Continuous Learning – Learning Without Scars’ Centers of Excellence

Continuous Learning – Learning Without Scars’ Centers of Excellence

In this week’s installment of our blog on Lifelong Learning, our guest writer Steve Johnson gives us this cutting-edge blog post of the way our education programs are taking shape: Continuous Learning – Learning Without Scars’ Centers of Excellence.

Why continuous learning should matter to you…

The Learning Without Scars website makes the statement that, “we know that ‘better’ is the enemy of ‘best,'” and “that everyone needs the knowledge, skills, and tools to continually elevate their own personal and professional development while contributing to the success of their companies and careers.” Learning Without Scars’ business is all about continuous learning: lifelong learning.

Continuous learning is essential for those employees who want to remain valuable to their employers, and advance both personally and professionally. That’s true whether you are climbing the corporate ladder, developing in-depth expertise in your chosen career field, or just want to be a better-informed human being. There are many reasons for you to invest your time and money in yourself through continuous learning. 

Keeping your skills and knowledge current strengthens your value to your employer. If you are not always learning, you’re not even treading water: you’re actually falling behind. In any work environment, development of new information and technology is rapid, and that pace keeps accelerating. At some point in the future, you could find out that management no longer feels you are relevant to attaining the company’s goals. You could find out that the job market feels the same about your resume. 

Continuous learning provides you with more professional resilience both at your company and in the broader business environment and marketplace. It ensures that you have or obtain not only the knowledge and skills requirements for your current job, but also lays the foundation for the next steps in your career path. It can help you stand out among your peers as an important part of the future of your company. It’s not a bad thing to be one of the “go to” people. Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your company and lose the big picture of the environment and markets within which you work. Continuous learning can ensure that you exit that cocoon and keep informed of current trends as well as what may be impacting you in the future.  

Your company may be an excellent source for continuous learning, especially in such areas as company culture, products, IT systems, and best practices. They may have both formal and informal opportunities to develop your interpersonal and management skills. It makes good sense to pay attention in your day-to-day work for learning moments, and also for occasions where you can get out of your comfort zone and learn. Networking in your company will allow you to track the pulse of important activities, events and company direction. Networking through professional and industry organizations will give you a feel for the pulse of your industry and the economic environment.  

Take advantage of it when companies offer to enroll you in formal training, within or from outside the company. Alternatively, you can seek out specific education that aligns with your individual needs and goals. For example, I’ve read that many consider one’s personal oral and written communication skills to be critical to career success, and the importance of those skills increases as people pursue their career paths. Maybe “Toastmasters” is in your future. 

Learning Without Scars’ Centers of Excellence

Our efforts to encourage greater continuous learning in the industries we serve continue. A recent focus for Learning Without Scars is developing relationships with public higher learning institutions where these schools will also function as our Centers of Excellence (COE). 

Online, you will find a number of definitions for a COE. Wikipedia says it is a “team, a shared facility or an entity that provides leadership, best practices, research and support or training for a focus area.” It also can be a “network of institutions collaborating with each other to pursue excellence in a particular area.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines a COE as “a place or an organization that is known for doing a particular activity very well, and that is involved in new developments, new ways of working, etc.” We can add to the above, but I think you get the idea. Learning Without Scars is working to develop a network of schools to achieve the above goals and offer excellence in delivering education where it is needed.  

Our plan is to have ten of these Centers in the U.S. and Canada. Courses include new online certification programs offering comprehensive content in equipment dealer parts management and service management. The courses are applicable for heavy equipment dealers, including construction, heavy truck, mining, forestry, light industrial, and agriculture. We are working to soon provide automotive aligned versions of the programs. In the near future, we will also be able to provide dealer sales and marketing programs. Benefits of the new programs include: 

  1. High quality comprehensive curricula from a well-known industry expert; accredited by the International Accreditors for Continuing Education and Training (IACET); and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant.
  2. Content that is current and reviewed annually with IACET.
  3. Assessments are delivered throughout the learning process to measure learning progress.
  4. A Learning Management System available to dealer employees/students that allows both self-paced progress and 24/7 access to courses.
  5. Programs that result in industry credentials to employees and students upon successful completion.

As a final note, make continuous learning intentional and give it high priority. Continuous learning is your responsibility, not the responsibility of your company, your supervisor or anyone else. To be able to effectively manage your career, you need to plan your future, that is, identify your goals and chart your path for reaching those goals. An important part of that path is going to be continuous learning. Plan your educational future now. In doing that, we encourage you to explore educational opportunities at Learning Without Scars for high quality industry- and position-specific education. 

Did you enjoy this blog? Read more great blog posts here.
For our course lists, please click here.


