The carwash industry has always had a tough time attracting and keeping the best employees. Why? The truth is that the industry has not had a positive image. No parents were hoping their children would grow up to work at a carwash. Although the quality of carwash operations and positive branding has started to improve the industry’s image, it is still a challenge at the site level to have high retention.

The truth about turnover

Carwash owners usually know their numbers pretty well. How many cars they wash in any given time period, dollars-per-car and unlimited wash club membership numbers are all statistics that owners have at their fingertips. The company’s turnover rate, however, is frequently unknown. 

Related: Understanding your cash flow

For example, if there are 30 total positions, full-time and part-time, at your exterior carwash locations and you issued 60 W-2s, your turnover rate is 100%. That is normal in the carwash business. Also, there is usually even higher turnover in the full-serve or flex-serve industry segments.

Reducing that turnover number can make a significant improvement in your carwash business. Assuming that you have recruited a good potential employee, the next most important step to help reduce turnover is, believe it or not, the first day on the job.

First impressions matter

The saying goes that “we only get one chance at a first impression.” My experience is that the first day of work for a new hire is critical. The question in the mind of the new employee that usually gets answered is, “Did I make a good decision in coming to work at this company?” If that answer is negative, that person might begin looking for a new job immediately. I am sure that everyone reading this article has had the experience of someone quitting by noon on his or her first day.

For the most part, employees hired in the carwash business are young people who are used to getting all their information online. If on their first day they are enrolled in an online learning program specific to the carwash business, the message to those young people is that your culture is compatible with them. Moreover, it will strike them as professional, which builds your image and puts them in an environment that they are comfortable with.

Team culture

How important a new employee feels the first day about his or her boss and the job speaks volumes about the organization’s culture. The objective is for the new hire to go home that first day and be excited about this new opportunity. In addition to utilizing an online training approach that relates to that millennial or centennial, connecting with that employee personally makes a difference. 

Talking to new hires about their careers, introducing them to everyone and having lunch with them the first day are all small gestures that, along with the professional training, can make a huge impact on people new to the job. Simply put, you are demonstrating that in your company culture everyone is important no matter their position. The online training can be the centerpiece of the message to new employees that they are important to the organization. Let’s review the elements of a successful program. 

Key elements of successful online learning programs

There are several criteria that any online video training program strives to accomplish:

  • Comprehensive. The objective is to cover all aspects of specific skills. For example, for a new customer service attendant (CSA), keeping the carwash location clean is a very important task. Showing not only how to clean but recording every area to be cleaned plus any changes in cleaning practices would be considered comprehensive.
  • Information matches desired practices. The information in any online training program has to match the desired practices. Ideally, desired practices match current practices, but sometimes online learning is signaling a change from current practices to desired ones. It is important to note that almost every carwash has some additional practices that may not be covered by the online program. These additional practices can be added verbally once the module is complete. It is important, however, that any additional information not be contradictory to the online learning content.
  • Paced learning. One often overlooked but important feature of a good online training program is that the material has to be spaced out in small increments. This practice is to ensure that the level of attention required is maintained.
  • Confirmation of learning. In order to measure the learning for any online training program, quizzes should be spaced out after each module with the expectation of a perfect score required before proceeding to the next module. Then, at the end of all the modules, a final exam should be given with a minimum of a 90% score required to be certified on the program. The reason for these high score requirements is because this is information on how to perform one’s basic job responsibilities, and everything needs to be retained for successful performance to be possible.
  • Enjoyable. The more enjoyable the online training, the more likely the new employee buys into the information being presented. Learning online is natural for most younger employees and increases their motivation to use the information on the job.

Consistency

There are also benefits to the carwash with online training. One of them is consistency. Every new employee gets the same information in the exact same way every time. This builds consistency in operations.

When employees are utilized at or promoted to other locations, the
standardization that has been created from the online training makes the transition much smoother.

And, most importantly, customers have the same experience whichever location they go to, and this strengthens the quality of the brand experience.

Efficiency improvements

With comprehensive online video training for entry-level employees at an exterior conveyor carwash, a new employee can be trained thoroughly within two days. The period of time that a new employee usually takes to become proficient on all of his or her basic tasks occurs over weeks, not days.

Even more importantly, managers spend so much less time conducting the actual training, since so much of the information is taught online. This approach allows the manager to focus on checking with questions to determine how much a learner has retained as well as emphasizing any critical points related to that course module.

The biggest improvement in efficiency is that trainees perform their duties correctly much faster because of the preciseness of the instruction that is being conducted in the online training module.

Additional benefits

The consistency and quality of online learning helps to create a customer experience that has speed and convenience, and this always favorably impacts car counts.

Competing successfully against any bigger players in the industry means attracting and retaining better people who can provide better service than bigger companies can.

Reducing turnover lowers the costs of hiring and training as well as remaining fully staffed to be able to increase unlimited wash club membership, which increases wash profitability.

And, coming full circle, these kinds of benefits help contribute to a positive corporate culture, which is a goal of all successful companies.  


Steve Gaudreau is President of Brink Results and is a co-creator of WashCourse.com, a carwash-specific online video training program for new employees and managers. He can be reached at  [email protected]