How the 'Great Resignation' affects your business

June 29, 2022
Great leaders take care of their greatest asset through times of change — and beyond

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What you will learn:

  • How independent collision repairers can recruit employees in the face of stiff MSO competition
  • How to maintain your greatest asset: your employees
  • Why it's important to accommodate your aging workforce

Fewer individuals are entering the skilled trades. This has been true for the last 10-plus years for the collision repair industry. Fewer schools offer body shop and paint education opportunities. Administrators have cut school budgets for the trades. 

As if the situation weren’t challenging enough, the COVID-19 shutdown led to a decline in the number of repairs. Combined with the aging workforce, this led to a significant exodus of collision repair employees and technicians.  

Meanwhile, independent and dealership body shop are seeing increased pressure from national and regional consolidators eager to recruit their employees. The large MSOs have the ability to offer a more consistent volume of work, increased benefits, higher pay rates and vertical career paths. 

That said, independent businesses can provide more flexibility and a higher quality of work. Good employees are drawn to excellence. They want to repair the vehicles with the best parts to return the car to pre-accident condition. Not all employees want to work for large corporations. I know of one estimator who, as soon as he learned the collision center was being sold to a consolidator, gave his notice and moved to a smaller body shop.  

I often ask shop owners and managers what keeps them up at night. Recently the answer has been pretty consistent: worrying about losing employees or finding quality people to fill open spots. I had one owner tell me that another business had tried to hire his shop’s entire paint department.  

Finding and retaining employees is ultimately the responsibility of the leader of the business. So, what can you do as a leader to improve your odds of making it though the “Great Resignation”? 

Here are my thoughts: 

•  Are you valuing the whole person, not just the work they do? Do you see them as a person providing for their family, returning their neighbors’ cars to pre-accident condition – or do you view them just as someone fixing dents and spraying paint? Are they there to serve you and to make you money? Or are you there to help them succeed? 

• Are you accommodating your aging workforce? Have you brought in a new apprentice to work with the experienced employee? It’s a long-term approach because in the short-term, your labor gross profit percentage may be lower. But your experienced employees will train the younger employee in the way you do things, rather than the apprentice needing to unlearn bad habits picked up elsewhere. 

• Are you getting departments to understand the value of working together as team, avoiding that single person silo of “getting my hours”? I’ve met some Primadonna metal technicians who were focused only on how big they could make their paycheck. Maybe it’s time to let an employee go to move an entire team forward. 

• Are you providing education and training, giving the employees the resources they need to be successful? 

• Are you sharing how the business is doing? Employees crave constructive feedback. If you dread giving feedback, or you fail to do so consistently, maybe you would benefit from a coach yourself. People like to keep score. How much fun would a basketball game be if there was no clock, no score? Help your employee set goals and let them know how they are helping the business win. Be careful when they fail. Focus on the learning opportunity. 

• Are you open to their input? Do you provide an environment where technicians are excited and engaged each day? Do team members feel empowered because their ideas are considered? Even a porter, if allowed, will present new ways of improving the process. 

The owner of the shop whose entire paint department was being recruited by a competitor was able to retain those employees because each day he made the employees feel valued. He treated them like family. I believe the employees also understood what was different at their place of work, and what it might be like working for an organization that would steal an entire paint team despite what that would mean to all the other team members. 

Are you feeling more motivated to value your greatest asset? I enjoy helping leaders work though these questions. Please let me know if you would like to hear more success stories of how great leaders value their most important resources.

About the Author

David McCreight | president

David McCreight, LSSBB, president of Collision Resources, has more than two decades of experience helping body shops grow and improve through business coaching, software solutions, and marketing and management services. 

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