The Importance of “Professionalism” in Recruiting and Retaining Excellent Technicians

The Importance of “Professionalism” in Recruiting and Retaining Excellent Technicians

Guest writer Steve Johnson addresses the important issue of hiring and retaining employees in this week’s post, “The Importance of ‘Professionalism’ in Recruiting and Retaining Excellent Technicians.”

Finding good people and employee retention have for years been tough, relevant issues in the equipment industry, especially with regard to technicians. This also applies to other jobs at your dealership.  The “great resignation” has brought the issue of retention to even greater prominence. Now, some might say, “aw, they’re just lazy, want a handout, have had it too easy,” etc. 

I don’t buy it. 

I’ve seen too many motivated young people at career and technical colleges, at Skills USA and other venues to buy that. I’ve seen too many great employees and great employers who show me a different story to buy that. There are too many young people out there who make great employees at companies that re far-sighted enough to educate them well and provide great career opportunities. There are too many companies out there that manage their retention rates well through expert and informed “professional” human resource management. Here I am not just referring to the human resources department, but the entire organization’s management. 

I remember once asking an equipment dealership owner what he pays beginning techs and mentioned what I thought was an average number. His reply? “Absolutely not, nobody can live on that! In a different mid-career job, I worked for a training organization, and one business owner was angry at me because he had trained all his people and they had all quit and moved on. He said it was my fault. In reality, it was because his shop was far less than desirable as a workplace. Another said he couldn’t find any good techs. Then he told me he was paying them a way below market rate at $8.50 / hour. Seriously? Which of the above was the more professional reaction? 

There have been many articles I’ve read over the years as to why people want to leave their jobs and do leave their jobs. It seems to me that the reasons are not that different today from those years ago… an unlivable wage, no upward mobility, poor leadership, a negative company culture, below standard benefits, a chronically overworked staff, and so forth. I would never expect employees in today’s labor market to stand for that, and apparently many are not. In my opinion, the “great resignation” is largely more an issue of employer human resource management professionalism than an employee issue. 

In summary, my belief is that running a professional organization has everything to do with dealer professionals treating people like the human professionals they are in a professional environment. What does that mean operationally? Here are some thoughts on employees staying or leaving. 

  1. Fair and equitable pay is an important factor; everyone wants to do their best supporting themselves and their families. Fair and equitable benefits are also important; ask anyone who has had medical issues and did not or couldn’t afford to have health insurance.
  2. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t feel burned out at times; needs some personal or family time; or some vacation time to be with their families? How about providing on average a good balance of work/personal life.  
  3. Not all, but most “motivated and productive” employees do want to have continuous learning opportunities, both OTJ and more formal learning, to help them move along in their career into better paying, more responsible jobs. There are other ways to enable this than just “climbing the company management ladder.”
  4. Most employees would like to know that their employers are paying attention to them and their near- and long-range personal and professional goals. Consider that the costs of not paying attention to such things continue to go up.
  5. See #4 above. This is particularly true for all leaders and managers, from parts and service managers all the way to the top management.
  6. Does your company have an employee feedback mechanism to take the company pulse. For example, does management “walk around” the company often to be accessible and get the pulse? What if you found that half your company wouldn’t recommend employment there to a friend? I know of that happening at one company. Does management make an honest effort to find out why people are leaving? Do they act on the collective information results?
  7. Does management set a good professional “work ethic” example to employees; what about employees to other employees. Do the rules apply to everyone? Are honesty, good character, integrity, mutual respect and fairness words that apply to actual practice at the company and are at the top of the company’s value list?
  8. When you hire a new, qualified technician, or even an intern or apprentice, do you have them on the wash bay, or make sure they are working and gaining new experience at the highest level they are qualified for?
  9. Does your shop appear as a professional environment should, or does it hearken back to memories of years ago that preserve the old “grease monkeys” image. Are your employees proud of where they work? Does your employee dress code reflect professionalism or something less desirable? Yes, even maybe uniforms in the shop.
  10. Are up-down and down-up company communication’s what they should be? Does staff communicate well to all concerned parties? This includes any performance reviews… “If we’re doing our job as leaders, a performance review should only be two columns: Column A is what you do great and Column B is what you do not-so-great. Now, here’s how we move things from Column B to Column A.” (Story by Carly Guthrie, Guthrie HR Consulting, San Francisco, CA)

My goal here is to urge you to think about “company professionalism” and how that impacts your companies’ human resource management as you develop a hopefully successful recruitment and retention plan. Yes, the above over-simplifies the issues greatly. However, I believe that if companies work to manage the career interests of new and experienced employees continuously and professionally and give them challenging and rewarding work opportunities in a professional environment, those employees will thrive. So will those companies.

Did you enjoy this blog? Read more great blog posts here.
For our course lists, please click here.