It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot in the past year or so. Whenever I’m talking to other shop managers and owners, the topic seems to come up.
In my experience as a shop manager, good technicians are nearly impossible to find. Those that really excel at their job are usually well looked after and are not interested in finding a new place to work. As the old saying goes: the good ones aren’t looking, and the ones that are looking aren’t good.
To me, the answer is to grow your own technicians. You will need to have lots of patience but changing the way you hire is a long-term investment that brings long-term pay offs.
In the old days, when finding good techs wasn’t as difficult, many of us would know just by looking at a resume, without even meeting the applicant, if they’d work out or not. But when you’re hiring entry-level employees, work-related experience is almost guaranteed to be lacking.
These days you have to hire for attitude, and train for skill.
It starts with giving applicants the benefit of the doubt and making extra time for detailed interviews that will uncover their true potential.
You’re looking for candidates who take their goals seriously. I always start by asking, “Is this what you want to do for the rest of your career?” If the answer is yes, my follow-up question is, “Why?”
People with good answers to those questions, and good attitudes to match, are the perfect candidates to take a chance on, regardless of their automotive-related experience. These are the people worth investing in. Empower them to take their career where they want it to go. They will not disappoint you.
Once you’ve got a good team in place, you can start a “pay it forward” training model. This works well for both the technicians and for the business. Let your staff know that each position in the business has tremendous value, demands a unique set of skills, and comes with its own responsibilities. Put everyone in charge of training and mentoring the next person in line.
For example, it is the responsibility of our senior technician to constantly train our newly licenced technician, who is responsible for training our apprentice, who is responsible for training the clean-up/tire tech. This model allows all the employees to learn and practice their leadership, technical, and interpersonal skills. It encourages maturity and professionalism, as well as teamwork.
This also serves as a cost-effective way to replace any technician when necessary, without having to scramble. There will always be someone next in line who is trained and can fill the void. This allows you to always hire at the entry level, the easier position to fill.
There is so much more to technician retention than simply offering a great wage and benefits. Today’s technicians need to know their work is important to the overall success of the business. They need to know that what they do matters.
Giving every technician a defined role with the responsibility to train their replacement fills your shop with ambitious and successful employees.
Marc Sleaford is store manager at Fountain Tire London Westmount, London, Ont.