking progress.
In summary, the aftermarket automotive sector is very resilient. We are passionate about our customers, their vehicles and our employees. Therefore, we must take ownership of the challenges that face us, put a plan together in conjunction with our employees, and demonstrate our industry’s resilience once again!