Retaining Qualified Technicians
Are you having difficulty retaining qualified techs? The majority of auto repair shop owners in North America respond to this question with an emphatic “Yes!“
Are you a determined and progressive shop owner, manager, or professional technician dedicated to your career? If so, read on!
Technician retention is a two-way street. A shop owner must make significant efforts to retain technicians, and technicians must make significant efforts to be retained.
Many of today’s technicians feel they’re overworked and underpaid, and that they stand a significant chance of falling behind in the industry, technologically speaking. They often indicate on employment applications some of the following reasons for having left previous jobs:
- Lack of work
- Didn’t know what was expected of me
- Poor management
- Unethical business practices
- Problems with the owner or manager
- Poor earnings
Let’s look at these comments individually.
“Lack of work“ may be a result of too many technicians on staff for the amount of work the shop does. Perhaps an increase in car count, improvement in sold hours per repair order, and/or improved marketing techniques could have prevented this comment.
“Didn’t know what was expected of me“ may be a result of the rules frequently changing, lack of a written job description, lack of standard operating procedures, and/or a misunderstanding of the types of skills required when hired.
“Poor management“ may be due to the lack of effective systems to keep techs productive, an advisor’s inability to sell needed work or to source or have parts available in an efficient manner, or perhaps simply a general lack of organization.
“Unethical business practices“ could refer to a shop selling unneeded repairs and maintenance, overcharging customers for services provided, and/or employing bait-and-switch advertising techniques.
“Problems with the owner or manager“ often is a result of poor communication between management and the technician, such as not advising the technician why their suggestions for improving conditions or workflow were not implemented. This comment could also relate to the inability of both parties to overcome personality differences.
The “poor earnings“reason is often due to one or more of the following: a low hourly wage, lack of billable hours, lack of incentives, and — most frequently — shop owners not charging customers enough for the effort and skills delivered by the technician.
Walk in a Tech’s Shoes
As a shop owner, think of how a tech feels when they extend the effort and demonstrate the expertise to solve a problem or perform a difficult installation, only to see the charge for the work minimized or given away. How about continually having to handle other technicians’ comebacks? How pleased could a tech be when working next to a lesser skilled mechanic who bills more hours by performing work that’s easily accomplished in far less time than quoted, while the highly skilled diagnostician gets paid actual elapsed time for brain-twisting problem-solving?
Many shop owners tell us they employ at least one technician who demonstrates an “attitude” — someone who’s difficult to work with. And if they could find another technician with similar skills but without that attitude, they’d make a change.
Why is this “attitude” so prevalent, and what causes it? Unfortunately, most shop owners can’t answer that question. While they recognize that technicians are their most valued resource, high turnover rates indicate management practices must improve substantially, and employers need to demonstrate to technicians that they’re their most valued resource.
When shop owners and technicians have serious communication problems, it’s often because neither understands the other’s needs and expectations. Employers need to make a concerted effort in this area, and to provide a means for technicians to understand their needs and expectations.
Make sure to check back in two weeks for part two of this article, which will cover tips on how to retain all your talented technicians.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about recruiting, staffing, compensating, and retaining your shop staff, enroll now in Guerrilla Shop Management! These and many more topics are covered in this course, which begins October 13th. Click here or call 800-755-0988 to enroll!