To be successful in today's heavy-duty aftermarket, you must have a clear competitive edge over your competitors.
A knowledgeable, appreciated, motivated work force can give a company this competitive edge. Yet our research has found that employee training, education and development have taken a step backward at a time when companies need it the most.

An investment in training, education and development, or TED, is vital to both an employee's growth and to a company's competitive edge. In addition, what works well today often doesn't tomorrow, and the employer who fails to update their workers' "KASH" may find his business lagging behind competitors that are more progressive. KASH stands for Knowledge, Attitude, Skills, and Habits (as in work habits). Employees with in-depth knowledge, the right attitude, outstanding skills, and excellent work habits will provide that competitive edge.

It will also help you recruit and retain valuable people. Employees who receive ongoing training, education, and development perceive their employers as caring about remaining competitive, and also valuing them and their contributions to the company. It's even more important for the younger generation. A growing number of employees are millennials or Generation "Y" - born after 1980. A recent Robert Half International survey showed that professional growth is one of the three baseline requirements (the others were money and benefits) to meet millennials' needs, to keep them engaged, and to increase the chance they will stay and not leave your business.

Training, education and development is one way to help them with that professional growth.

So why aren't more aftermarket companies developing their people? Many business owners and management see training, education and development as an expense - something nice to do, rather than a critical investment in their business.

There are steps you can take to ensure TED provides an excellent return on investment for your company. Read on to learn how knowledge can be successfully transferred so TED participants can grow sales and gross profit, reduce operating expenses, and manage company assets better.

A formal training program

The purpose of formulating TED programs for your business is to answer two relatively simple but vitally important questions:

1. What is changing in our business and impacting profitability and asset management?

2. What will our employees need to know and be able to do to serve our customers effectively in the future?

Armed with the answers to these two questions and a clear vision of your company's mission, strategies, and objectives, you will be able to identify your training, education and development needs.

The process below traces the steps necessary so that your employee training education and development process will be successful.

1. Compare and analyze your company goals and current team performance level to benchmarks to determine where you are.

2. Identify the gaps.

3. Conduct a Team Member Needs Assessment.

4. Establish TED objectives to close a gap.

5. Choose a means of evaluating outcomes of TED program(s).

6. Select the appropriate TED methods and mode of delivery that will focus on the identified areas to close the gap.

7. Select employee or employees for focused TED.

8. Conduct or make available TED materials to selected employees.

9. Evaluate each of your TED programs, focusing on implementation, learner reaction, behavior change, and impact on business metrics and closing the performance gap.

Where are you now?

An excellent process to compare your goals and current performance is the process of benchmarking. This is a method where aftermarket companies should first evaluate their own operations or services. Then, identify what is holding you back in achieving your goals. The next step is to find a few who are performing better than you, or "the best in the group" - in other words, a benchmark or a reference against where you are now. This can let you know what could be possible; a goal to aim for.

There are several basic types of benchmarking. First is internal benchmarking. Companies operating multiple locations performing similar functions can benchmark each of their locations against best-of-group and to average-of-group. One of the simplest benchmarking exercises is to compare internal operations and outcomes. The objective of internal benchmarking is to identify the internal key performance standards of the company.

There are two advantages of internal benchmarking. First, there is a significant amount of information-sharing accompanying internal benchmarking. Second, the company is able to realize immediate gains by identifying their own best practices and transferring those to other locations within the company. This internal knowledge can become the baseline for later investigation, measurement, diagnosis, and intervention for performance improvement.

However, using only internal benchmarking can lead to an introverted view, ignoring other firms that have an edge and are outperforming you.

That's why industry benchmarking, or comparing your company against others in an industry, is also important. Industry benchmarking tends to involve comparisons between companies that share some common products, services, processes, technology, and market characteristics. An example of industry benchmarking is the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network Yearly Performance Analysis Report. A big advantage of industry benchmarking is that you are able to compare "best-of-class" and "industry average" with your own key performance indicators. Another advantage of industry benchmarking is the size of the sample; more contributors of the data produce greater accuracy of the benchmark measurements.

Finding the gaps

Benchmarking will help you complete the second step of the TED process: Identify the performance gaps between where you currently are and where you want to be.

As you identify these gaps, think about why there's a gap in performance compared to these benchmarks, and why there's a gap between your high performers and others. Think about how your profits would increase if you could raise your lowest performers to at least the "middle of the pack." For example, say your business has 10 counter people and their average sales per month is $20,000 per person, but the bottom three performers range from $15,000 to $16,500. If you can identify what is different about these three from the others and can make the necessary changes so their average sales per month rises to $20,000 or better, your sales increase could be significant.

Your business should have a clearly defined strategy and set of objectives that direct and drive all the decisions made for employee training, education, and development decisions. This strategy should be tied to your overall business goals and the performance gaps between where your team currently is and what additional KASH (knowledge, attitude, skills, and work habits) they will need to improve their performance.

Your team member TED requirements can be assessed in three major areas: your company as a whole; each job position's tasks/duties/responsibilities; and the development needs of each individual.

This analysis will provide you the answers to the following questions:

Where is training, education and development needed?

What specifically must an employee learn in order to be more productive?

Who needs what training, education, or development?

Using a robust, rigorous, and candid performance evaluation system for each of your team members, a manager can determine the development needs of each of his or her direct reports.

Research confirms that businesses that plan their training, education and development process are more financially successful than those that do not. You know (or you should), from your company's long