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Understanding the importance of learning styles and soft skills

Thursday, March 1, 2018 - 09:00
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This is the second article in a two-part series on the importance of training. For Part One, which focuses on why rapid advancement in vehicle technologies means technicians need to know how to perform proper repairs by following original equipment manufacturer (OEM) procedures and where to find this information, click here.

The concept of learning should be a key element of a body shop’s culture, but the type of training and method of delivery can be tailored to help technicians and leadership retain the knowledge in a way that best fits their needs.

“After spending 37 years in the collision repair market and more than 20 years in industry education, I have learned that the industry must accept that continuous training is a component of it,” says Jeff Peevy, president of Automotive Management Institute (AMi), a non-profit education organization. “The industry also must realize that learning is the key to business success. Without it, a collision repair business will not survive.”

Photo courtesy of LORD Corporation Fusor Aftermarket Repair Adhesives

However, despite the “Technical Tsunami” of rapidly evolving vehicle technologies, such a technical-focused industry also needs to understand the need for the often-overlooked “soft skills” in training.

Beyond technical training

Soft skills – a.k.a. interpersonal skills – relate to employees' ability to get along well with others, social graces, leadership skills, work ethic and communication abilities, among others. In his research on how soft skills impact retention, it is one of the leading causes a technician leaves a shop – or the industry altogether, says Peevy, who is an Accredited Master Automotive Manager (AMAM).

“A repairer may have a strong background in technical skills and knowledge but may not be able to communicate what is needed to improve their environment,” he points out. “We need to develop their personality traits to manage this, especially as there continues to be a shortage of qualified technicians.”

Graph courtesy of the Automotive Management Institute (AMi) — In a recent AMi survey, 83 percent of collision repair businesses believe improved listening, communications and interpersonal skills – i.e. soft skills – would make a positive impact on their business. The same survey also found that 77 percent believe that more than 30 percent of a technician’s skills believed improved listening, communications and interpersonal skills would make a positive impact on their business.

At AMi, collision repair training has recently been concentrating on soft skills for repairers, particularly on listening skills. This leads to better satisfaction for the technician, and ultimately, the customer.

“If technicians are not listening to fellow staff members or to customers, they will miss important things and will not be as operationally efficient,” Peevy notes. “They need to be trained in soft skills to effectively work together using their technical skills.”

A quick look at soft skills
Available online through AMi instructor-created courses
  • Leadership Skills. Companies want employees who can supervise and direct other workers
  • Teamwork.
  • Communication Skills.
  • Problem Solving Skills.
  • Work Ethic.
  • Flexibility/Adaptability.
  • Interpersonal Skills

A different way of learning

To that end, how training is done – for both technical and soft skills – is important and what will truly give repair shops and its technicians a competitive advantage.

Buying the latest equipment or a new spray booth may seem like the way to get an edge up in the collision repair marketplace, but it’s not a sustainable competitive advantage.

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