There is a “Technician Drought” that has been plaguing the car industry for many years, pretty severely for the past 5 many years or so. Finding and keeping fantastic quality techs has been as incredibly elusive as a rainstorm in the middle of the wilderness. Like a real drought, this affliction causes the rationing of your the majority of precious resources; the people who really produce the work you charge your clients for! As a result, productivity, profitability, store growth, customer and employee fulfillment categorically suffer.
One symptom of the technology drought is Service Managers getting in bidding wars for technicians. The need of tech capacity in a certain specialized skill can be an emergency situation. Responding to fill the need this way can generate up the cost (and customer price) of labor and often the rate associated with technician attrition. Sometimes, techs obtain “stupid” offers from aggressive dealerships of high dollar flat price compensation that they either bite upon, and leave their current employment, or end up getting a raise to stay in their present location. “Well, the candidate called back and thanked us for the offer but said he was presented with a lot more money to stay” … sound familiar?
So how do we all proactively prepare and posture ourselves to make the best of this situation and make up for the lack of ready-trained technicians in the marketplace these days?
The constants I see that dealers can impact when considering how to attract and retain high quality techs are three-fold.
- Continuously recruiting and doing a great job in putting our best foot forward when looking for and enticing tech staff to the dealership to begin with.
- “Building” our own technicians from entry level quick service candidates, tech school graduates or attendees and current workers wanting to move into being a mechanic.
- Tech retention strategies that will hopefully preempt the tech from searching elsewhere due to discontent.
The First Impressions
First of all this is a category that we should always be interviewing for and have our search engines bringing us candidates. Do not let your guard down. You never know when you are going to need one more tech, in fact you probably need 2 right now! Position your car dealership and department as a superior work place with an employee focused management strategy.
Dealers have to step up and cater to a technician’s needs and desires to attract and keep a top-quality team. Of course, financial gains are not the only focus the tech has when considering an employer. Certain cash is king, but let’s face it, there are a large number of reasons that make being a technician rewarding…. or the opposite. Here is just a short list of the issues a dealership might want to consider in their efforts to catch the attention of Techs:
- An accommodating but respected Service Manager they like!!! (Yes they have to LIKE you! )
- Liberal sign-on Bonus deals after probationary period
- Climate Controlled and comfortable work environment
- Generous vacation considerations. Illustration; 2 weeks Paid Vacation after two years of service
- Weekly paychecks and Spiff incentive programs
- Medical, dental and eyesight insurance available
- Car discounts for employees and family
- Tuition reimbursement plan for qualified technical institutes
- Healthcare & dental insurance availability
- 401K retirement plan with matching contribution
- Supplemental life insurance availability
- Short term and long term disability available
- Paid training / Technician guild program
- Employee and customer referral plan
- Well being program (Gym membership, etc . )
Building the machine to build the machine
The most profitable shops at keeping and developing technicians from scratch have mentoring programs that are a win, win, win situation.
- The Mentor wins – He is compensated for trainee creation ongoing based on the productivity of the student. This gives him “Skin in the game”
- The Mentee wins – Certainly an effectively trained apprentice advances into a highly desired, well compensated tech in the best scenarios.
- The Car Dealership wins – Profitability and Client satisfaction soar with a stable and improving workforce.
There is another factor that makes a big difference overall in the quality of production coverage you can offer. Lack of specialization. The strategy associated with employing well rounded techs plus training apprentice and journeymen technicians alike in EVERY aspect of just about EVERY specialty. A greater percentage of your technical staff members being able to “clean a ticket” is a productivity “super-food” …. Imagine all operations on a repair order being able to accommodated by the very first person that pulls the car into the store.
Cheaper to Keep ‘ Em
In reality, keeping top talent is an even more pressing use than recruiting and expanding technicians. The same types of programs you might be attracting new hires with need to lavish seasoned techs with the “what’s-in-it-for-me” that goes beyond the paycheck.
Consider your techs and what makes it respond positively.
- Embellish your own tech incentive and spiff applications, run quarterly or bi-annual competitions.
- Hold regular meetings and do employee surveys to listen to their insight and make appropriate changes per their suggestions.
- Allow senior staff special scheduling considerations and rewards for a work well done.
- Create a “Brag Board” where accomplishments, anniversaries and exclusive milestones can be displayed for colleagues to see.
Often what people really want is recognition for excellence. By maintaining your focus on your top achiever’s accomplishments, you give them each a jolt of motivation with the same time align your up and coming personnel with a prime role model plus path to excellence.
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