As you may imagine, the dizzying array of automotive products and services create a major training challenge for Pep Boys’ retail locations. Training is critical to keep employees motivated, educated and up-to-date on the ever-changing market for car parts and accessories.
Pep Boys’ total training budget of $4.3 million represents less than $300 per employee per year. Yet the company’s goals require that employees receive a significant amount of training every year. The answer is a carefully designed and well-implemented program of high-impact and low-cost e-learning.
Pep Boys has learned that the cost of an untrained employee is 10 to 100 times higher than the cost of providing a high-value training program. As a result, the company has developed a complete blended-learning curriculum for sales associates, service technicians and managers. The curriculum starts with Pep Boys’ PARTS program—a complete set of online training for non-manager employees to familiarize workers with all different parts of the automobile aftermarket: batteries, brakes, transmissions, interior, lights, etc.
“Learning Central,” the company’s learning management system, was designed and developed by Pep Boys’ strategic e-learning development partner, DScape Interactive LLC of New Jersey. Learning Central cost Pep Boys less than $100,000 to build in its initial rollout. Upgrades and enhancements added another $250,000 to create an LMS that perfectly meets all of the company’s needs without the overhead of required maintenance or license fees.
“We found that we could develop and support our entire LMS internally without the need to acquire an expensive ‘off-the-shelf’ vendor solution,” said Jenny Berkley, e-learning manager at Pep Boys. “We felt that ease-of-use was the critical issue—so we built just what we needed and have one of the easiest-to-use systems I have ever seen.”
To drive utilization and completion, Pep Boys mandates compliance with the PARTS curriculum and management curriculum. First line managers’ bonuses are tied directly to compliance. If 95 percent of their employees have not completed training within the allocated time, they lose part of their management bonus. One of the critical tools that Pep Boys has developed to assist in this process is its training analytics system. This analytics and measurement solution gives managers the ability to see in a few clicks who has not completed training and who is behind.
All training completion information is captured in the LMS and then transferred into a training analytics solution built using Hyperion Analyzer (a business intelligence tool), making it very easy to identify the information managers want to view. Once a user identifies the reports needed, he can drill up and drill down to see aggregate utilization and completion data for the group he is interested in.
The system enables any manager to view all direct reports in their organization. A regional manager can view all employees within the stores in her geography. A line manager can view all the sales associates in his team. As a result of this dynamic reporting system, Pep Boys can quickly track completion and drive completion responsibility down to the first line manager. In the retail environment, where managers are busy and people are broadly distributed, this is a critical feature. Granular measurement and an easy-to-use interface is the only way to drive completion down to the individual manager level.
In Pep Boys’ case the investment in e-learning has paid off handsomely. Learning Central was launched in May 2002. During 2001, prior to the e-learning program and online certifications, Pep Boys’ attention to recruitment and retention improved the retention rate by approximately 1 percent over the year before. After the e-learning rollout and strong focus on skills and training, retention rates in 2002 improved 3.4 percent. In addition, records show that in the first year after the new system was launched, 46 percent of new hires completed their online orientation within the first 90 days. And survey results show that 78 percent of those interviewed stated that Pep Boys training “prepared me well for my job.”
“We have found that if you focus on instructional design and take a low-cost approach, you can develop a powerful curriculum at a very modest cost,” said Liviu Dedes, director of corporate training. “Our partnership with DScape and a fantastic internal team has given us an industry-leading solution that has become core to our focus on sales execution and customer satisfaction.”