Training Is Important!

Training Is Important!

Steve received a degree in Electrical Engineering and then served in the US Navy. He started with Komatsu America 1978. For the next twelve years Steve worked through various equipment sales positions before becoming the Vice President of Parts, Vice President of Service. During this period Steve sat on the board of a major distributor in the North east US as well as Hensley Industries. After twenty-five years Steve moved from the OEM side of the business to the Distribution side by joining Tractor and Equipment Company in 2003 as Vice President of Product Support.

Throughout his career Steve has learned the Industry from the ground up. This allowed him to have a very clear view of what was needed to support customers, employees and owners in their pursuit of excellence. Working at high levels in both the Manufacturing and the Distribution side of the business gave Steve some great learning opportunities and chances to develop insights.  Steve retired in January of 2020.  After spending 40 plus years in an industry we are very pleased to be able to share some of Steve’s insights with you and honored to consider Steve a friend.

Training Is Important!

This week, we continue with Steve’s guest blogging.

Training is important!

This is one of those obvious things.

Our manufacturers tell us that our technicians must attain certain levels of expertise.  In fact, I believe that most manufacturers will eventually base warranty compensation on the level of proven training expertise the performing mechanic has received.

Our customers will not pay for on the job training.  We often have to cut hours of billable labor off of a job that took too long.  We all have customers that will request a specific technician that they consider competent.

Poorly trained technicians tend to over or under order the parts that they will need and create inventory issues.  They also create expensive redo.

Poorly trained parts counter employees frustrate customers and miss sales opportunities.

Good employees expect ongoing training to help them improve their skills.  They consider this a perquisite of the job.  Good employees are very receptive to training and are great judges of whether training is worthwhile or worthless.  We all want good employees.

We will be continuing with Steve’s series here next Friday, as he continues to reflect on a career well-spent.

To explore the options available for training your employees, please visit learningwithoutscars.com

Balancing Skills in the Workplace

Balancing Skills in the Workplace

Imagine if you will, it is the middle 1980’s and I am working with a John Deere dealer and we are looking at their Service Department. We were reviewing processes and systems and methods and work flows. We also determined that there was a need to review the skills of the technicians and all support functions in the department.

In those days we didn’t have much in the way of personnel management practices in the Industry. We didn’t have a way of balancing skills in the workplace. We had to build the complete structure and reporting criteria. We created three data files; current employee personnel and payroll information, the skills required to each of the job functions, and the determination of the actual skills of each of the employees. To determine the skills of each employee we created what I called a “Skill Set Inventory.” This inventory consisted of questions with multiple choice answers that the employees they completed and submitted the forms to me.

Then we catalogued the answers and grade ranked all of the employees – we matched these results with the payroll records. The final step was to sit with the management of the department to discuss the skills of each of the employees, without the benefit of the employee’s personal thinking, and grade rank them – again we matched these results with the payroll records.

How do you think the management compared with the employee scores and the payroll records? It was very revealing. The management was embarrassed. There was some matching of the results but very little. It turns out that the management had favorites and seniority had an outsized influence on the results. They had not learned the art of balancing skills in the workplace.

This was an extremely important exercise for me. I conducted these types of reviews with several dozen dealers across many different manufacturer dealers. The results were the same. That took us to the place where we needed to develop an objective assessment tool for dealers.

There are many companies within our Industry who have created assessments, we are not alone in this arena. There are manufacturers, personnel companies, associations and others involved, which cover many aspects of the individual jobs; however, you need to be the judge of the value of the results from any job assessment. You need to do your own due diligence.

Our assessments relate to the specific jobs, for instance, the counter and telephone sales employees, or the service office employees, or the product support sales person. There are six job functions within the parts department, eight in the service department and four in the product support selling and parts and service marketing groups. Let’s review how our assessments were created for a moment. For each class we have conducted for the past thirty years, and the more than ten thousand employees we have had in our classes or webinars, we have had questions and work groups, and evaluations throughout. From our classrooms and webinars, we created our subject specific classes, and in each of these subject specific classes which we called “Learning On Demand (LOD)” products we had assessments and tests. This is the foundation of our Skills Assessments programs. We selected for each job function assessment, from the pool of over one thousand questions, the job function assessment questions. Then we have had more than thirty-five hundred people take these assessments so that we could put the job function assessments into the marketplace with confidence.

