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AMA leads the way in setting the standard for industry competencies

 

Scofield added: “Fundamentally, AMA sets out to provide a common framework of training recognised both by manufacturers and their dealer networks because it’s based on independent assessment.

“Its formula is simple – good managers equal good leadership, equals happy staff, equals good customer satisfaction, equals profit.”

Burman, a member of a group of dealer human resource executives who meet to discuss “industry challenges and share experiences”, says Marshall is a keen supporter of AMA.

“Creating a common standard is a significant step in raising professionalism and building the capability within the industry.

If someone has AMA to their name, we will recognise this as a valid qualification.”

Burman echoed Scofield’s emphasis on the “transparency” of AMA, which enabled dealers and manufacturers to add their own refinements.

“Both sides will need to be reassured that this is not about replacing existing training,” she added. 

One testimonial on AMA’s benefits comes from Jayne Stansfield, eastern region manager of Autoglass.

Before joining Autoglass, she spent most of her career in high street retailing before running the Touchwood shopping centre in Solihull, and was among the first AMA graduates.

“The programme provides a comprehensive menu of training and development options to support candidate assessment,” said Stansfield.

“It provides the individual with a personal development plan and the employer with a set of standards against which to measure development.

“Perhaps its greatest benefit is helping you to structure your thinking and strategic planning – it gives you that extra focus.”

Stansfield continues to pioneer AMA.

As a result of her efforts seven other Autoglass managers have completed the programme, with another two due to undergo assessment. 

Location is a big problem

External training may be feasible enough if you’re south of the border, but Natalie Perks, HR manager of Macrae & Dick with seven brands and 11 outlets in Scotland, says dealers are ill-served by facilities north of Carlisle.

“Location is a big problem for us.

One day at Loughborough University means three days away from the office, with travelling and overnight accommodation costs.

The manufacturer-dedicated colleges may be fine for dealers in the Midlands and those further south, but it’s restrictive for the likes of us.

“As for distance/online learning, it has its limitations because of the isolation.

"It’s preferable to have a classroom environment with interaction of ideas and experiences.”

Even so, Macrae & Dick is obliged to fulfil its franchised agreements with a blend of manufacturer training and its internal ‘talent stream’ programme with subjects ranging from leadership communication to performance change management.

“In terms of measurables, the courses can become self-funding,” said Perks.

“Reducing the cost of rework on vehicles, looking at improving service plans, for example. 

“One course looked at the practice of providing £20 worth of free fuel and mats with every new vehicle sale.

From that came the idea of offering a £100 starter pack, with customers benefiting from discounts on a range of add-ons without us giving something for free.

It’s a more structured approach which helps our margin.”

Anecdotal evidence by Perks that “not many people at management level in dealerships have a formal qualification” is borne out by IMI research – less than 18% compared with an average 45% across other industry sectors.

As Steve Nash pointed out, that’s not to say motor retail lacks talent; rather it underscores the need for the ability to become harnessed to a qualifications’ structure.

Another issue is ongoing support for the newly promoted.

As one HR manager put it: “Typically, you have a sales executive promoted to sales manager, shown a desk and told to ‘get on with it’.”

The adage of square pegs in round holes is reflected by Pridgeon at Capital Learning and Development, who said: “Dealership heads are characteristically entrepreneurial who tend to prefer to recruit people like themselves, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to jobs like customer service.”

The IMI’s Scofield cited findings by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development that an ill fit between person and management job can cost a business around £10,000 in disruption and the re-recruitment process.

Part of the AMA package seeks to address this risk with a recruitment and selection profiling tool called Trait, based on a series of questions to determine whether candidates have the skills and appropriate ‘behaviours’.

According to Professor Jim Saker, director of the automotive management centre at Loughborough University, deficiencies in leadership development can in part be blamed on a culture which flourished when motor retail “was a licence to print money”.
 

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