Creating an extended enterprise learning strategy in automotive retail

An extended enterprise learning strategy is a crucial tool for all automotive retailers and OEMs looking to gain an advantage in the competitive automotive retail industry. Extended enterprise learning strategies can be many times more complex than those that focus on internal training only as they need to incorporate the needs and objectives of all relevant organisations into the one extended enterprise strategy.

 Why do I need an extended enterprise learning strategy?

A learning strategy helps your organisation deliver training interventions that can have a real, positive impact through understanding the needs of your business and your learners, and focussing on the most important activities and metrics. A strong extended enterprise strategy can benefit your entire value chain, driving results and profitability for your organisation. It can help both OEMs and dealer groups create a stronger brand and thus improve customer retention. Extended enterprise learning can drive revenue by ensuring product knowledge and best-practice is distributed wherever it is needed, and can reduce risk by ensuring all staff complete any mandatory training on dealer group and OEM policies and procedures.

For dealer groups, having a strategy to manage training materials across all locations, and incorporating a wide range of different OEM-mandated training can both improve learning efficiency and provide a key point of differentiation as an employer. Staff at each location need to access training specific to the location’s OEM partners, but also need to know what makes the group unique and feel part of the group, not just a representative of an OEM.

As new cars continue to have a declining impact on group profitability and dealers shift towards a greater focus on used vehicles, sharing best-practice across the group will be more important than ever, and provides an opportunity for groups to differentiate themselves to both customers and employees. With a learning strategy, training becomes more than just a collection of courses that learners need to complete, and instead becomes a key tool to improve sales performance, benefitting both learners and the organisation. With effective reporting on the most significant metrics you can also link training to business outcomes, improving the quality of training interventions and improving the organisation’s performance.

If your organisation has the right tools to support your extended enterprise learning strategy, you can improve learner engagement further by ensuring the training each person has access to is tailored to their job role, potential career aspirations and location. A good learning strategy can help you improve employee retention by providing clear career pathways and opportunities for professional development, keeping your best people within your organisation and reducing the cost of replacing lost employees – a saving of £11,000 - £30,000 per person retained.

Benefits for OEMs include the ability to circulate and manage training materials across all dealer groups, ensuring that learners only access the training that is relevant for them and managing the completion of mandatory training. Having a strategy to support this benefits learners in making sure your content is relevant to them and can help them perform better, improving brand perceptions and sales performance. Your training strategy may also support your wider relationships with retailers as it allows you to deliver more tailored training interventions that are relevant for each retailer, building more personalised interactions.

Reporting also forms a crucial part of any extended enterprise learning strategy, and analysing your L&D reports can have a positive impact on your organisation, as it can for dealer groups. One of the major advantages of using an extended enterprise LMS to manage your learning strategy is that it also allows you to manage users’ reporting levels so that each user can only view the data relevant to them. In dealerships this may mean that the Dealer Principal or an administrator can ensure the business is meeting Dealer Standards, maintaining a minimum level of cover in the workshop when technicians are out for training, or monitoring training expenditure. And at OEM level, L&D departments can monitor the performance of training interventions on a large scale, refine learning content and show the impact of training on the wider organisation.

 

How to create an extended enterprise learning strategy

1. Define your extended enterprise

Before you can create a strategy to meet the needs of a group you need to know who these people are. Does your extended enterprise incorporate only the retailers or suppliers you would usually train, or are there others in your value-chain that you could also target?

2. Align your strategy with the business’ needs

A CIPD survey found that L&D departments are generally aligned with business strategies; a quarter of respondents reported that L&D is extremely aligned with the needs of the business and two-fifths that L&D is broadly aligned. For an extended enterprise learning strategy you also need to consider your organisation’s objectives in terms of its relationship with others in the value chain; will the organisation be looking to grow sales in a particular area or of a particular type in future? You may already have Training Needs Analyses for teams and departments, but understanding the business’ goals can help you focus in on the activities that will have the greatest impact on the organisation.

Strategic alignment relies on a good understanding of the business and extended enterprise partners so that your strategy can meet the goals of all organisations, and may include working with partners to distribute their training or create co-branded materials. Make sure you have researched the compliance implications of your proposed strategy, for example, how it ties in to existing Dealer Standards, and any of your usual compliance checks such as ensuring there is no unlawful discrimination in offering training opportunities.

If you do not already have an aligned L&D strategy, your organisation’s HR strategy may provide a useful place to start and could save you some research. You may also find that your L&D strategy is closely linked and supports your Human Resource Management strategy, making it easier to engage the wider business.

3. Engage stakeholders

Research is what separates a strategy from a plan. Taking time to understand the major concerns of different departments can provide the level of detail needed to create an action-plan with impact.

Try to understand what’s working well, what they need for growth and the strengths and weaknesses within each internal department, and if possible ask the same questions of your retailers and suppliers. If you have a large extended enterprise you may be able to create “segments” or groups of organisations within your value chain that share certain characteristics.

Don’t forget to include the L&D team as part of this analysis – your research may identify areas where new learning content or new delivery methods are needed. When it comes to setting strategy goals and objectives they will need to be achievable with the skills and resources you have available.

Another important group to engage is learners’ line managers. Generating buy-in from the senior people in the organisation is important for getting your strategy up and running, but line managers are one of the key influencers of whether staff undertake learning, with 58% of organisations reporting that line manager reluctance is a barrier to learning, so it will be difficult to achieve the best results from your strategy without their support.

4. Speak the business’ language

To generate buy-in for your strategy, you need to explain how it will help others in the organisation meet their objectives and contribute to wider business successes. For example, if you can show a new induction programme has reduced time to competence, can you translate this into terms of how many additional vehicles sold or serviced this could represent, and ultimately the impact on the organisation’s bottom line?

Also think about how learning is currently perceived by your organisation, and if possible, by your partners; is it seen as an investment for the future of the organisation or as a drain on time and resources? Framing your strategy in terms of business impact can help generate buy-in for L&D more generally.

5. Plan your tactics

It’s only once you have researched the business and know what objectives your strategy needs to meet that you should start planning the training and other activities you’ll need to get your extended enterprise there. Ensure that you have assigned responsibility for both carrying out tasks and for monitoring and reporting on them, particularly if your strategy relies on input from people outside your own organisation.

6. What does success look like?

Make sure you know how you will measure the success of different activities and the overall strategy. Try using the SMART framework to set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Make a plan to monitor your key metrics and have set dates to review the most important. This will give you the flexibility to improve areas of your strategy that aren’t quite right yet and focus attention on the most vital areas.

7. When does it end?

Even the best strategies won’t stay relevant forever, particularly in the current automotive retail sector which is undergoing constant change. Even with the built-in flexibility from monitoring your metrics on a regular basis your strategy will still need to be completely reviewed at some point. You will need to ensure enough time has passed for your strategy to have “bedded in” and been adopted across your extended enterprise, but plan to review it if you know when your corporate strategy will next be renewed or choose a future date when you expect that your organisation’s needs will have changed enough that a new training strategy is called for.

Download our free infographic summarising the 7 most important steps in creating an extended enterprise learning strategy

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Topics: Learning Strategy, Automotive Skills, Automotive Retail

 

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