I am excited by the assessment programs. We have received more than thirty registrations today and I am expecting more than two hundred this week. The same again next week. The market seems to be rewarding us with their orders. We thank them and will continue to provide leading edge tools for dealers to improve their processes, procedures, systems and methods. We aim to assist each employee working in this Industry with products that will help them realize their potential.

We believe that is our mission and our life’s work.

The time is now.

Up-Skilling Is Not Just a Buzzword

Up-Skilling Is Not Just a Buzzword

I remember when most people used to think that when they left school, their learning was complete. Whether that was High School, Technical School, Junior College or University. As a teacher, I taught education, in other words I taught people how to teach. I used to tell my students at University that when they graduated and went out into the world – that is when their learning really started. I always told aspiring teachers that one of our primary goals as teachers, is to teach people how to teach themselves.

With the world we live in today that is truer than ever. The younger generations are much smarter, at their ages, than we were at comparable ages. They know a lot more about things and subjects than my generation did. (I learned how to wire Unit Record Equipment – almost an analogue computer.) One of the biggest differences that I see is that they are impatient. Today a lot of older management view that as a negative quality. I view that as a positive. If these younger employees are not learning and growing their potential, as employees, they do not want to stay around. I really admire that quality. They have a need, if not a thirst to learn. They want to continuously improve. They want up-skilling.

The moves us directly into our term for today: up-skilling is not just a buzzword. This is the term that explains that the skills of the employees are being constantly improved and enhanced, they are being up-skilled. That fits perfectly into our view of learning. First take an assessment and understand your individual strengths and weaknesses. Take classes, address your weaknesses, and fill in your skills gaps. Get Up-Skilled. And that never ends. There is always something more to learn.

We provide dealers and employees Learning Paths. They are based on Skill Levels reported in the Job Function Skills Assessment. Those Skill Levels: Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert allow us to recommend subject specific classes to allow the employee to improve their skill level. When used in conjunction with an annual performance review, dealerships are unlocking the potential of each individual employee and enhancing their company value to the workplace.

Never forget that talented people serving your customers are your heroes. Neither forget that the talent pool available to us is shrinking. The competition for these talented people is becoming fiercer that at any time I have seen. I don’t believe that this will become any easier, in fact I believe it will become more difficult. If you want to be able to attract, hire, develop and retain your workforce you must have a solid foundation, skill set inventories and career path opportunities, for each individual employee. You also need to be able to discuss with them their specific career path and what is necessary for them to be available for promotions and other opportunities in the company. Do you have these skill set inventories in place? Do you know the individual skills required for each job function? This is that solid foundation that is required. Do you have it in place? Should you?

The choice is yours. I would urge you to consider that the consequences are significant.

The time is now.

Thoughts from an Industry Leader

Thoughts from an Industry Leader.

Today’s post is a from a guest blogger, Steve Day. Each Friday, you will see a new post here from our guest blogger. He will be offering his thoughts and ideas for four weeks. We are thrilled to have his reflections here.

Experience is invaluable. The Thoughts of a Respected Leader in the Industry.

Four years ago, I decided that I would officially retire on January 1, 2020.  I immediately began my planning for a successful transition to my successor.  That went quite well.  My successor is definitely an upgrade and that is how it should be.  I also started planning for a fun and exciting first year of retirement in 2020 which would include quite a bit of travel.  As the Yiddish saying goes, “Man plans, God laughs”.

My good friend, Ron Slee, has become worried that my brain will turn to mush in the time of Covid-19. Unless, of course, I keep active, and so he has asked me to write an article for his blog.  It’s really for my own good. Hopefully my experience will be invaluable to you.

I thought that I might write about something important that I did not focus on enough until way too late in my career.  Training is at, or near, the top of my list of things I knew were important but did not focus on early enough.  Some of the things I am going to talk about in the coming weeks are probably obvious and some of them require effort and assets that we are often unwilling to allocate.  I think training is a particularly appropriate topic right now because it might be getting ignored a bit now during the time of Covid-19 budgeting.

This brief post serves to introduce you all to Steve Day. Please look for his wisdom every Friday.

For more information about training, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com

Customizing Your Learning

Customizing Your Learning

For the past three days we have discussed our classes with: What Subject Specific Classes Can Do for You, Building the Foundation, and A Pathway to Learning. In combination, these posts have given you a clear picture of what it is we do with employee development classes and how we do it. There is still a remaining option that we have not discussed: customizing your learning.

