Prepare Your Department for Hire Setbacks

April 16, 2019
A parts manager discusses how his department prepares for department setbacks in order to accommodate a new hire

When you bring a new staff member aboard, the first few weeks of training can be a make-or-break decision for both the hire and the company. For Mike Bedard, parts manager of a staff of four in Okemos, Mich., at Okemos Auto Collection: BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, it’s important to not only hire the right candidate that can interact with his team, but also understand that the daily routine might be affected by the new hire’s orientation process.

Now, when Bedard brings on a new hire, he makes sure that his current employees are prepared for the sudden shift in routine change. Through experience, he’s learned that taking the time to properly train a new apprentice is important, even if it causes a temporary refocus of attention, to ensure everything runs smoothly. He’s also learned that planning ahead for the new hire has allowed that shift to be less disruptive than it previously was.

The Issue

When a new hire came into the picture, it was difficult for the parts department to take care of all duties during the hire’s orientation period. While hires periodically spent a morning training with the front counter, or looking over an employee’s shoulder at the back counter, routine items were often put on hold.

“I would say there’s definitely a struggle with a new hire because it [typically] comes from someone leaving,” Bedard says. “When you’re already tight [and training] one more, that essentially almost takes away two people.”

The Solution: Consult staff ahead of time.
When a new staff member comes aboard, it’s important to not only fill your staff in, but also prepare your team for any changes that will occur within the shop. To stay ahead of anticipated setbacks, work with your staff to come up with a method that ensures all work has been covered in the instance that an employee is working with an apprentice.

In Bedard’s case, he focuses on cross-training his staff to accommodate a situation where an employee is unable to make it in to work or is away.

“The shipping and receiving clerk starts picking up the slack,” he says. “That’s why shipping and receiving is an important role because they almost know how to do everything, they’re just not as fast with it.”

In the past, Bedard’s noted a set period of time where everyday duties were previously set aside in order to accommodate the orientation period.

“There’s a 30-day window where [the] items that can be put off are put off,” he says. “Paperwork is kind of put off to make things [run smoothly with the new hire], and paperwork stacks up.”

Bedard’s staff focus a lot on helping each other out, he says.

“You hire a good person and they generally want to help, so you hire someone that wants to help, and the next thing you know—even if they don’t know what they’re doing—they pick up and [help],” he says. “Everybody gets along and helps; if you have good people in your department [then] that kind of makes the stresses less stressful.”

By preparing your staff for setbacks, it allows your team to plan ahead by delegating roles in advance when it’s a certain individual’s turn to train your apprentice.

Tip: Prepare your staff for routine changes before the hire’s first day

The Solution: Determine a training timeframe.
Before your hire enters the door, it’s important to develop an orientation schedule for your staff to be aware of ahead of time, as well as ensure training runs smoothly and is organized. For Bedard, new hires will spend a set amount of time with him and then later work directly with his staff members.

New hires spend around two weeks in orientation, where they work closely with Bedard and then also tag along with other staff members to learn the ropes.

“After that two-week period, they start doing the job,” Bedard says.

Training can feel tiring, Bedard realizes, and in order to keep his hires’ attention span, Bedard dedicates certain periods of time to trainees’ in each station.

“[Their] time frame is usually a morning [with each staff]. It gives them half a day to split up,” Bedard says. “They go in the back, learn how to receive the parts if they need to on the fly, [they] know how to put the parts away, which they have to know how to do that and have to know where it goes.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to where the guys in the position know pretty well what they’re doing.”

In addition to onsite training, employees undergo a three-month period of online training for BMW.

“For you to be a BMW employee, you have 15 online courses that you have to take and that’s been [happening] for a decade,” Bedard says.

When hires are given a clear, set schedule ahead of time, it allows training to move quickly and efficiently.

Tip: Decide on an appropriate, standard orientation period for apprentices.