Running a Shop Human Resources Hiring Shop Staff

5 Steps to Add a Shop Position

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Eight years went by before Steve Morrow realized he needed to create a new job position in his shop.

He would spend days helping the staff of three by working in the shop and also answering the phone—even when he was mid-repair and under a car.

Morrow, co-owner of Capitol Collision Center in Sacramento, Calif., says that either a shop owner will see a lot of problems in the repair process, accept it and help out with the issues by himself or herself, or the owner will see a need for a new job position to be created.

“If you don’t acknowledge the problem, then you can’t go about correcting it,” Morrow says.

A shop’s processes will naturally develop and grow throughout the years, says Will Latuff, manager for Latuff Brothers Auto Body in St. Paul, Minn., which means that the shop’s staff also needs to evolve.

While Latuff has rarely created a new job position from scratch, he says it is important to level out the work periodically and to keep the shop from becoming too management heavy.

“It’s about empowering people to make the decisions,” he says.

For Latuff Brothers Auto Body, the decisions are usually carried out by the staff. The shop managers encourage staff to make their own decisions when it comes to routine repairs, like replacing a bumper, Latuff says.

For both shops, the wrong job description or lack of a role can add time and stops throughout each repair. Morrow and Latuff share the five steps a shop owner can follow to create a new position in the shop and keep production flowing.


Step 1: Identify delays in the process.

Roughly 10 years ago, the insurance companies passed on some administrative work to the body shops, Morrow says. Since the body shop office staff had less to do before this change, Morrow says it took time to adjust to a new process.

When there is a delay in the workflow, whether it is during intake of customers or the repair, the delay is a place for an owner to stop and reflect. What is causing the snag in the process?

Latuff says to turn to the shop sales volume and KPIs. Latuff and the rest of the shop management team meet twice per week to go over the shop’s KPIs and discuss them.

The determination to implement a new role is based on whether the change in numbers is process driven or whether the amount of work the shop is processing can be handled without hiring additional staff, he says.

Between 2008 and 2010, Latuff used this process of reflection and KPI analysis to add an in-house mechanic at the shop. Requirements for diagnostic scans became more time consuming for other technicians. Small, one- to two-panel jobs were not the norm anymore, he says.

“We were seeing much heavier and more involved repairs being required that inherently involved more suspension, drivetrain and electrical work,” Latuff says.  

The new in-house mechanic has since taken over 90 percent of the scanning and work on advanced driver-assistance systems, he says.


Step 2: Write a detailed job description.

When adding a new position, take time to sit down and think about the position you want to hire and then craft a detailed job description. The description should include the purpose of the job, skill sets required and the overall goal of the position, Morrow says. The draft process should take only about one hour per week, but it is your opportunity as an owner to be thoughtful about the position, so you don’t hire someone in a rash decision without thinking about exactly what is needed.

“There’s a difference between a blueprinter and a customer service person,” Latuff says. “A blueprinter needs to be detail-oriented and process driven, while a customer service person needs to be empathetic with communication skills.”

Morrow says it is easier to begin writing the description by writing the end goal first. For example, when he put into effect a new role of a customer service representative, he spent time listening on the phone to how other CSRs interacted and then jotted down a list of observations as he went along.

The description should also include the daily responsibilities that will be accepted, Latuff says.

Morrow says the length of the job description can vary according to each position but Latuff says to never go past one page.

“It shouldn’t go more than one page because any longer than that, people are not going to read it,” Latuff says.


Step 3: Take time to add ‘emotional’ language in the description.

Morrow says he takes time to add in not only the skills and job details, but also a short section on how the customer should feel when the position is executed properly.

For Morrow’s shop, he wants every customer to experience a room that is clean and smells fresh. At the end of the customer’s visit, each one should leave saying, “wow.”

Include the attitude needed for the position, Latuff says. For an estimator position, for example, Latuff writes, “The estimator should always maintain a positive attitude, and approach toward every person, with which they interact, remembering the iceberg principle. The estimator shall educate, not alienate.”

For a service advisor position, Morrow details how the person needs to “truly care” in the role and take into account how the person was just in an accident and handling a confusing situation. Morrow writes how the customer service position always needs to answer the phone with a smile and reassure the customer it is a “desire” to help him or her.


Step 4: Know what traits to look for in the hiring process.

Passion. Willingness. Goal-oriented.

Morrow says while the potential hire does not have to be completely work focused, the person should demonstrate a level of passion for their work and a willingness to do well in the role.

To determine if a person is goal-oriented, a shop owner can ask questions like, “Are you in a serious relationship?” and, “What do you do in your spare time?”

One red flag is if a person skirts around providing an answer or is outwardly negative about a part of their past experience, Morrow says.

An owner should consistently look for someone who is able to take on personal responsibility, Latuff says. The manager should not need to have to check every aspect of their work. Instead, the manager should be able to go on the journey with the person and grow the position as it evolves, he says.


Step 5: Encourage team buy-in.

So, the position is made and the hiring process has ended. The next step is establishing trust between the current staff and the desired outcome of the new role, Morrow says.

The staff need to trust that the positions are going to be successful. In order to gain team respect and buy-in into the new role, emphasize the tasks have a timeframe in which they need to be completed and the person in the new role needs to focus on follow-through of what they say they accomplish.

Latuff and his staff have recently switched to a different team structure. He says since  switching to having two separate teams of body men, the positions created in the shop are focused on individual career empowerment. Latuff leads a team in one building and his estimator leads a team of five body technicians in the other building next door.

Reason and vision are the key factors to gaining the team’s respect for the new role, Latuff says. As an owner, he says it is important to take time to explain the reason behind the role to the team and the vision the owner has for the new position. This sets up an opportunity for the team to give feedback on the role. Listening to feedback can then make the process better and alleviate any concerns other staff bring to the forefront.

Without team buy-in, the owner or manager becomes the driving force of the modified role and it is no longer a process-driven solution, but a key person’s initiative, he says.


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