But we are not locked in stone and think we have the answer to everyone’s training needs and employee development thoughts and ideas. Because of that we have available under the “Contact” tab on the banner line the ability for our customers to “GET IN TOUCH.” If you ever find a need for a program that you don’t already see on our site, you can get in touch to talk to us about customizing your learning.

You can address us on our Assessments, Classes, Custom Training, Writing or Speaking.

We have already received several requests from dealers wanting additional assessments or more classes. We are already working on specialized assessments, customer service, operations, selling, finance, and leadership. This will also lead to “Learning Paths” for each of these areas within both Parts and Service.

So, we ask simply: what would you like to see from us that we don’t already offer?

Never hesitate to get in touch! 

The time is now.

For more information, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com

A Pathway to Learning

A Pathway to Learning

Learning Without Scars Classes

Since we started a business to provide classroom training for parts and service operations and product support sales and marketing, we have been constantly creating and redesigning what I have always called “Learning Paths.” A pathway to learning is what we try to provide to all employees to help them realize their potential.

With the classroom training we established the first pathway to learning with management and supervision. For this, we designed two-day classes consisting of eight specific subjects. We then developed the three-year program that had twenty-four subjects covered and taught. We offered this and conducted these classes worldwide for major construction equipment manufacturers. We did the same thing for dealership associations. In the mid 1990s we created a series of videos for dealer associations, that continue to be used in certification programs for parts managers and service managers. Clearly the methods, systems, processes and requirements in the past twenty-five years have changed. The modern pathway to learning is reflected in the creation of our skill assessments and in the evolution of our subject specific classes. Much has changed.

As I mentioned yesterday we offered Planned Learning Programs, which we referred to as PLPs. These were the three-year programs built for leaders in the Parts and Service and Product Support Sales groups. During the twenty-five years these were offered we have had over ten thousand people attend the PLPs – Executives, Managers, Supervisors and Foremen from all around the world.

Next, we created Planned Specific Programs, or PSPs in our shorthand here. These programs were designed for the people doing the work. The people that I call “Heroes.” They take the orders, pick the parts, pull the wrenches, inspect the machines, manage the assets, and drive the trucks. These are the people who serve your customers. These are the people that keep your customers coming back.

With this most recent change to our website we are introducing the next evolution of our Learning Paths. This has been designed to allow the individual employee to create their own individualized Learning Paths. As you will have read over the past ten days, if you follow our blog, we start everything with a job function skills assessment. We then match the results of that assessment to the four levels of skills: Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert. When the individual employee selects our classes tabs, and the department in which they are interested they are asked for their skill level. Then, they will be presented the classes that our years of teaching and thousands of students, have indicated that should be covered to provide the employee the ability to improve their Skill Level.

As you can imagine this has taken some time to develop and put together. It provides each employee the opportunity to personalize their own learning, to select the classes they believe will address the “gaps” in their skills and knowledge. Of course, the Dealership and the Leadership can also be involved in selecting the classes that should be taken. That will never change.

Now we are adding additional tools that will allow us to have “Virtual” meetings with students to discuss the classes and, in effect, simulate the Real Classroom after they have completed one of our Subject Specific Classes. This is what educators are doing now across Grade School, Middle School and High School across the country. This is also now being used at Junior Colleges and Universities.

Education and Learning has changed a lot over the past twenty-five years. The changes coming in the next five years will be even more dramatic. No business, whether in manufacturing, distribution, wholesale or retail or business associations can rest on their laurels. There has been too much change.

The equipment has changed, exotic materials, telematics, computerization. The systems have changed now using electronic catalogues and shopping carts, finance and payment methods have changed with “Square” and Touchless Credit Cards. The arrival of Artificial Intelligence and Drones for Job Management and Control. The world has changed.

The younger generation is much better prepared for these changes than the older generations. Their time is here and coming. We either adapt our systems, methods and everything else as of now or face trouble. We, at Learning Without Scars, have chosen to adapt and it has been extremely exciting and energizing. Is this also an opportunity for each and every business across the world? I believe it is.

The choice is yours.

The time is now.

For more information on finding your own pathway to learning, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com

Building the Foundation of Learning

Building the Foundation of Learning

Building the Foundation of Learning

Our initial training business was called Quest, Learning Centers. We incorporated Quest in 1992. This is where we first deliberately began building the foundation of learning. Originally our classes spanned fifteen hours, over two days, and was designed to cover four subjects; operations, selling, management and standards of performance. In each four-hour time block we covered two specific learning subjects. That provided a learning platform of four classes. Then we created additional learning levels to end up with three different levels of classes. That developed a total of 24 classes for each of parts, service and selling. In the middle we created a marketing class and a customer service class. That gave us a total of 88 classes.

