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Continuing Professional Development - ARMS Unravelled

What are ARMS?

The Automotive Retail Management Standards (ARMS) are a vital tool to support automotive retailers in driving their business forward – as important as any other business system. ARMS supports the professional development of line managers so that they in turn can help develop the business.

Essentially, ARMS is a set of performance standards, written specifically for the retail motor industry, which describes the full range of occupational competency required by line managers. In other words – what should a service manager, sales or parts manager know about their job, and what should they be able to do – and to what standard?

Background to the standards

Research, backed by modern folklore and regular press testimony, has consistently demonstrated the need to develop highly skilled and qualified managers in the retail motor sector. (For copies of the rts research please contact enquire@rtsconsultants.com).

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), recognising this requirement, funded the Retail Forum to develop management performance standards which truly reflected the sector requirements. The Retail Forum was comprised of representatives from right across the spectrum of manufacturers, retailers and industry bodies.

The standards they developed were officially launched in July of this year, but in the run up, manufacturers and groups have been giving serious consideration to how they might implement them – not surprisingly, because a set of standards developed for the industry by the industry demands attention at top levels. The Sector Skills Council, Automotive Skills Limited (ASL), is the ‘guardian’ of the standards, and will ensure that they are periodically reviewed to keep them relevant and up-to-date. The Institute of the Motor Industry is responsible for guaranteeing the quality of the assessment process, and the Chartered Management Institute publishes all assessment material.

Structure of the standards

The standards are divided into units. Units 1-10 are referred to as ‘generic’ units, i.e. they can be applied to any line management role.  Unit 11 has 6 versions, specific to the various line manager roles.

Each of the units is sub-divided into criteria clearly set out.

The ARMS qualification is awarded at either Certificate or Diploma standard – see table below.

ARMS Units – Level 4 Certificate in Automotive Retail Management

  • ARM01   The Automotive Retail Sector
  • ARM02   Managing self and relationships
  • ARM03   Skills for effective communications and meetings
  • ARM04   Business planning, management and decision-making
  • ARM05   Resource planning and operational management
  • ARM06   Selecting and managing people
  • ARM07   Developing team and individual performance
  • ARM08   Promote quality and manage continuous improvement
  • ARM09   Marketing and planning management
  • ARM10   Developing customers

ARMS Unit 11 – Level 4 Diploma in Automotive Retail Management(one specialist area is selected)

  • ARM11.1  Delivering operational performance in New Vehicle Sales
  • ARM11.2  Delivering operational performance in Used Vehicle Sales
  • ARM11.3  Delivering operational performance in Fleet Sales 
  • ARM11.4  Delivering operational performance in Service Operations
  • ARM11.5  Delivering operational performance in Bodyshop Operations
  • ARM11.6  Delivering operational performance in Parts.

Benefits of integrating ARMS into automotive retail businesses

The rts team is currently working with several manufacturers and groups. They have identified the following key business benefits:

  • Using ARMS as a human resource (HR) tool - (see below) supports the prime business function of getting the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles, at the right time.
  • A benchmark for determining competency - i.e. the starting point for developing an individual’s performance, and as a fair last resort to release individuals whose performance continues to fall below standard.
  • Business improvement - adding brand-specific requirements and building Key Performance Indicators into each of the ARMS units ensure a clear linkage to business imperatives.
  • Develop managers as role models - whose effective management style is the outcome of access to structured development processes, rather than being dependent on what they have experienced by chance.
  • An audit tool - for manufacturers and retailers in determining where to focus the provision of training and development resource.

Benefits to the individual manager

A common language with which managers can approach career and promotion pathways. In other words: clarity about what is expected in the job role; understanding of the wider aspects of the business and how their job fits the big picture; motivation to progress by proving competency; self-belief from gaining recognition; pride in making a difference to the business; bargaining power in the form of an accepted currency; recognition of the contribution of training and development to business performance.

Options for integrating ARMS into retail businesses

The strength of the ARMS framework lies in the fact that it can be used as an organisational development tool as well as an assessment instrument.

The ARMS qualification – a guarantee of manager competence

The assessment model for ARMS is quite rightly a rigorous one - there are no shortcuts to a qualification that has real currency.  It will place demands on time and energy, and requires planning on how it should be introduced, for which managers, and over what timescales.

The rts experience with similar qualifications (CMS and NVQs) leads us to suggest that the following considerations are significant:

  1. How to integrate training and development opportunities - not every individual will be ready to go straight into assessment.
  2. How to position the qualification – individual managers require a thorough understanding of both benefits and demands so that they are clear about the personal commitment required.
  3. How to ensure individuals are supported through the qualification. Access to a coach or mentor will help to guarantee individuals ‘stay the course’. This is even more the case where individuals are not already taking part in a management development programme.

An rts worked model which has been adopted by two manufacturers is shown below.

The precise approach taken will depend on business priorities as well as the size of the retailer organisation, and on the requirements and level of support provided by manufacturers.

How the qualification is awarded

The qualification is jointly awarded by Automotive Skills, the Institute of the Motor Industry and the Chartered Management Institute.

The assessment process is as follows:Unit 1: Multi-choice on-line assessment Units 2 - 10: Work-based assignments Unit 11:  1 day in-role assessment

The assessment is rigorous and is expected that it will take some time for the average manager to progress through the qualification, which is considered to be equivalent to a 1st/2nd year of a business degree or Level 4 NVQ in management. Most will expect to complete within 18 months – 2 years.

Embrace or discard ARMS?

Why would you want to discard something that has been specifically designed by our industry for our industry? Surely not, unless you take the same view as the ostrich! Fortunately, our soundings across manufacturers, groups and independents suggest that the majority are embracing ARMS in one way or another.

However, as always, everyone is watching everyone else to see how they will apply ARMS; for instance will they encourage managers to go for the qualification? We therefore believe the next 12 months will be a crucial period for ARMS – whether to dip a toe in the water or jump in and embrace 100% and reap the full benefits.

STOP PRESS … Since writing this article, we can confirm that two manufacturers have decided to fully embrace ARMS. Renault and Nissan will be asking their dealers to put their managers through the ARMS qualification process over the next two to three years. The rts team is working with both manufacturers to provide a solution to support this ambitious objective.If you would like further information about ARMS or how to apply them in your business contact Lesley Jefferson at ljefferson@rts-uk.co.uk or call 01249 445622.