Minimize Your Staffing Snafus

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Join the brave new world of hiring and learn how to retain your top technicians.

If you’re having trouble finding, hiring and keeping good technicians, you’re not alone. With today’s shortage of qualified techs, the aftermarket-hiring situation has become a whole new ball game. And if you want to hit a home run, you’ve got to play by a new set of rules.

Yet many shop owners seem to think that it’s still 2001, a time when shops could trade technicians among themselves like baseball teams do the best prospects. But you can’t expect the same results now from putting an ad in the local newspaper or posting signs on bulletin boards at the neighborhood high school or college. Those time-worn techniques won’t even get you to first base.

In today’s service industry, you’ve got to think as much about who you are as about who you need to hire. You’ve got to think as much about where you’re looking as what you’re looking for. And you’ve got to think about what you’re willing to offer potential hires as much as what they’re able to offer you.

Let’s take a look at eight points that reflect the new realities of hiring. You need to follow them if you want to recruit and retain the best.

1 Define your business culture.

When you advertise for technicians, point out what makes your shop different from the rest of the industry. The best technicians are seeking a professional culture that understands the importance of technical execution and the staff competencies required to insure that all vehicles are properly serviced. They need to see that the accountability of all team members is in place. No exceptions! It’s the standard.

2 Consider where to advertise.

In the modern marketplace, you should use national advertising in all media and on every employment website that’s available. You never know who might want to relocate to your area, even if they currently reside someplace else.

3 Write a professionally worded job description. It should clearly define the talent level and skills you’re seeking and the benefits, both personal and professional, of working for you. Also, describe your shop’s culture, list your team members and their qualifications and include your shop’s website address so that potential employees can check out your work environment.

4 Offer referral incentives.

Involve team members and their families and friends in the process of finding the right candidate. Consider offering a monetary award if someone recommends a candidate who’s brought in, works a probationary period of 90 days and is subsequently kept on. Great techs know other great techs. Such a plan would prompt an exciting discussion with your team members about the type of person they’d like to see hired and get them on board with finding the right candidate.

5 Promote an online application.

Many great techs don’t keep an updated résumé, maybe because they’ve been with their current employer for a long period of time. But perhaps they’ve become unhappy where they are, and now they’re looking at the market to see what’s available. Requesting a formal résumé could give them undue stress and a reason not to apply for your open position. An online application process eliminates the résumé issue.

Once the application has been completed – only accept fully completed applications because partially completed ones suggest an inability or unwillingness to follow directions – arrange a quick phone interview to discuss specifics. After the candidate has acknowledged the desire to go to the next step, send them a profile questionnaire to complete and submit.

Many large companies use that method to help determine if they’re getting the right candidate for the position. Once this step has been completed, schedule a final, face-to-face interview to inform the candidate of your decision about whether to make them an offer.

6 Write a detailed “on-boarding” process plan.

The process should include orientation and training procedures from Day 1 through a full three-month probation period. State who will serve as the presumptive employee’s mentor, offer a structured plan for professionally orienting them to the business operation and give them a copy of the employee handbook to read thoroughly and sign off on.

Based on your briefing, answer any questions the new hire might have about the shop’s processes or procedures. Also, consider the implementation of a training agreement that outlines the “investment” in training dollars the shop intends to make during the candidate’s first year on the job. The agreement protects the shop if the candidate quits and serves as an indicator of how serious the candidate is about the opportunity. Are they just looking for a job, or are they interested in developing a career with you?

7 Judge retention potential by proposing a one-month mutual review.

Top techs want be part of a structure they’re comfortable fitting into. Loose rules that can change without warning don’t interest them. Consider offering the presumptive employee the opportunity to provide honest feedback on their initial experiences.

Indicating that you welcome continuous feedback and expect to address concerns on both sides demonstrates respect for your employees. It also shows that you’ll acknowledge accomplishments and positive performance.

8 Follow up with a three-month review.

Then, follow that up with semiannual and annual reviews. The key to these reviews is open, honest and ongoing conversations to enrich the new hire’s experience and position, as well as the shop’s business results. Consider establishing a loyalty program to increase staff retention. It would reward the employee after three years of successful service and each year thereafter.

Such a program demonstrates the shop’s appreciation for the team’s loyalty to the business and client base. Look for ways to enhance their personal family experience, too, showing your commitment to their life outside the business. Listen to and learn about each team member as individuals and when a win-win relationship and mutual respect are built up, watch how many future applications you start receiving because the “good news” about the business is getting out there.

You must carefully design each topic I’ve listed above and make sure that they consist of many more details than I can offer in this article. They’re all large topics, but my purpose is to jump-start your process of rethinking how to move forward in hiring technicians in the modern marketplace.

Today’s best technicians are true professionals. Their knowledge is vast, and the demand to keep up with new technologies is a reality. But they have a passion for what they do and take pride in getting correct results for the vehicles they work on. The best techs also are team players out of a mutual respect for their peers. So re-examine the hiring, orientation and retention processes to suit this new technician profession.

Ladies and gentlemen, the “trade” days are over. These days, we’re truly a “profession.”

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