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Three Tips for Finding and Grooming Employees

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Lisa Siembab, director of business strategies at CARSTAR Berlin in Berlin, Conn., is on a mission to solve the technician shortage. When FenderBender last spoke with Siembab, executive director of the Automotive Service Association (ASA) of Connecticut, she was focused on bringing more people into the industry, specifically two groups that are often overlooked: millennials and English as a second language speakers. The previous article touched on Siembab’s hire of an employee that spoke almost zero English—Nelson; he is still at the shop and continues to impress her each day with his dedication and positive attitude.  

Fast forward two years and Siembab is still hard at work trying to solve one of the biggest headaches in the industry—finding qualified technicians. On a larger level, she’s working with high schools and colleges in the area through ASA to match shops and qualified candidates. Beyond that, she’s done work with the National Auto Body Council to establish an In-Language Initiative, which has created a glossary of common industry terms translated into Spanish. At her own shop, Siembab has staffed up by taking a chance on those who may otherwise have been overlooked. That doesn’t mean she’ll hire just anyone, though. Siembab is very selective of who she picks to work at her shop, though she doesn’t let things like age or language deter her.

“I look for passion and a hunger for learning,” Siembab says.

Hiring someone who is unfamiliar with the primary language spoken at the shop or someone who’s never been in a shop before has its obstacles, but Siembab has learned lessons along the way that have helped her develop quality employees.

 

Find the Right Mentor.

Siembab hired a recent high school graduate that, on paper, wasn’t an easy sell.

“It didn’t sound that promising when I got the call,” Siembab says. “He’d been out of high school for two years. It didn’t sound great but I’m always willing to sit down with someone.”

When the candidate came in, Siembab was impressed with his enthusiasm.

“I knew I could develop him because he had the right personality,” Siembab says.

Siembab hired him on and he now works in the disassembly department. She knew it would take time for him to develop his skills and that patience was key. So, she paired him with someone she had identified at the shop as being a good mentor and she knew wouldn’t let him fail.

 

Clearly Outline Expectations.

“I watch my tech’s labor efficiency and I was looking at a report and I saw one of them had said he was prepping a car for three hours,” Siembab says. “I thought to myself, ‘There’s no way it took him that long.’ I went out and asked him and he said, ‘No, no, 30 minutes.’ It turns out, the shop that he came from didn’t track that. I just assumed that he knew what labor efficiency was.”

Siembab says that it’s up to the shop to make it clear what’s expected of its employees. It’s also important to understand that they might come from a different background and it may take them some getting used to.

“Nelson isn’t used to the way many U.S. collision repair shops work and doesn’t have a lot of experience working in a team structure,” Siembab says. “After one of our recent meetings about a new setup we were doing, I checked in with him and he just said, ‘I’ll try.’ That meant the world to me. He may not always be comfortable or agree, but he always tries.”

 

Always be on the Lookout.

Siembab says she’s always recruiting, even if she doesn’t have a current opening. She advises owners to always be open—whether or not there’s an immediate need.

“I’ll always sit down with someone,” Siembab says. “You never know what someone will bring to the table.”

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