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Best Workplaces: Jiffy Lube of Indiana

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A few months back, Lonnie Hinkle celebrated his 26th anniversary with Jiffy Lube of Indiana. Back at the start, he didn’t anticipate the career that was ahead.

“I came to Indiana just to go to school, and I planned to go back to California,” Hinkle says. “But I met Steve, and the rest is history.”

He’s referring to Steve Sanner, president of the Jiffy Lube franchise that operates more than 50 locations in and around Indianapolis. 

Hinkle was also a bit of a guinea pig for some of the employee support programs that are now in place.

“Lonnie was the first one who participated in the home buying program for managers,” Sanner says. “And we’ve been doing that ever since.”

At the time, Hinkle was graduating from a store-level manager to a district manager. He was putting down roots and exploring options for home ownership. Like many first-time buyers, down payments are big checks to write. Sanner saw an opportunity to help and assist with that expense. Hinkle made the purchase and continued growing within the company.

“It meant the world to me to get into my own home,” Hinkle says. “It was such a reward.”

The down payment assistance program is now one of many support tools for employees at Jiffy Lube of Indiana. It’s part of Sanner’s guiding principle of “growing people through work,” which emphasizes the experience and values that employees learn while working for them—whether they stick around for the long term or not.

Hinkle’s experience moving up through the management ranks at the company is held up as an example of how the culture cultivates leaders in the system. He’s now the chief operating officer and Sanner’s co-conspirator for a host of employee and community programs.

The programs alone are great criteria for a Best Workplaces award. But it’s the additional work and personal attention from Sanner, Hinkle, and their colleagues that really drive home this year’s award. 

Take the down payment assistance example: Even after the company had been offering it for a while, Sanner and Hinkle saw an opportunity to improve upon it. Now, instead of simply approving the assistance, Hinkle meets with every potential recipient to talk about the home buying process, the financial implications, and other best practices for the long term.

It’s that extra attention given to any project that shows how much Sanner and Hinkle back up their mantra of growing people through work. That’s what makes it a Best Workplace.

Growing People, Growing Skills

Sanner based his “growing people through work” philosophy from Jiffy Lube founder Jim Hindman, who often used the phrase. The goal is to help employees come out of the company in a better place than when they came in—whether that’s after a short tenure or a long career.

At all times, Sanner is looking for opportunities to build support programs for employees. But in times when the company is prosperous, they go into overdrive.

“We sit around and come up with crazy ideas,” Sanner says.

One of the first programs was a culture-building exercise. They took the existing Jiffy Lube training programs and added tiered achievement levels, complete with pins that techs could wear to display their training. It helped drive a desire to improve skills.

“Jiffy Lube has always had certification programs, but we created the gold, silver, and bronze levels of certifications, and it really helped the guys feel like they were achieving,” Hinkle says.

Employee support programs, like the home down payment assistance, were added over the years. In the last dozen years or so, the company has seen steady success, and Sanner says they began looking to reinvest even more in employee success.

“I sat with Lonnie and said, ‘Let’s talk about the legacy that we want to leave for this business,” Sanner says.

Many programs come from going to shops and listening to what team members are going through. Company leadership gets many opportunities to do that, because Hinkle and Sanner make sure to visit with every new hire shortly after they start. Hinkle even runs seminars that introduce the concept of growing people through work.

“That classroom that Lonnie holds is always incredible and life-changing for the guys,” Sanner says.

It includes attitude training, financial literacy information, and other introductions to the way Jiffy Lube of Indiana functions. 

Hinkle also speaks to automotive students at the Lincoln Tech college in Indianapolis. He shares his story of starting as a quick lube tech and building it into a great career. It creates visibility, not just for recruitment prospects for Jiffy Lube of Indiana, but also for the quick lube industry in general as a real career opportunity.

“A lot of people don’t dream of getting into the automotive world to work at a quick lube, but we’re changing that,” Sanner says.

Those are examples of how Sanner and Hinkle use their leadership positions at the company to be present and involved in the employee development programs they create.

“Growing people through work has touched my life in a few different positive ways, first off when I started at this company I was amazed at how welcoming everyone was. I remember walking into the growing people through work seminar and being welcomed by Lonnie and Steve smiling, and it was the first time at a job I felt, not to sound corny, but special.”

-Leticia, Jiffy Lube of Indiana employee

Building Support

In addition to the down payment assistance program, Hinkle was the first recipient of another form of employee support that became a mainstay program. That’s the tuition reimbursement program.

It came about when Hinkle was about to graduate from technical school. Sanner wanted to keep Hinkle on at Jiffy Lube of Indiana and sweetened the deal with tuition reimbursement.

“He said, ‘You stay here, and we will make your student loan payment for as long as you’re in the Jiffy Lube family,’” Hinkle says.

Hinkle ended up getting his entire student loans paid by the company. Today, the program is institutionalized. The company vets applicants and then makes the monthly student loan payments as long as the employee is working with them.

“This program, I think, really tops them all,” Hinkle says. “If you’re long term with us, we could end up paying your entire tuition.”

Another program at the company is called Jiffy Lube Cares. Sanner and Hinkle found that many big challenges can come out of a shortfall of a few hundred dollars. It could be a car repair, a medical bill, or something similar.

They developed Jiffy Lube Cares in two phases. First, the company offers employees discounts on car repairs and allows them to finance the work through payroll deductions to keep them or a family member on the road. Second, a voluntary general fund was created to loan out small dollar amounts to employees in need. That’s been a successful program that employees pay back into.

In less than eight years, the program has loaned more than $475,000 and raised $73,000 to keep the fund going.

Eye on Retention

Jiffy Lube of Indiana has had great retention, but labor challenges touched nearly every quick lube operation in 2021. Like other operations, the company offered some hiring incentives to get new recruits in the door.

But they also realized that so many great employees stuck with them through the pandemic, working sometimes in short-staffed situations. 

“Throughout this year, staffing has been short, and it’s been tough on our people,” Hinkle says. “But our core people stuck with us, and I firmly believe that the reason they stuck so closely through the last 24 months is the culture we’ve built over the last three decades.”

They looked for a way to recognize those employees as well and ended up cutting an additional paycheck to 280 employees in late 2021. Sometimes, a little extra dough is the quickest way to show appreciation.

Do they see results from all of the resources they put into employee support?

“As Lonnie said, we’ve been short staffed this year but are up 25 percent in sales,” Sanner said of 2021.

Jiffy Lube of Indiana isn’t done creating new programs, either. In 2022, Hinkle has worked with the network’s 51 managers to come up with improvement goals for the year. In exchange, they get to pitch something they’d like as a reward for reaching that goal.

“We told them to come up with something really cool that you’d like to do with you and your family,” Hinkle says. “What you would consider to be an awesome memory and awesome experience.”

They won’t know until the end of the year how many dream experiences will be rewarded, but Sanner says that it has been awesome to see what the managers come up with. True to form, he’s always trying to learn a bit more about his people to figure out ways to help.

“I just want to know what kinds of dreams they have,” he says. “So this was one way of doing that. Hopefully a lot of them will make their goals.”

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