Around the Dealership: Wanted – Technicians

August 3, 2015|Jason Kiehnau

Dealers face several challenges, but none may be as significant as the shortage of young talented service technicians. Combine this with aging master technicians who are nearing retirement at many dealerships, and you have a recipe for disaster.

The problem?

The Millennial generation – those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s – is like no other generation. Putting stereotypes aside, one thing is certain: it is getting harder to attract Millennial employees, Although a service technician position is not always seen as a glamorous job, it is one sorely needed within dealerships.

Approach Millennial recruitment with technology and flexibility that goes beyond some of your normal hiring techniques. What are your solutions? 

  • Create a culture employees won’t want to leave. Treat your current technicians like gold and set your compensation at or above market. With the amount of training and technology a dealership spends on its service employees, it is easier to pay them a little extra for each hour or set up “spiffs” based on flat rate hours generated each week than to lose an employee. When faced with this situation, some dealerships then over-pay to try to recruit someone from an area dealership. If your long-time techs find out what you paid the new recruit, you are looking at a potential “fire” within your shop.
  • Get employees interested in your company early and often. Partner with organizations that can provide your next employees, such as technical colleges, high school technical programs, job centers, career fairs and staffing agencies.
    • High schools – Many high school budgets are short on funds. Call your local schools to see if they would partner with you on a work release program. Assist the school with funds to purchase updated shop equipment and tools for their internal programs. Have your service manager talk to their shop classes and explain the opportunities within your dealerships – both from a technology and financial standpoint – to spark the students’ interest. Then interview and select the most qualified students to work for your dealership through the work release program.
    • Technical schools and scholarships – Your tech schools may also be a great option. Start an internship program with your dealership and consider offering qualified candidates a worked related scholarship. Ask what degrees and classes they offer. Offer the program a “field trip” to your dealership. Show them your facility, have them meet your employees and, more important, sell your dealership and what it has to offer for career opportunities and the latest technology within the industry.
  • Offer training and quick advancement opportunities. Establish a robust training program to identify long-term career paths for new workers. Those entering the workforce today look to their employers for career options, and they need to see the career path to be fully engaged.
  • Transfer the knowledge of aging workers to younger workers. Engage these highly skilled employees to develop training materials and become mentors to junior level employees.
  • Have an employee referral program. Employees who know each other outside work are less likely to leave. Encourage current employees with incentives for referring quality hires to your organization. Referred employees are typically more engaged and have lower turnover than traditional hires.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate with your employees and be transparent. Get to know them and make them feel like they are part of the family.
  • Hold employees accountable for poor performance and reward good performers. 

No matter what level of technician or employee you need within your dealership, consider these key points. Sell them on your dealership, the benefits and career path they have in front of them, and explain where the industry is heading.

With technology evolving and vehicles becoming more computer-controlled, we need to start attracting employees who will embrace change and technology. Plan for the future as our older employees begin to retire. We must look towards the next generation to fill in the gaps and build for the future.

Jason (Jake) Kiehnau, CPA, is a shareholder and leader of Schenck’s Dealership Industry team. Jake has almost 15 years of public accounting experience, and also previously served as general manager/controller for an import and domestic auto dealership.