Training New Hires - It's Not About Money, It's About Being a Decent Human Being

Years ago someone shared with me that old maxim "you gotta throw some spaghetti at the wall and see if it sticks".  So it seems that if one flings pasta at the wall, a fully cooked noodle will stick, one that has not finished cooking will not. Somewhere in time a little boy or girl watched grandma do this, connected this imagery to the trying new ideas and suddenly a clever new boardroom analogy was born!

Automotive dealership managers love the spaghetti throwing method. Even in the age of precision analytics dealer managers "try it and see if it sticks."

A troubling majority of automotive sales managers apply this same technique to their hiring and training actions, too. It has been well established that this results in a prodigal waste of payroll funds. All money issues aside, Not committing to the success of your news hires flies in the face of basic human decency. If you hire someone, you owe it to them to make provisions for their success.

Most people begin a new job awash in optimism. Their hiring marks a new beginning full of promise.  This time it will be better, they said so in the interview!  Then comes his/her first day...

The typical automobile salesperson's first day as a new hire involves showing up at a sales meeting where he/she is subjected to a mix of mistrusting stares. He/she may get a cursory introduction, or not. The new hire may eventually get some logins to start taking OEM product training. At some point he/she will be shown a place to sit and told to watch the door. When he/she finally feels confident, well -- take an up!  In about six months the managers will let the new hire go and then joke about their poor performance.

"Yeah, I tried, but either you know how to cat or you don't."

Am I being a little over dramatic? Is my brush a bit broad? Yes, but understand that I have seen various aspects of this in far too many dealer organizations. (I know owners/managers who actively avoid learning a new hire's name until they make it six months. If you do this, by the way, you're an asshole.)

Constant turnover is costly. Unsuccessful new hires cost money. To me cost is only part of the issue. Look, if someone has agreed to come and work in your organization, as an owner or manager you have a moral obligation to at least equip them for success.

She just wants to succeed in her new career.

At the very least, a new hire training program should include:

  • A Training Schedule. Let them know what the first few days/weeks will look like. Even the most basic training schedule will ameliorate the nervousness and confusion inherent in working somewhere new.
  • Organized HR Documentation and Policy Handbook. Have a packet ready for them with the necessary documents concerning their employment. Make sure they immediately have a resource that let's them know how to access their employee benefits and how payroll works.
  • Facility Tour. Show them where they work, where they can eat lunch, take breaks, and go to the bathroom. Let them know where to direct customers they may encounter someone asking them where a particular department is. Make them proud of where they work!
  • Work Space. Let them see where they will be doing online training, observing, and ultimately selling. (I know space if often limited, but a new hire's work space should make them feel special. Stick them in an uninspired space that reeks of defeat and you will be sending a clear message about your expectations for their success.)
  • Departmental Orientations. Have the managers of the various dealer departments meet briefly with your new hire. Have your managers familiarize them with his/her department and how it interacts with sales.
  • OEM  and/or Sales Training. Have an established curriculum for training including a timeline for its completion. Not sure what to do? Most automobile OEM's have sales training integrated into their product training courses. If you are doing your own training, don't wing it. Your program needs at least three basic components:
    • Curriculum Goals. Have a plan! What is it you expect them to know at the end of training? (It's very important to remember that good training is not having someone listen to war stories or one's greatest closing hits album. Teach skills, role play, demonstrate, etc.)
    • Learning Materials. What support materials are going to be needed? (Handbooks, printed forms, audio/video equipment, etc.)
    • Assessment Tools. How are you going to measure mastery? What equals a passing level of competency? How do they demonstrate mastery for you. (Don't just use your "gut". Have a measurable standard that will apply to everyone.)
  • Job Shadowing. Pick someone who is freely open to mentoring new salespersons. Make sure they have proven teaching skills. This is the person who will be helping him/her convert book knowledge into execution. Choose Yoda carefully.
  • Review Timetable. Establish a time(s) where the new salesperson's performance will be reviewed. (Don't make your new hire wonder how he/she is doing, and don't suddenly call them in to discuss performance. Let them know when their and how their performance will be reviewed.

No one fell out of their mother's womb selling cars. While you cannot train ambition and personality does play a part in sales, the idea that someone is either a natural or not is the banter of the lazy or unskilled manager. The new hire trusts you to help him/her learn. They want to succeed. Help them! You will make a good (and stable) living -- and it will show you're a good person!

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