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Driven to change: Pep Boys’ new talent strategy boosts profits

Sometimes the road ahead requires a different kind of driver.

Back when Pep Boys was approaching its 90th anniversary, the Philadelphia-founded automotive services company embarked on intensive efforts to craft a new strategic plan. Although Pep Boys had become a multi-billion-dollar operation with more than 800 stories across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, company leaders believed they needed a deeper understanding of their position in the market, the needs of their customers and the service strategies that would optimize Pep Boys’ profits.

“The Road Ahead” initiative convinced executives to make a strategic shift in corporate culture. Rather than focus on providing the lowest prices to customers, Pep Boys needed to provide customers with a higher level of knowledge and assistance. “We don’t sell, we solve” soon became a company mantra. To fulfill that promise, however, Pep Boys would have to adopt new approaches to recruiting and training.

The company identified the skills and traits employees would need to thrive in the new culture, then retooled the careers section of its website to succinctly describe and attract desirable candidates. Adorned with a photo of a slick, black car, the page asks “Are you built this way?” Pop-up boxes explain how certain skills and behaviors – such as perseverance, creativity, customer service, continuous learning, performing under pressure and being a team player – are as essential to Pep Boys operations as brakes, oil, tires and a smooth-running engine are to any automobile.

The company also rolled out a program of ongoing and tailored training for both new hires and existing employees. It expanded and updated in-house training programs to reflect its new culture. Through in-person and online lessons as well as on-the-job coaching, the program covers onboarding, product knowledge, automotive theory, technical skills, information technology, finance, and company-specific systems.

The training also encompasses, customer service, time and stress management, and leadership development. The results of embracing a new culture and developing a talent force to implement that culture have helped converted stores experience double-digit sales increases, despite the tough economy.