Coach’s Corner: Shop Owner Hiring Challenges

Let’s face it. The automotive industry has been dealing with the technician shortage for years. Covid shed light on it but let’s not kid ourselves. This isn’t a new problem for our industry.Challenge

It’s the number one challenge owners are telling me they have. They can’t find help. Keep in mind, although some owners settle for anyone they can find out of desperation, the goal is to hire dependable people who want to develop their skills. Sounds simple enough, but it isn’t.

To get to the root cause of any problem or challenge you must dig a little deeper. Staying on the surface is like putting a bandage on a cut that needs stitches. Owners tell me today’s teams have changed.

  • “They can’t get their team to be on time and some take a lot of time off”
  • “The people they hire aren’t as skilled as they say they are”
  • “Today people want an income not aligned with their skill set and/or ability”

The challenge of being short staffed

  • Customer service – Can’t deliver the high-level service customers expect
  • Clear communication – Parts delays and shortages make vendor communication
  • Sales conversations – Challenges with job completion expectations
  • Productivity – Falls short due to a heavy workload and scheduling issues.

What Happened

Owners have been looking for fixes outside of their business. Offering sign-on bonuses and higher salaries. Yet people aren’t applying. Benefits such as health care, uniforms, paid holidays, paid time off, and retirement are standard expectations of top talent or achievers.

People haven’t felt safe at work for a long time. They may not have had an opportunity to advance their skills or share ideas without ridicule. Covid brought much of this to light. For many owners letting people go gave team members time to think and question the safety of their job. Once they were called back to work, many business owners were surprised to get a “NO.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

  • No matter what generation you’re in, most people want to be valued and appreciated by their boss/manager.
  • They want to learn and grow to develop their skills
  • They want to contribute without fear of judgement
  • They want to challenge some of the ways things are being done

I’ve seen this in other industries as well. Supply chain issues because of the labor and driver shortages. All kinds of businesses are working with a limited staff. I’m sure you have seen the affects in the grocery stores.

I recently learned of ‘The Four Stages of Psychological Safety’ by author Timothy R Clarke, which describes the four “stages” of psychological safety that teams can move through.

The four stages show up in the automotive industry:

  1. Inclusion Safety – members feel safe belonging to the team. They are proud to work where they do and feel wanted and appreciated. Welcome new team members.
  2. Learner Safety – members can learn through asking questions. Team members here may be able to experiment, make (and admit) small mistakes, and ask for help. Have an onboarding process and clear expectations
  3. Contributor Safety – members feel safe to contribute their own ideas, without fear of embarrassment or ridicule. This is a more challenging state, because volunteering your own ideas can increase the psychosocial vulnerability of team members. Regular meetings including collaboration
  4. Challenger Safety – members can question others’ (including those in authority) ideas or suggest significant changes to ideas, plans, or ways of working. Check in with team members regularly for updates and ideas

What stage of team safety stands out the most for you?

Assess these stages in your shop. Doing so will help you realize blind spots. Then include these safety stages in your business with the team you have now. It will also help to attract the right team members and repel the rest.

It’s time to educate your team on how much they impact business. As shop owners creating an environment where people feel safe, can develop, and grow allows them to find fulfilled at work. Fulfillment is a competitive advantage.

Maryann CroceMaryann Croce, a certified partner of Todd Herman’s 90 Day Year™, is a leadership coach/shop owner. Her company Small Biz Vantage specializes in leadership development for trade business owners. She is an auto shop owner since 1999. You can reach Maryann at (203) 913-7741 or Maryann speaks on leadership and mindset.