Growing Fixed Ops Teams from Within

A Quick Guide for Dealership Leaders

Navigating team building in fixed operations is a complex task, yet the success of the fixed ops team is crucial for the dealership’s overall sustained growth. And as dealerships continue to face staffing shortages, investing in education and cultivating talent from within is more important than ever. This style of team building ensures a skilled workforce and fosters a culture of continuous improvement. 

Implementing a strategic approach to growing your service department team from the ground up is invaluable for fixed ops managers. It will require removing your manager hat and putting on your teacher and mentor hat. However, the rewards are significant, contributing to individual career growth and the dealership’s long-term success.


Straight Out of the Gate

The journey begins at the interview stage, where managers play a pivotal role in setting the tone for the dealership’s culture and expectations. Beyond the typical interview questions, take the time to introduce prospective hires to the team, allowing them to immerse themselves in the dealership’s unique atmosphere. Paint a vivid picture of the career path, providing a clear trajectory for upward mobility. Consider creating an engaging and visually appealing roadmap, complete with fun names for each skill level, adding an element of excitement to the journey. For example, the entry-level position could be dubbed “The Rookie,” instilling a sense of camaraderie and shared goals from the start.

The Winning Roadmap

Motivation is the engine of employee development. Establish a comprehensive system that guides new hires and allows them to actively participate in steering their own career path. The roadmap should include attainable benchmarks and expected dates of completion for each skill level. For instance, reaching a certain proficiency might elevate a team member from “The Rookie” to “The Apprentice.” This adds structure to the learning process and creates a sense of achievement and progression.

Set Them Up for Success

High expectations should be paired with ample opportunities for success. Designate specific daily learning time, pairing new hires with experienced mentors who can balance their work while patiently guiding rookies. Emphasize a well-rounded cycle of learning, repetition, and evaluation, with mentors providing constructive and documented feedback on technique, speed, and efficiency. Introduce themed training days or workshops to keep the learning environment engaging and dynamic.

Huddle Up

Team cohesion is vital for a thriving fixed ops team. Conduct regular team huddles to integrate rookies into the group, fostering a sense of belonging. Beyond just operational discussions, these huddles should include team-building exercises and talks about the dealership’s core values. Schedule individual meetings at predetermined points during training to recognize strengths, identify learning opportunities, and gather feedback on the training experience and their mentors. Consider implementing bonus prizes or recognition for outstanding performance, creating a positive and encouraging atmosphere. Something as simple as a gift card to a local restaurant can significantly impact the motivation front.

Hybrid Rookie

As your rookies progress, incorporate a hybrid approach to training. Allow new hires to continue learning while gradually working independently in areas of proficiency. However, caution against complacency, as a complete withdrawal from training can lead to stagnation and decreased motivation. Provide ongoing learning opportunities, such as advanced training modules or cross-training in different departments, ensuring that team members remain engaged and continue to expand their skill sets.

Teaching Pro Tips

Acknowledge that every task is a set of teachable skills. Break tasks into small, manageable bites or skills, and don’t overlook the importance of detailing even seemingly routine tasks. Leaders should actively remember their own learning process and apply this empathy to their teaching methods. For example, when teaching a new technician, break down complex repairs into step-by-step procedures, allowing them to grasp each component before moving on to the next.

Off-Season Planning

A successful training system requires consistent evaluation and refinement. But this system allows you to recruit new team members based on aptitude and personality, as the training plan will do the heavy lifting. Regularly review and update the training system to address evolving needs and industry changes. Consider conducting off-season training sessions during slower business periods to sharpen skills and introduce new techniques. Invite external trainers or industry experts to provide fresh perspectives and insights.

Tunnel Vision and Hidden Talent

Managers sometimes get caught in the grips of tunnel vision. It’s easy to focus only on the systems in place for hiring and training and completely overlook the potential right beside you. Dealerships are full of talented people eager for opportunity. All you have to do is pay attention. Watch the young porter who has been with the dealership for two years. He has a passion for cars and an extraordinary attention to detail. He also has a firm handle on the flow of the service department. TVI MarketPro3 fixed ops expert Robert Morris points out that these treasures often get overlooked for promotions. This young professional would “make an excellent Service Advisor,” says Morris.

Your sales team may also have talent that is burned out with sales and looking for a fresh position. These team members often have natural customer service skills and have had the opportunity to develop strong sales skills. Rather than losing these individuals to another company, consider cross-training them to transition to a Service Advisor role.

Game Time

Investing in the growth of your fixed ops team from within is a strategic decision that pays dividends in a competitive market. By adopting a structured training approach, providing mentorship, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, dealership leaders can ensure the long-term success of their fixed ops departments. This commitment benefits individual team members and contributes to the overall success and reputation of the dealership within the automotive industry. As the team grows and excels, the dealership will be positioned as a leader in service excellence, attracting both customers and top-tier talent.

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