In the early 2000’s we moved to webinars. Each webinar was around forty-five minutes. I was not happy with webinars as I could not see my students. We adjusted our delivery and used a HD camera connected to our computer. We alternated power point slides with live talks using the camera. It was better but didn’t make me very happy as a teacher. Still, it was another step in building the foundation of learning.

In 2016 we decided to transition all of our learning products to the internet. We incorporated Learning Without Scars and started to build the curriculum. Today we have thirty classes up and available in both parts and service with five classes in each still under construction. For Selling and Marketing we have twenty-four classes up and available.

These subject specific classes are each approximately three hours duration. We start with a pretest to understand the prior knowledge of each employee before they start the class. We then have power point slides with audio tracks which was developed and evolved from our classroom training. Into this learning we inserted film clips that accentuated a specific point. At the conclusion of the class we had a final assessment on which the student had to achieve a score of 80% to pass. Then a short survey upon completion of everything after which the student could get their certificate of achievement.

In recent learning research and development, it has been proven that with a quiz or break in learning every ten or so minutes that learning retention goes up by 50% so we are in the process now of updating all of our classes to reflect this truth. I am sure that our classes will be in a constant state of development as more evidence comes forward regarding how people learn. I am committed to helping each individual to be able to achieve their potential.

Each step along the way, in our quest to help each person achieve their potential, is our need to listen to our clients and their employees and respond to their needs and wants just like every other business. They suggest additional classes and learning tools. This has allowed us to develop a series of, what we are calling, Learning Paths for each Skill Level achieved in our Job Function Skills Assessments. Initially we designed our training programs and we determined the structures that the individual students were to follow. We called them Planned Learning Programs and Planned Specific Programs and Video Classrooms. Now we are providing our students with the tools to be able to design their own learning path. They, more than we, know what they need in order to become better at what they do. More on that tomorrow.

The time is now.

For more information about what classes are right for you, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com

What Subject Specific Classes Can Do For You

What Subject Specific Classes Can Do For You

Moving from the role of an employee in an equipment dealership to being a consultant was an interesting transition. I started at Hewitt Equipment, the Caterpillar Dealer in Quebec, in March 1969 on a one-year contract. While with Hewitt I was given the opportunity to learn and grow my skills. I never forgot that. In 1978 I moved to Western Canada and worked for Finning Tractor and Equipment. In 1980 I moved back to Alberta where we started our consulting business. Through those twelve years I was given the opportunity to learn. I could never have done the work I did as a consultant without all of the training I received while working for those two Caterpillar dealerships. That opportunity for learning is what our subject specific classes can provide for you.

I don’t think I was very different then than the millennials and younger generation today. I needed to learn. I HAD to learn to progress in my work. I think the younger generations today are in exactly the same frame of mind as I was at their age. If I am not learning and progressing, I am wasting my time and should be looking for something else. I continue to be in awe at the knowledge of these younger generations. They have so much more knowledge than we Baby Boomers had at a similar age. I suppose that is a normal progression in society but it is one that needs to be respected. These younger generations are what we older generations have to rely on in our dotage.

In the consulting business I would be involved in identifying opportunities, negotiating solution options and implementing change. This invariably involved teaching people how to do things the “new” way. Before I started at Hewitt, I taught education at McGill University in Montreal. I absolutely love when I see the lights go on in a students’ eyes when they “Get” it. That really turns my crank. In the early 1990’s most of the OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and business associations (AED Associated Equipment Dealers) stopped doing any management training in the Parts and Service business. I thought I could fill that void.

I spent the summer of 1992 creating three “text” books for management in Parts, Service and Product Support Sales. In other words, I created the foundation from three management training classes. I set up the classes to take place over three days and split the learning into six distinct categories. Selling, Operations, Asset Management, Finance, Leadership, and Standards of Performance. This was the beginning of Quest, Learning Centers. In 2016 we incorporated Learning Without Scars and transitioned to the internet. We now offer the largest selection of internet-based employee development classes in the Industry. We have ninety-four subject specific classes available to the parts, service and selling aspects of Product Support.

Last week the focus of our blogs was on the assessments. This week we are moving to our classes. The foundation question for the assessments, is what is the department that you are interested in reviewing. We start the same way with the classes. You select a department and then we take you to the class options for that department. We will take you to the next step tomorrow.

