Got Mechanics? Solving the Automotive Staffing Challenge
As any shop owner will tell you, the biggest challenge to growth in independent automotive repair is the lack of trained technicians. The reasons are complex, but three stand out:
- “Automotive technician” has lost its attraction as a career path. Fewer high schools offer vocational tracks nowadays, and news reports portray the auto repair industry as riddled with price-gouging crooks. The few trainees who do decide to go into auto repair get snapped up by dealers before independent shops get a shot at hiring them.
- Competent mechanics who have been at the same shop for years tend get the “star treatment” from shop owners, no matter how difficult or demanding they may be. This tends to discourage new technicians who don’t get the mentoring they need, and who may feel that favoritism is shutting them out of opportunities for advancement.
- Shop owners – mechanics themselves – often have little business management training. That’s understandable; they have been busy at the repair rack instead of attending fancy MBA classes. But the lack of business skills can translate into poor people-management habits which make it hard to retain employees.
Shop owner and management expert David Rogers of Auto Profit Masters, interviewed in Motor.com, says that learning how to build a culture of accountability and success will go a long way toward hiring and retaining the best employees. Rogers cites eight leadership principles of a good boss who creates a positive work culture:
- Believe in the unbelievable
- See opportunity where others see uncertainty
- Wear their emotions on their sleeve
- Take the hits for the team (and don’t brag about it)
- No job is too demeaning, including cleaning toilets
- Lead by permission, not by coercion
- Embrace a larger purpose
- Take real risks, not fake ones
Management guru Peter Drucker talks of turning the management pyramid upside down. The boss is the point of the pyramid, supporting all the work activities above by giving employees the tools they need to get the job done. In a well-run shop, “tools” means more than wrenches and diagnostic machinery. It means setting up work areas that promote smoothly functioning workflows. Modular workbenches like these pictured can be custom-configured to fit each technician’s needs, allowing them to operate at the most efficient level.
Efficiency benefits the business in two ways: It brings in more dollars per day, and it builds repeat business from satisfied customers who didn’t wait for hours for a simple repair.
Beyond the benefits of efficiency, a well-designed customized work station tells technicians that they are valued team members. They see that they are integral to the shop’s success, and their loyalty is strengthened as a result. As part of their own continuing education, shop owners can consult with a storage designer to learn about workbenches that support the technicians’ labor, and build the success that comes from a well-managed full-staffed team.
Photo © nd3000 / AdobeStock