I’ve got a simple way to solve the technician shortage. If you’re like many in this industry having a tough time keeping techs, hopefully, this is music to your ears. Now just to be clear—you can check me if you want—I said I have a simple way to solve this issue. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy. In fact, those two things are very different. It’s simple to eat healthy food, but it’s not easy. It’s simple to save money, but it’s not easy. Most good things in life are simple, however, the majority of the time, they are not easy.
I’m going to make the assumption that you have some sort of retirement account for yourself. How would that account look if you never made any deposits? Perhaps, if you had the best and rarest of investments, that account would continue to grow without any deposits. Yet we all know the best way to treat our retirement accounts is to keep putting more into them. Again: simple, but not necessarily easy.
So, with that mindset, I’d like you to take a look at the technicians in your shop for what they are: your greatest investment. I’m certain you’ve spent more on labor costs over the past 10 years than anything else in your shop. And even though it’s our largest investment, I still don’t think the industry puts enough dollars into labor. As we view our labor pool as an investment, let’s look at some of the best practices for investing.
First, how much money are you putting into training for your techs? As we value financial investments by the rate of return we get out of them, I can assure you that training is an investment with a huge return. It’s common to hear shop owners and managers say they don’t want to train their staff as they are afraid the tech(s) will leave after they’ve been trained. But consider the alternative: you don’t train your techs and they stay. Seems silly when you think of it that way, right? With the technology in today’s vehicles, an untrained tech is more dangerous than texting while driving.
The good news is that the amount of training that is available today is far greater than ever before. Our industry is in the midst of a great awakening in regard to training. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start making that investment into your team. If you talk with techs, they will tell you they want training, and to be on a team that offers it regularly. Just like your retirement account, you will see your team grow and be capable of handling an increase in training.
I feel training should be considered something as critical as a part needed for the repair. Without the proper training, we can’t repair the vehicle correctly. If training is not in your budget, it’s time to adjust your budget. Take a look at what manufacturers you’ve repaired the most over the past 12 months. Once you’ve determined what vehicles you are repairing most, it’s time to start reading up on what type of repairs the new models are requiring.
Another account we should make regular deposits into are emotional accounts. I know there’s still some old school thinking in this industry that dictates we should just show up, put in our eight hours, and leave. That old way of thinking is sinking businesses all over the country. Our technicians are people, first and foremost. They have lives outside of our walls that are much more important to them. Gen X and Y don’t get their identity from their professions. If we aren’t making deposits into their emotional account, we will deplete all the funds. When the funds are depleted the tech will open up another account where the grass is greener.
So, how do we make deposits into these types of accounts? The same way you would when dating someone. You listen to them; you get to know what their interests are. Every time you show that you care about their life outside of work, you make a deposit into their emotional account, and you build a “trust” (yes, pun intended).
As you build that trust with each tech, it affords you the opportunity to make withdrawals (difficult conversations) from time to time without jeopardizing the account/relationship. You will also find that, as that trust is built, those difficult conversations become a two-way discussion instead of the manager just telling the tech the right way to do something.
Involving the staff in decision-making is how you begin doing that. We get more input from our team here than ever before. Whether the decision is big or small, making it together as a group regularly produces good results. We get buy-in from all parties involved. Even when not everyone agrees, at least they know they will be heard. This is not common in the workplace and therefore sets you apart. People want to be heard; the popularity of social media proves this fact. Make your shop a place where techs can be heard, and it will be a place they want to stay.
We all know investing pays off over time. Smart investing is simple, but it’s not easy. It takes discipline and a focused approach to achieve results. Our industry’s largest investment is the people performing the work. If you follow these simple steps your investment will continue to grow, and, best of all, it will stay with you.