Frequently in corporate education, when the telephone rings, the caller on the other end is requesting some form of training. In a performance-based environment, training is but one of a myriad of possible solutions. The big question always is: How do we ensure results? The answer usually involves more than a single training event. The difficulty in any developmental intervention is the lack of integration of processes, the breakdown of communication with management and the vacuum of accountability.
Clearly, we need to do something outside of the norm in order to address all three of these issues. The University of Toyota sees performance coaching as one possible solution. Students had difficulty going from training to implementation, so Toyota wanted to do something to give them an enhanced opportunity to succeed. In other words, it wanted to ensure that what they learned, they actually had a chance to execute back at the dealership, and that someone would be accountable.
It should be fairly obvious that when only one or two people from a business or workgroup attend a class, implementation problems are likely. When they return to the office all pumped up and ready to change the world, they can be deflated by co-workers who have not had the same wonderful experience over the past day or two, and by a manager who has little idea of what was learned or how to support the studentsï¿½ new efforts back on the job.
Performance coaching addresses these issues in a simple but extremely effective manner. First, the coach is actually sent into the workplace, allowing him to get to know the existing processes and then work with the team to customize the new processes to the given situation. Second, the coach is there to facilitate communication with management from the start, thus ensuring a greater likelihood of buy-in and implementation. Third, students recognize that two things happen with regard to accountability: Their manager becomes an integral part of implementing the changes, and the coach will be back to observe and enhance implementation in the future. Using this process, Toyota has instilled accountability both up and down the chain of command where previously little or none existed. Perhaps a good way to illustrate this is with the recent launch of the brand Scion.
It all began with the challenge of Generation Y, a new breed of automobile buyers who didnï¿½t play by the old rules. To reach this new audience, Toyota created Scion, and the dealerships had to change the way they did business. To help its clients make this fundamental change, University of Toyota developed a targeted training initiative for Scion, called the Scion Performance Coaching Initiative, which provided Scion dealers with dynamic in-dealership coaching and process education.
Scion was about to change everything about the way these cars were sold. This meant that dealership personnel at all levels had to be trained to implement the new process, and it had to happen quickly. University of Toyota hired the best experts and coaches in the country and sent them to work with each dealership for six days, reaching all the Scion dealerships over a period of five months.
To create a new atmosphere and a new way of relating to the Generation Y buyer, Scion dealerships had to transform themselves, physically and mentally. How do you approach price negotiations when there arenï¿½t any? What kinds of communication techniques ï¿½keep it realï¿½ for this audience?
Performance coaching went beyond training to include working with everyone in the dealership, but focusing on the management team to develop an action plan. Each coach would then return to check progress and move on to the next level of the program. This ensured that dealerships were implementing what they learned and enabled feedback and coaching from performance coaches who had a wealth of experience in the automotive business.
The in-dealership performance coaching program used with Scion is a breakthrough concept that has dramatically changed the way Toyota helps its dealers sell. The response has been very positive and has impacted job performance at every level. It proved University of Toyota could quickly and effectively help dealerships make a major cultural shift in their approach to selling a new product.
Chuck Oï¿½Keefe is national education and development manager at the University of Toyotaï¿½s Lexus College. He is responsible for all curriculum development, new product launches, learning technology and strategic alliances for a student body of more than 50,000 Lexus dealer associates. He can be reached at email@example.com.