Engaged Workers: Are You Listening to Your Employees?

By Chubby Frederick

Work­ing with shop own­ers for more than four decades has taught me a lot about run­ning a busi­ness. In the past 10 years, I have seen more change in our indus­try than in the pre­vi­ous 30 years, requir­ing us to estab­lish more engaged work­ers in the busi­ness plan.

I recall a good friend whose son is an air­line pilot telling her about “sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness” – the abil­i­ty to see objects in time and space through mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives and inter­pre­ta­tions – who then said, “even though we have all these won­der­ful instru­ments that tell us how fast we are going, how high we are fly­ing and how well things are run­ning, it is still impor­tant to look out the win­dow once in a while and see for our­selves just how things are look­ing.”

Increas­ing Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty
So how does all this apply to your shop? We, like the air­plane pilot, def­i­nite­ly have a lot of “won­der­ful instru­ments” to mon­i­tor our busi­ness. At ATI we call them Key Per­for­mance Indi­ca­tors (KPIs). We can see aver­age repair order, parts mar­gins, labor mar­gins, car count, gross prof­it and many oth­er indi­ca­tors of how fast we are going, how high we are fly­ing and how much fuel we have

Sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness applies not only to high-tech equip­ment, but also to peo­ple. We must apply this to our staff as well as to our equip­ment. It is impor­tant for us, as pilots of our busi­ness­es, to take a look around, not to focus only on the instru­ments or KPIs, but to become aware of our envi­ron­ments as well.

Don’t For­get to Take Time
In today’s fast-paced Ser­vice Depart­ment and high-tech world, it is pret­ty easy to for­get that we are work­ing with some of the most impor­tant equip­ment in our shops – our employ­ees. Tak­ing time to meet with them has almost become a for­got­ten skill in most shops.

A great way to do this is to set up one-on-one meet­ings week­ly with each employ­ee. Take time to set up a note­book and list the employee’s strengths and weak­ness­es. Give them hon­est feed­back on the things that are going well, and to cel­e­brate with them when a weak­ness becomes a strength!

Increas­ing Tenure
Inter­act­ing in this way can help ensure that the busi­ness runs smooth­ly, and that most crash­es can be avert­ed. I have talked to a lot of techs who say that they feel like they are no more than a cog in the wheel and their opin­ions do not mat­ter.

Noth­ing can ground a flight faster than one or two key mem­bers of the crew leav­ing and then hav­ing to be replaced. We have all heard that atti­tude con­trols our alti­tude. And I believe that with con­stant and method­i­cal sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness, we can all reach new heights with our busi­ness­es.

Chris Fred­er­ick is CEO of the Auto­mo­tive Train­ing Insti­tute. Read the here.

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