How to Get and Keep Qualified Diesel Technicians
If you own a repair shop, I don't have to tell you there's a shortage of qualified technicians. It's a problem the vast majority of shops are currently facing. But what can you do about it? If there's not enough, there's not enough, right?
Actually, there are quite a few things that you can do to help ensure you're getting the best possible employees to fill your open positions—obviously you don't just want anyone off the street who can hold a wrench. You want quality, trained technicians. So just what should you be doing to help these techs find their way into your shop?
It takes a little time and investment on your part, but it is possible to get the quality techs you want. It should be said that this is a long term strategy, helping you plan for the future of your shop. It might take a little time, but it will better help you achieve your long-term goals—and save you money.
Did you know that the cost of replacing an employee can range from 30%-400% of their annual salary, depending on their skill level? This can be taking a huge bite out of your profits if you're experiencing high turnover rates. Wouldn't it be better to take a little time and find the right people, rather than paying again and again to hire people that just don't quite work out?
The cost of employee turnover speaks to the second part of keeping your shop fully staffed—retention. You not only want to get good technicians into your shop, you want them to stay there. A lot of that boils down to shop culture, on top of benefits and pay. Your employees want to feel valued, like they have a place, and to keep them, you have to make sure your shop has an environment that creates that feeling. We'll talk about how to achieve both parts of finding qualified technicians throughout the post.
The following infographic touches on some of these ideas:
Setting Your Goal
As with any of these repair shop headaches that you want long-term solutions for, it's vital that you spell out your goal. For this particular issue, it might be something like:
I want to hire X qualified technicians within the next calendar year, who fit in with the shop culture, and be able to retain those technicians through improved benefits, better recruitment efforts, and an emphasis on a good working environment.
Who is Responsible?
Since this goal affects your whole shop, each of your employees, including yourself, will share in the responsibility of helping to hire and retain new technicians.
The Shop Owner
As the shop owner, you'll be at the forefront of looking for new technicians to bring into your shop. Even if you're not currently in need of technicians, odds are you will be in the next few years (retirements, shop growth, unforeseen turnover, etc.) So it's good to start laying a foundation for the future. And that means forging relationships with local schools and technical programs to help get your name out there. Ronnie Garret, writing for Heavy Duty Trucking points out that those who do not partner with local schools often find themselves shorthanded. The new technicians are routinely snapped up pre-graduation by shops and companies that work with or sponsor tech programs. They have the access to new technicians, leaving none for any other repair shop.
So you want to be one of those shops with the access. You or some of your higher level techs could offer to mentor students or teach. You could provide access to equipment or onsite training. Find out what the schools in your area need, and see if you’re shop can provide it to them. That way, you can start recruiting before techs graduate, and give yourself a much needed leg up.
It's also your job to help set and maintain shop culture. You want your employees to feel welcome, and like they have room for advancement. You can read more about improving your shop culture in one of our earlier posts.
This person is whoever in your shop is actually responsible for interviewing and hiring new employees. They need to make sure they are bringing in only qualified technicians who seem like they'll be a good fit for the shop. This will help with turnover rates, as well as overall shop culture. We wrote an earlier article offering recruiting tips that might be useful.
It will be the job of your other employees to help maintain shop culture. They need to make new technicians feel welcome and engage in their training process, rather than viewing them as people who don't know how to do anything. Encouraging ongoing training amongst all your employees can help with this. Think about setting up different pay scales or programs to encourage continuous learning and advancement.
Measuring Your Progress
There are several ways you might measure how your recruiting efforts are going. For example, if you set up some kind of partnership with a local school or technical program, you can see how many employees you've gained as a result. You can also measure changes in your shop's turnover rate. Since implementing new systems to improve culture, have you noticed less people leaving the shop? Efficiency and job performance are also good indicators to help you see if you've hired the right people. Deciding on your overall goal and the specific methods you plan to achieve it should also factor into to how you measure your progress. Try to tailor it to your specific plan.
Systems You Might Consider
If you've been reading past posts in this series, you probably guessed that creating processes is a big part of achieving this goal. You want to make sure they're actually documented systems, not just things you assume are generally understood throughout the shop. It's really the only way you can accurately measure your success to make future business decisions, and recruiting/retention plays a large role in that. Some systems your shop might benefit from include:
- Recruitment: Having consistent recruitment standards can really help with the overall hiring process. That way you aren't bringing in people just to fill spots, but instead hiring only people who you feel will thrive.
- Training: While your new technicians will likely come with certification, they probably won't be instantly ready to jump into a full workload in your shop. Make sure that they're getting the proper training they need to be successful in their new position, and think about encouraging further outside training. Not only is this beneficial to the technicians, but it can actually help your shop grow.
- Benefits: It’s not just pay that new employees are concerned about. Make sure you have a good benefits system in place. This can include the standard insurances and time off, but you might also think about things like tool allowances, comp time in place of overtime pay, and company outings and events. All these would be benefits for your employees and help with overall shop culture.
- Relationships with Local Technical Schools and Programs: As we talked about above, forging relationships with local schools is one of the top ways to improve your recruitment efforts. Systemizing how you want to go about these partnerships can help both help you continue the partnerships from year to year, as well as measure how they're working for you. If you need to make changes, you'll be able to better see what they should be and how they'll affect your shop.
Reviewing Your Systems
After putting all the work into creating and documenting, you don't want to just leave it at that. Instead, make sure you're reviewing how they're working for your shop. Is your recruiting up? How about retention? If you don't see the results you want, reevaluate the systems you have in place. What could be changed to help better achieve your goal? This way, you can be systematically moving toward your goal, rather than just blindly trying to find your way.
Remember that this is a long-term strategy, so you might not see immediate results. Instead, see it as an investment in your shop. Not only will you better be able to fill your current openings, but you'll have systems and processes in place that will help you with any hiring needs into the future.
Our Repair Shop Value Program can help save time, money, and frustration on your search for parts. Talk about a way to help shop culture!