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Training is the key to keeping the wheels turning.

Training is the key to keeping the wheels turning

Automobile mechanics are supposed to repair cars and, to underline the point, a television advertising campaign in the US shows them chasing after vehicles to stop them and find something to fix. They're foiled along the way because these commercials are to emphasise that Jiffy Lube International - a pioneering company in the fast oil-change industry - has mechanics who don't want to fix cars. Instead they want to carry out preventive maintenance to keep them out of the repair shop.

The ads claim that, unlike some other dealer mechanics, Jiffy Lube's highly-trained technicians help you leave your motoring worries behind. Well they would say that, wouldn't they? After all it's a partisan marketing message. But mention of well-trained technicians is no idle boast.

In the August 2012 issue of Training and Development, Ken Barber notes that during the past two years alone, Jiffy Lube service centre employees have experienced more than a million hours of learning. The company established the Jiffy Lube University, a state-of-the-art training and proficiency testing programme that helps ensure that its service centre technicians are equipped with the skills to provide quality service to customers and their vehicles. ASTD, the world's largest association dedicated to workplace learning   development, awarded the company a first-place finish in its 2011 BEST Awards.

To transform its approach to training, the company focused on five key strategies: alignment, blended learning, learning brand, business results, and external recognition. A first critical step was to gain alignment with three key groups: the leadership team, franchisees, and vendor partners. A second step was the move to a blended learning model. This involved creating computer-based training modules to provide consistent, on-demand training for the entire Jiffy Lube system.

Branding the training as "Jiffy Lube University" (JLU) was a necessary step in evolving into a world-class provider. It was also critical to correlate JLU efforts with business results. To maintain support from the business, there must be a return on investment in training, and it was essential to connect the dots to prove that fact. A further crucial step was to seek external recognition for JLU.

In the August 2012 issue of Training and Development, Tony Bingham and Pat Galagan say the fact that virtually every Jiffy Lube service centre employee receives training is a notable accomplishment for a system composed of independent franchisees. Company president Stu Crum says the investment training not only provides a positive experience for the customer but also reduces employee turnover. Well-trained employees, he notes, tend to stick around.

While some organisations cut back on training during the recession, this wasn't the case for Jiffy Lube. Stu Crum says: "We have invested more in training every year since 2008, because when you stop investing in your people, you stop investing in your business. Because we are a 100 per cent people business, training is an area where we can't afford to spend one dime less."

Recognising that employees working throughout the franchise businesses need to be inspired - and doing something about it - has paid dividends for the oil-change experts. But their mechanics aren't the only ones who need careful handling. Business leaders also need encouragement and motivation. In issue 2 of the 2012 McKinsey Quarterly, Aaron De Smet, Johanne Lavoie and Elizabeth Schwartz Hioe say too often, however, senior executives overlook the "softer" skills their leaders will need to disseminate changes throughout the organisation and make them stick.

These skills include the ability to keep managers and workers inspired when they feel overwhelmed, to promote collaboration across organisational boundaries, or to help managers embrace change programmes through dialogue, not dictation.