Top Benefits to Offer Employees

June 1, 2019
Chris Paquette, owner of K & E Auto Body & Collision Center, shares his tips to entice employees to stay on at the company and avoid messy HR situations like losing staff.

Chris Paquette would say that roughly 90 percent of the shops in the country are not fixing cars correctly and not taking care of their employees.

Paquette, owner of K&E Auto Body & Collision Center in Queens, N.Y., has worked with his father since the shop first opened in 1995. The shop started from a mere “thought,” Paquette says, and now produces $3.6 million annually. Paquette became the sole owner of the business after his father retired roughly four years ago.

 He’s not immune to employees leaving the business. In fact, Paquette had to watch his brother and another business partner leave within the business’ first five years in existence after they decided to work exclusively in mechanical repair.

Today, Paquette is dedicated to not only retaining the current staff he has, but also bringing new technicians into the fold. Recently, he started to offer more employee benefits, which he says promptly boosted morale.

Paquette shares how he has introduced more employee benefits and handles issues that could be detrimental to the overall culture of his shop. Here is how he offers incentives to keep his staff happy and meet them at least halfway with their requests.

As told to Melissa Steinken

Get creative with benefits.

Even if you’re a small shop, try to consider all the different ways that you can offer benefits. For example, I offer a 401(k) package that I match by 3 percent. I also offer paid vacation days for my staff, including five personal days.

I wanted to start offering more of these benefits because in the market that we’re in—New York—there is not that much physical space for the shop. We have a total of 18 employees and work out of a 5,000-square-foot facility so it can be very cramped and, as a result, the team’s mentality can lean to being more frustrated than anything else.

Another easy way to offer some benefits is allowing flexibility in your staff’s schedule. Since we’re very busy in our area, if they work late, I’m OK with them coming in late. I do let my team take personal calls as well, because it helps boost morale. I encourage them to minimize the amount of calls they take but sometimes it is an emergency situation.

Remembering to give the employee flexibility and pay him or her fair wages, as well as keeping their work environment friendly and clean, can make the difference between someone who leaves and someone who stays.

Create an employee rulebook.

About three times per year, we have a morning meeting in which we open the floor to issues and suggestions from the team on ways we can make the culture better. In between these meetings, we have morning meetings every morning to have a quick, pep talk for them and to talk about what is on the daily schedule.

The reason those type of meetings are important is because it allows you to then create an employee handbook. Ours will be over 500 pages and will help regulate some in-house rules. The handbook will come as hard copy and we’ll have the staff sign a waiver that they received it and then keep the waivers filed in the office. The book will also answer any questions the staff members have if they don’t want to double check by coming to me.

Train new hires.

With anyone that you hire, it’s important to have a probationary period when they start. Roughly 99 percent of the time, I’ve seen people come back the next day after being hired because they have a good work ethic and want to work at the shop.

But, I don’t tolerate cluelessness. If the person has no clue what he or she is doing at the beginning of his or her shift, then I’ll dismiss him or her within the hour or two. You can tell if a person doesn’t feel comfortable working on a car if he or she becomes skittish when approaching the car or picking up the wrong tools to repair it.

We offer I-CAR training to all our staff after they’re hired. As a Tesla-certified shop, we also had each team member, even the office manager, go through training on how to be safe around those electric and autonomous vehicles.

Keep an edge around your competition.

Keep looking for new talent to help your team stay a little more stress-free. We compete with other dealerships, MSOs and independent collision repair shops. So, we put our job posts on sites like Indeed, Craigslist and even talk to our friends in the industry to spread it via word-of-mouth. We want some younger technicians because then they’re more likely to stay with the company for longer. And, it’s important for us to say that we offer these benefits so we have a niche against the dealerships that have an easier time offering employee benefits packages.

That’s part of the reason I decided to do this. But, before you begin, make sure to look at your finances and see if you have the budget to offer benefits. You need the money before you begin.

In my career, I’ve learned that it is very helpful to hire management to help you sort through onboarding and employee benefits problems. By hiring managers, they’ll help you manage how many people can make up your staff capacity and you gain more control of your facility.

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