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Point Of View: A Tip Of The Hat To The Inaugural Head Of The Class Award Winners

No one doubts the power of recognition, whether it involves recognizing the work of individuals or an entity. Volumes have been written on the value of recognition when it comes to employee management, noting time and time again that employees value recognition almost as much — and sometimes more so — than pay increases.

Peer recognition is extremely effective when it comes to building culture, particularly in reinforcing positive behavior or advancing a fundamental cause within a specific group, profession or industry. And I am proud to say that this industry does an exceptional job at focusing in on the critical issues that need attention and reinforcing positive movement in regard to those areas. The Polk Aftermarket Inventory Efficiency Award presented annually during the Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium is one example. So are the recognitions emanating from the various tightly-focused industry groups like the Automotive Communication Council, the Women’s Board, the National Catalog Managers Association and the many, many others that lead our industry into the proper direction.

Back in late October in The Greensheet, we covered AAIA’s inaugural Head of the Class Awards, which recognize outfits that continually invest in employee education and training. The program grew out of the work of one of the trade association’s committees — the education committee, which, like the other associations’ various committees and segments, is manned by volunteers from throughout the industry who are dedicated specifically to advancing the cause of training and education. All of our major trade associations have a similar committee structure and a dedicated army of industry volunteers who work tirelessly for our industry.

At the time of our reporting, we noted the winners: Manufacturer – Tenneco, Monroe, MI; Warehouse Distributor – KOI Auto Parts, Cincinnati; Jobber – Olympus Imported Auto Parts, Alexandria, VA; Manufacturers’ Representative – the N.A. Williams Co., Atlanta; and Repair Shop – The Car Doctor, Oklahoma City, OK. We also noted that the winners were selected based on the education and training practices of the awarded company, including what prompted that organization to invest in training; the types of training accomplished; the initial goals, experiences and results of the training; and future plans for continuing the commitment to education and training. And though these companies were recognized at AAIA’s Town Hall breakfast at AAPEX, it dawned on me that these companies deserved more attention. It’s my guess this new award got lost in the hectic pace of show week and the pre- and post-show hoopla.

Tenneco was recognized for the wide array of employee education and training programs. The company puts its money where its mouth is with a strong annual training budget and a tuition reimbursement program for employee development. Tenneco claims to have a 100-percent retention rate since implementing a new sales orientation training program, as well as generally having a lower overall turnover rate. KOI Auto Parts made a significant financial commitment to its employees’ educational needs by purchasing the software and hardware needed to deliver the training programs to where it was needed at its various locations. All stores have a dedicated computer located away from the counter to access the various courses and seminars, and KOI makes available ASE’s P2 exams, as well as the AIA Import Parts Specialist exams to staff members recommended for these certifications. KOI has also conducted week-long programs involving the University of the Aftermarket. Olympus Imported Auto Parts recognized different areas of the company had different needs, so it formalized with manuals, handbooks, training DVDs, PowerPoint presentations and other training material for the various departments outlining what is needed for a person to excel at his or her job. New employees, on-the-job programs are emphasized and existing employees are supported for ASE and AIA certifications. N.A. Williams uses resources throughout the industry to make “continuous improvement” a way of life in the sales organization.

Mike Bailey, the owner of The Car Doctor repair facility in Oklahoma City, took things into his own hands regarding training for his staff, becoming a certified mentor for Oklahoma State University’s Protech Program, a secondary ed program offering an associate degree and direct path to job placement. He now hires from the Protech program, requires 40 hours of training yearly for his techs and maintains a 5 percent training budget yearly. That has helped his bottom line increase by 75 percent, and technician productivity has increased by 100 percent.

This is the type of leadership that needs to be recognized, and certainly the kind of business behavior we should all emulate.

Gary A. Molinaro, Editor/Publisher