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Want to End Your Technician Shortage? Focus on Retention!


Joe Marconi

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I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”

Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?

Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.

Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.

Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”

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If you are on any social media you see the trend today is to move jobs. Watch and listen as they explain why, todays employee feel the only way to advance is to constantly seek out new employment, pit employer against employer and leverage the best deals. They talk constant about how employers do not value the employee, there are sights where employees go to rate the employer and share pay rates. Our trade is no different. We don't provide clear career paths, pay increase, benefits etc. Long gone are the days when employees stayed at one place for their career. They take 401k and head for the door. No easy answer, make your little part of the world the best you can and carry on.

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27 minutes ago, pfseeley442 said:

If you are on any social media you see the trend today is to move jobs. Watch and listen as they explain why, todays employee feel the only way to advance is to constantly seek out new employment, pit employer against employer and leverage the best deals. They talk constant about how employers do not value the employee, there are sights where employees go to rate the employer and share pay rates. Our trade is no different. We don't provide clear career paths, pay increase, benefits etc. Long gone are the days when employees stayed at one place for their career. They take 401k and head for the door. No easy answer, make your little part of the world the best you can and carry on.

I agree with you, and to your point, this is a problem. Thanks for the valuable feedback! 

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I was mostly on the body shop side of dealers and bodyshop managers tended to stay a few years then move to different dealer. That reason was almost always pay based or not getting along with the ownership somehow. And in many cases the Bodyshop techs would if they liked the managers style and attitude, would leave and follow that manager. Was not uncommon to see 3 or 4 techs up and leave with the out going manager. That normally told you that manager treated those fellows well, respected them and they him. When a dealer went through 4 or 5 bodyshop managers in 4 or 5 years that told you is was pretty unlikely that that dealer found 4 or 5 poor managers, but that the dealer principle was poor in his management style. Things have changer over the years with employees, but I think all of us/them still require some level of respect for us to want to continue working for that person/manager/ corporation or business. Money is not always the factor keeping someone working for you. Just my opinon.

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57 minutes ago, weighit said:

I was mostly on the body shop side of dealers and bodyshop managers tended to stay a few years then move to different dealer. That reason was almost always pay based or not getting along with the ownership somehow. And in many cases the Bodyshop techs would if they liked the managers style and attitude, would leave and follow that manager. Was not uncommon to see 3 or 4 techs up and leave with the out going manager. That normally told you that manager treated those fellows well, respected them and they him. When a dealer went through 4 or 5 bodyshop managers in 4 or 5 years that told you is was pretty unlikely that that dealer found 4 or 5 poor managers, but that the dealer principle was poor in his management style. Things have changer over the years with employees, but I think all of us/them still require some level of respect for us to want to continue working for that person/manager/ corporation or business. Money is not always the factor keeping someone working for you. Just my opinon.

Wow. You bring up so many critical issues. I do feel that the work environment and ownership/management has an obligation to provide a workplace that takes care of it's people.  As you said, money is not the only factor.  Another thing, most shop owners are former techs, with little to no training in employee management or leadership. Perhaps this needs to be addressed, or the problem will only get worse. 

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52 minutes ago, Joe Marconi said:

Wow. You bring up so many critical issues. I do feel that the work environment and ownership/management has an obligation to provide a workplace that takes care of it's people.  As you said, money is not the only factor.  Another thing, most shop owners are former techs, with little to no training in employee management or leadership. Perhaps this needs to be addressed, or the problem will only get worse. 

Exactly, saw way too many times an excellent tech was promoted to management, and that was NOT his strong suit, fixing broken things was where he excelled, not dealing with people. then we would see another good tech call it quits and leave the employment becasue of the way they were treated.

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