Top 6 ways to keep the best technicians at your shop

May 4, 2021
Panelists at virtual ASA X50 discussed tactics to keep the best and brightest in the industry.

There’s a big skills gap in the automotive industry and shop owners need to put effective strategies in place to hold on to top talent. That’s what attendees at the virtual ASA X50 conference heard Friday morning from the opening panel discussion.

“It's really hard to find good, skilled people right now,” said Jay Goninen, president at WrenchWay and Find a Wrench. “[It’s a] struggle trying to find those really talented people and because of this big skills gap, you need to step up your game — and talented people want to know you care about their future and you want to see them succeed.”

The panel identified several ways that shop owners can recruit and retain talented workers.

How to keep the best technicians in your shop:

1. Have clear career paths

Goninen’s biggest tip for finding and keeping talent is to have a clear career path. If individuals don’t have a career path, it drives uncertainty, frustration and disengagement, he said. Start by having a conversation with the employee to determine if their personal goals align with those of the business.

“Maybe they are starting out as a boot tech and their ultimate goal is to be a service manager…obviously they’ve got a long way to go but it’s good they are driven to that point. Be candid about their actual skill level and some things they need to work on… Then reverse engineer their career — start with the end in mind and work your way back to where they are today and lay out those milestones and those different types of roles they should be looking at to grow to that point," Goninen said.

Make sure individual career goals align with your business goals, and look down the pipe to know what’s coming from a staffing perspective, such as a looming retirement.

“Understanding how your shop looks today and what you want it to look like in five years is really important to your long-term success,” he added.

2. Include staff in decisions

Mike Reynolds, owner/operator of Mobile Automotive Service Solutions who also sat on the panel, stressed the importance of including staff in decision making. For example, if you’re buying a new scope, involve them in the process of selecting between the Picoscope, Snap-on and Autel, he suggested. Ask what they are more likely to use and feel comfortable with, rather than just making the decision for them.

3. Define your shop’s mission statement

During the panel discussion, Kevin Allen of the Automotive Training Institute, said if attendees only get one thing out of this presentation, it should be the importance of ensuring they have a mission and vision statement for their company. The statement needs to be in writing, communicated to the team and updated regularly. This helps employees and candidates know where you want your company to go and how you’re going to get it there, Allen said.

“If you haven’t defined your company’s mission or vision statement, none of this other stuff matters,” he said.

4. Recognize your employees

Allen also spoke about the importance of recognition — and this goes deeper than having a team lunch. For instance, he recommends going all out for tenure celebrations with a nice plaque, letter from the employee’s manager and presentation at an all-employee meeting.

Reynolds suggests showcasing quality work on the company’s Facebook page and giving a shout-out to the technician who completed the work.

Recognizing work performance is important, but Allen also recommends celebrating birthdays, major life events (such as a wedding or the birth of a child) or achieving a certification.

5. Get technology in front of students

A major problem in the automotive industry is people are entering and then leaving, said Reynolds. They are looking at that lead technician who isn’t into diagnostics and is just doing front-end work and they know that’s not where they want to be.

“We are losing the best of the best. These are the people that know they have a big future in whatever they want to do and they want to engage, they want to excel but they enter our industry and they don’t see a future for them,” he said. “They want the scan tools they want the tech, so we have to 1) make it available to them and 2) put them on a path so they can see the picture of that’s where they can end up.”

6. Be industry ambassadors

All panelists agreed on the importance of promoting the industry on social media, speaking at your local high school and tech schools and doing whatever you can to get people excited about the automotive industry.

“Are there opportunities to show off how cool this industry is? Some of that technology would blow the minds of young people," Goninen said. This is complicated stuff to work on; this is not easy. We need smart people in this industry and the more we can promote the industry, the better people we are going to get."

About the Author

Amanda Silliker

Amanda Silliker is the former editorial director of the Vehicle Repair Group at Endeavor Business Media. She oversaw five brands  — Motor Age, PTEN, Professional Distributor, ABRNand Aftermarket Business World. Prior to her tenure with Endeavor, she had over a decade in B2B publishing at Thomson Reuters, ranging from writing and editing content for print and web to managing awards programs and speaking at conferences and industry events. Connect with her on LinkedIn

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