One of the biggest issues facing dealerships in the past few years, now decades, has been finding skilled labor for their shops. It is a huge issue that is talked about repeatedly, yet most dealerships still struggle to find technicians.

There are many reasons why we find ourselves in the position that we do, but the fact of the matter is that the problem is there, and it’s probably not going away any time soon. 

So, how do we get our hands around this issue? How do we take this from a position of weakness into a position where we dominate our market? 

Start with the Basics

Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit.

First, you have to be a good place to work. Technicians talk, and if your dealership is perceived as not being a fun place to work, not paying competitive wages (which seems to change by the minute), lacking purpose, or an organization that fails to grow your people, you’re going to have a significantly tougher time finding people. Be realistic about where you stand from a technician’s point of view, improve on the areas that need improvement, and promote the areas that make you stand above the rest.

Second, you have to be intentional. Most companies say that people are their number one priority, yet it’s number one hundred on their to-do list. You cannot sit on your hands anymore. You must have some type of plan that you’re going to hold yourself accountable to. Without a plan, daily fires will consume you and you’ll lean on old habits.

Your technician recruiting plan should cover two different strategies based on the skill level: one for experienced technicians that can help your immediate need and the second should be focused on how you’re going to grow a pipeline of talent so you don’t find yourself desperately looking for techs ever again.

Finding Experienced Technicians

The process for finding experienced techs can be relatively simple if you’re proactive. Start by making sure that your comp package is actually good. Are you paying enough to lure a good tech from a job that they’re probably already getting a good comp package from? It’s probably pretty obvious, but the higher you pay, the less trouble you’ll have finding techs. 

Once you’re comfortable with what you’re offering, make sure technicians know who you are. Employer branding can significantly help your chances of finding people if you’ve created a brand that people are drawn to. You also want to create a general awareness that you have a job opening. You can do this by having a good posting on your website, putting an ad out on Indeed, and posting on social media. Word-of-mouth is still probably the best way to get people interested, so getting people to share a post for you can be really helpful. 

Building a Pipeline of Technicians

The second part of this is a bit more time-consuming and comprises developing a program so you have consistent young talent coming into your shops. Bringing young techs into your shop is an exercise in patience, but is one that can pay major dividends if done correctly.

When you look at your process for finding and developing young talent, try not to overthink it. It can be as simple as following six steps. 

  1. Facilitate Job Shadowing – Work with local high schools to organize multiple job shadows.
  2. Create an Apprenticeship Program – Figure out which students have the most potential and get them into some form of apprenticeship program. If your dealership won’t allow students under 18 to work in the shop, I would ask questions. Not being able to hire anybody under 18 can negatively affect your ability to establish a pipeline of talent. Make sure you invest some time upfront to have an apprenticeship that offers the young person structure. There’s nothing more frustrating for both the shop or the future tech, than an environment without good leadership.
  3. Encourage Tech School – I’m seeing more and more dealerships push to have young people skip tech school in favor of coming directly into the shop. While some can do it, I’d argue that spending a couple of years in tech school not only helps with learning the fundamentals but also helps buy a couple more years of maturity. 
  4. Focus on Nurturing Entry-Level Techs – Regardless of what route the young tech took to get where they’re at, the first couple of years of their career might be the most vital. We lose a lot of young techs within the first few years they’re in the business. Make sure you provide them with a good mentor and do everything you can to help them be successful. 
  5. Offer Continual Training Programs – Once they get some stability, most good techs crave more training. I’d encourage you to sit down with them, walk through a career plan, and try to understand their career goals. Identify what kind of training they’ll need and get started on getting them to training. 
  6. Treat Them Well – There are a lot of shops worried about investing in techs only to have them leave. My feeling is that if this is what worries you, you’re focused on the wrong things. Rather than worrying about that, focus on making your shop a destination that techs would be crazy to leave.

It takes a lot of effort, intentionality, and patience to truly start building your future technician workforce. Those that take the time and effort to do it the right way are going to have a significant advantage. I truly believe that if you put the work in now, you will have the team you’ve always dreamed of. 

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