Valvoline Instant Oil Change: 2020 BEST Award Winner, #1
The impact of a first-class talent development operation is seen in every operation at Valvoline Instant Oil Change and the results it achieves.
How's this for a metric to underscore the value of talent development and the corporate culture it can instill? At Valvoline Instant Oil Change, 100 percent of the company's service center and area managers have been promoted from within its ranks, where they started in hourly positions.
That figure is especially meaningful to the company's director of global learning solutions, Jamie Hinely. He follows it with a companion statistic: VIOC added 106 new properties to the 1,400-store system within the past year, part of a multiyear growth spurt. A large percentage are "ground-up" stores requiring new managers, not acquisitions.
Add to that the usual turnover within its management ranks, along with a recent strategy to staff multiple managers at high-volume stores, and you can grasp the daily TD challenges Hinely's department faces.
To help fill the management pipeline, the company pursues an aggressive agenda dedicated to attracting, developing, and retaining top talent. Its strategy integrates the gamut of talent-related functions, including acquisition, succession planning, and performance management.
At its core is a distinct profile of a target employee. Recruiting teams look for candidates who possess building-block traits and life experiences likely to accommodate strong development early in a new employee's tenure.
The company's emphasis on homegrown talent starts at the top, where President Tony Puckett routinely talks about his commitment to talent management at public events. A comprehensive program of structured early learning for new employees gets support from just-in-time resources, quick promotions, and the company's much-touted promote-from-within strategy.
The program begins with a blended learning plan for the 5,000 new hires each year at its company-owned stores. Principal features include an initial certification within 60 days and another promotion six months later. The result is a turnover rate at half the industry average and a well-stocked bench for supervisory and managerial posts.
Hinely's department delivers a carefully structured blend of instructor-led and virtual training at its properties. If that sounds routine, consider that virtual training is "a big deal if your facility lacks an available computer or when the store's only computer sits in the middle of an active bay," says the TD executive.
Learning programs for technicians offer an array of e-learning courses, hands-on training, practice and certification checklists, check-in meetings with trainers, and reading and comprehension exercises. Other courses run the gamut of hard and soft skills. They include a popular customer-facing initiative launched in 2018 and a new inward-facing initiative designed to build relationships within tight-knit crews at Valvoline locations.
VIOC's return on its TD investments include accomplishments that distinctly counter prevailing trends in the US retail sector, especially its impressive 13-year run of same-store sales growth.
Crowdsourcing its expertise
Among the top TD-related challenges facing every quick lube operator is the need to perfect and maintain the skills of its service providers. Every Valvoline facility's doors open to about 300 different vehicle makes and models, for which technicians can complete more than a dozen specific tasks. Team members must perform service speedily, as the moniker instant oil change underscores.
But formalized training programs can't possibly cover every automotive intricacy. As any experienced mechanic will attest, hundreds of model-specific methods are needed to finesse routine maintenance tasks, such as replacing serpentine belts and hard-to-find cabin air filters. Job safety concerns are always paramount.
Coping with such unexpected demands can mean added frustration for service team members—and an alarm bell of sorts for management. "In today's tight labor market, any bit of frustration we cause an employee is bad," Hinely confides. The company views it as an unwanted incentive for a valued worker to seek employment elsewhere, perhaps at a facility with climate-controlled temperatures and a more serene environment.
The learning team has devised a solution to that problem: crowdsourcing. In 2019, it unveiled an enterprise video portal that encourages managers to produce high-quality videos with their cell phones that demonstrate the surest routes around such pesky assignments. Savvy Valvoline veterans contribute and upload the videos to a central platform that integrates with the TD organization's learning management system. Busy technicians can view them there on their mobile devices at the precise time of need.
Technical experts evaluate each video prior to posting on the dedicated platform. In addition, videos have subtitles for easier use within noisy environments, and users can search them in various ways to quickly locate a given car's make and model. To accommodate different devices and bandwidths, the platform stores videos in a variety of resolutions and file types.
Robust analytics support the platform, which enables the TD team to track viewership in detail, such as whether team members are most often viewing certain sections of any video. Doing so enables the team to edit or create new videos to address a specific learner need, says Hinely. His team can also embed them into training courses if demand warrants.
The initiative is new but has received good feedback from the field, in part because of safety tips aimed at reducing injuries, says Hinely.
Performance management re-examined
Other TD initiatives launched last year include the elimination of performance ratings for hourly store team members, following a pattern unveiled with office employees the prior year. The process instead focuses on quarterly guided career discussions. In addition, managers have increased discretion over merit pay rather than basing compensation decisions solely on individual performance.
The new process features individual manager-employee discussions about triumphs and challenges regarding customer service and internal relationships. Among them are service-related "difference makers" and the building blocks of personal relationships—work ethic, positive attitude, and adherence to the golden rule.
To underscore such efforts, Valvoline unveiled a new program to help employees and their families in need of personal assistance, such as temporary emotional or financial support. The company created an independent not-for-profit corporation within which colleagues and others can make tax-deductible contributions.
View the entire list of 2020 BEST Award winners.