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Create An Annual Training Calendar To Plan, Manage And Track Your Dealership’s Investment

Development of a calendar for 2016 should be starting within a few weeks.

BY TOM KUKLA

It’s Sept. 1, your first day on the job as HR director at the county’s largest dealership. As you settle in at your new office, you muse about why you were hired. In the final interview, the last thing the owner said as you stood up to leave was, “And Job One is going to be to ‘fix’ the training we got going on around here.” So, then, your first task is to create an annual training calendar for 2016.

That comment sets your marching orders for the next few months. When it comes to the dealership’s staff training, you know the first places to start are to:

  • Develop a tool that maximizes training resources
  • Position training programs as a value-added resource for employees
  • Position training programs as bringing value to the dealership itself
  • Identify and record the training progress of all staff throughout the year

Calendar Becomes A Strategic Tool

That annual training calendar is an invaluable strategic tool for numerous industries. From a dealership perspective, it accomplishes at least two important things. It provides a record of previous training, which helps to answer performance questions and compliance issues; and it helps guide budgetary and development decisions about future training.

There is strategic value to setting the calendar well in advance. An annual calendar, completed and communicated to the staff before the end of the year, helps with staffing decisions, vacation planning and meeting planning for the entire upcoming year. Plus, it shows the staff the dealership is interested in investing in their growth and development. This practice alone aids in staff retention!

If your dealership chooses to develop an annual training calendar, then it should be shown to the entire staff no later than mid-December. By the way, if you are planning to create one for 2016, you should be starting the process no later than September or October of 2015!

Who Helps Shape A Calendar?

Typically, if a dealership employs an annual training calendar, then the HR director or training director coordinates and develops it. However, populating it should be a team effort.

The dealer, general manager, sales manager, service managers, office managers, other department managers and trainers all should all be asked for input. Gaining consensus of key players generates the necessary buy-in with the final product, and that buy-in will help ensure that the training programs are fully attended by enthusiastic participants. Final say about the calendar content should rest with the HR director or the dealer.

Elements Of An Effective Calendar

AT least 10 critical fields should be filled out for each program listed on an annual training calendar. I’ve included a calendar excerpt with this article, for illustrative purposes. Those 10 fields are:

  1. Dates and length of training
  2. Key objective(s) of training (what the dealership wants to happen as a result of the training)
  3. Participants/departments
  4. Instructors
  5. Skill and topics covered – Be as specific as possible here. Hypothetical examples are listed below:
    1. Sales skills
    2. Management skills
    3. Leadership skills
  1. F&I topics
  2. Telephone skills
  3. HR skills
    1. Customer service skills
    2. Technical skills (service)
  1. Pre-work required – Managers of participants should be held accountable that their people are prepared.
  2. Post-program follow-up – If your goal is to maximize training, then follow up to determine if the training lessons “stuck” with participants as you intended.
  3. Training location (someone should be responsible for booking off-site locations well in advance, so there are no surprises)
  4. Total number of participants (driven by budget and availability)
  5. Budget assigned/per-participant cost – This is critical to maximize your budget and to make sure the right folks are getting trained.

Housing, Using The Calendar

If training is an HR function, then the annual calendar ought to be accessed through the HR website. It should be available to the entire staff but be “read only.” It can be reposted and redistributed whenever there are significant updates.

An annual training calendar of this nature is especially well suited for recurring training programs – e.g. sales, F&I and service-type programs that are held annually or every other year. The annual calendar also is very well suited to manage new training initiatives such as a leadership development program for emerging managers.

Although it is strategically beneficial to have a training calendar built a year in advance, dealerships need also to be highly adaptable. It is difficult today to anticipate ALL of your dealership’s training needs for the coming year. With that reality in mind, these calendars should be built to be flexible, in case for example:

  • A new program must be added for new employees or staff who change jobs mid-year.
  • The factory, market conditions or a dealership expansion dictate suddenly adding a training program.
  • Updated content is added to a training program.

In Conclusion

Developing an annual training calendar provides much needed clarity to the training function in auto dealerships. With a training calendar appropriately focused on the future, you can see which department is taking proper advantage of training opportunities, where gaps exist in programming, where the training dollars are going, and who is doing most of your training.

Good selling and good training!

 

 

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Tom Kukla
Tom Kukla
Tom is a highly experienced leadership coach, speaker and trainer. Prior to founding Credere Leadership, he spent 38 years in retail and medical sales, sales management, and management and leadership development. He developed a world-class management-training program from the ground up in the highly competitive pharmaceutical industry that served hundreds of sales and marketing colleagues. As a John Maxwell-certified coach, teacher and speaker, he offers organizations management and leadership workshops, seminars, training and coaching. You can reach Tom at tom@credereleadership.com and visit his website at LeadershipIsInfluence.com.

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