The ROI of education

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Education is a process — not an event. Many of us “got educated” in our younger years and then boat-anchored the process all together when we became adults with paying jobs and big responsibilities. That’s an oddball way of looking at education and personal growth, which needs to be lifelong. I come from a family of teachers who believe that learning doesn’t stop until the day you die. Before digging in any deeper, let me first define a term or two.

“Formal education” implies classroom settings, homework and tests with a teacher. Notably, this concept still exists, yet it has also morphed into online education with interactive lessons, quantified Learning Management System (LMS) evaluations and virtual instructors. “Real-world education” is what follows formal education: years of toiling in paying jobs with minimal quantification of experience and bosses providing various levels of mentorship.

The worst teachers in school were the automatons who stopped learning themselves and only taught the same systematized, outdated curricula? The good teachers continued learning through life and adapted the day’s subject material to apply to newer lifestyles and current events.

If you are an employer, then you are also a teacher. Are you stuck in your old way of doing business, and praying the economy will bounce back to rescue you? It’s your duty to evolve your customer-sensitive business with technology, with the economy, with your staff and with your customers. How about we redefine this bad word — “education” — into something more sensible and easier to swallow? Maybe even pleasant-tasting, like “training.” It’s been said the powersports industry is “talent- light.” Is that because we don’t pay well, don’t train well or don’t motivate well? Why do good people — called “human capital” by large corporations — choose to leave and go elsewhere for advancement? Look closely at the turnover you’ve had for various positions inside your dealership. Ask yourself if you could make more profits if you’d offer more training to employees, allowing them to become more self-confident and effective. You would have to pay them more money only if you, in turn, made more. Possible?

Understand training and education is about personal growth, which in turn leads to business growth. It’s a long-term commitment with good ROI.

Purposefully restricting your staff’s growth, however, is like putting low-octane fuel in your race bike — your engine is going to ping a lot. People without structure or a plan in life are unchallenged like players without a coach. Their work and career most often give them that needed fundamental structure. This may sound like Kung Fu Master speaking to Grasshopper, but “with enlightenment comes not only satisfaction, but wealth.” Interpret “wealth” as you will, but growth, like the conservation of momentum, always brings with it more growth. Success attracts more success. Motivated and educated staff members attract and, in fact, literally manufacture better customers.

If you haven’t experienced how to use www.dealershipuniversity.com for fundamental in-house employee training, check it out.

PowersportsMarketing.com is another great source of online behavior modification leading you to new ways of building your brick-and-mortar business in the new economy (see the left margin for yet another up-and-coming option). Joining a 20 group can also show you what others are doing well, and not so well. And by the way, YouTube videos are not fundamental employee education or product training — they are “ShamWow” retail demonstrations without quantification or documentation that anything was truly learned by the viewer. Retention doesn’t always occur from simple observation, but more when a student implements and documents what they have learned. The websites listed above use interactive learning and LMS software to do just that. You, the supervisor, are notified of completion and test scores.

Remember, you are not in the product business, but the people business! Products don’t sell products. People sell products … to other people. So it’s time to change our perceptions and attitudes about education and training. Self-improvement of your people and your store does have a great return on investment. Just look in any bookstore under the department by that name.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews November 2010 issue.