The time is now.

For more information on our programs and what we can do for you, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com

Performance Reviews

Performance Reviews

I believe that performance reviews are a terrific opportunity to discuss, with the employee, what is necessary for the employee to do to become better at what they do and open up more opportunities for them in the Company. Further I believe, that for most dealerships this a missed opportunity. Most dealerships don’t do annual performance reviews. In my thirteen years working at two dealerships I never had a performance review. One of my bosses, when I asked him for a review, told me he didn’t believe in them. He asked me “did you get a raise, did you get more money,” I said yes, and he said “well that is your performance review.” Now think about that. This was a man in his sixties, and experienced business executive, who didn’t believe in evaluating an employee’s performance. You have to ask yourself what is going on don’t you?

Perhaps we should consider Patrick Lencioni and his book “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job.” (if you haven’t read it, you should) The three signs are Anonymity, Irrelevance, and “Immeasureability” – (there is no such word). The key sign in this discussion is immeasureability. The individual employee does not know how to measure their performance. Many of you will conclude, like my boss, that it is not that important. I believe it is crucial. People want to please other people. It is human nature. People want to do a good job. BUT someone has to tell that what doing a good job looks like. And MOST do not tell them.

The Performance Review is a perfect opportunity to deal with everything and anything that the employee and the Company wants to talk about. The LWS job function skills assessment provides an objective review of the employee skills and knowledge. What better platform than to have a discussion about how the employee can improve themselves and make them more valuable as a person and as an employee. In my consulting life, and also in some classrooms, I used to use a device I called “Five Things.” Five things that are the most significant in the following categories; to improve operations, that are a pain to do, to make your job better. I start most of the performance reviews I am involved with those five things subjects. Then we talk about them. Think about that list. It turns out that there were a lot of “things” that were on all three lists. The employee and I agreed with what needed to be done to fix those that were on all three lists. That is really positive. It helps the employee and it helps the company. That is the goal of a performance review.

Start with the employee completing the assessment that matches their job. Sit down and talk about it. How did they do? Was that what they expected? Review the classes that we recommend for that skill level. Then conduct a Five Things review. Both you and the employee will feel a lot better about each other, about the performance of the employee and your caring as the leader in the department for that employee. Is there anything wrong with any of that? I didn’t think so.

The choice is yours.

The time is now.

For more information on how our assessments can build Performance Reviews, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com

Skill and Knowledge Levels

Skill and Knowledge Levels

We have been using assessments in all of our training and learning products for over thirty-five years. The primary purpose of our assessments was to help us to adapt and adjust our teaching in order that our students learn. We first had a “Pretest” to measure what the students know when they start our class. Then we had a “Final Assessment” to determine what the difference was in knowledge before and after. This allows us to change how we teach.

We also used these assessments to challenge our approach to teaching. If the same question was received with the same wrong answer, obviously how we were teaching it was the issue not the learning potential of the student.

Let’s turn to our Job Function Assessments at Learning Without Scars (LWS). By now I hope you have looked at our job function comprehensive skill assessments. We believe we have broken new ground with these assessments for the Industries we serve. There are no other common job function assessments out there. With that position of leadership, we have been cautious on how we have approached this. We have had over 3,500 of our class assessments completed in the past two years. This has allowed us to established a hierarchy based on actual employee skills and their results on the assessments.

Upon completion of a specific Job Function Skills Assessment the student will receive their score (0-100). This score will rank their skills based on the results we have seen from the thousands of assessments taken. We have established these skill categories based on our experiences with our class assessments and the skill levels of the people taking these classes. For Learning Without Scars these skill categories are Basic (0-30), Intermediate (31-50), Advanced (51-70) and Expert (71-100). This category level will identify the specific class progressions to allow them to improve their skill level. These category levels have allowed us to design individualized class structures for the student to follow to improve their individual skill level. More on this next week.

We want each individual to be able to achieve their potential. Potential is a wonderful word. It is one that I was introduced to by an Elder in our Church when I was a little boy. He spent a lot of time mentoring a young boy. He passed several messages to me to consider.

  • Always assume the other person is twice as smart as you are and work twice as hard to prove that they are not.
  • Be Happy in your Work or Work and be Happy. You have no choice you have to Work.

If someone tells you that you have a lot of potential and you are sixteen years old that is a very good thing. If someone tells you that you have a lot of potential and you are sixty-six what have you been doing for the last fifty years.

The time is now.

For more information on our assessments and classes, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.com