By Chasidy Rae Sisk
“None of you have problems finding more technicians, right?” quipped Jay Goninen, president of Find a Wrench and WrenchWay, as he began talking to members of the Independent Garage Owner of North Carolina (IGONC) during his April 20th presentation on “How to Attract More Technician to Your Shop.” Noting the previous sarcasm, Goninen acknowledged, “The industry’s tech shortage is a huge problem that affects every shop.”
After summarizing his lifelong involvement in the automotive and collision repair industries, Goninen kicked things off by helping attendees understand the tech shortage. Showing a pie chart indicating that 73% of technicians are employed and unsatisfied, Goninen noted, “Besides the fact that we don’t have enough new techs entering the industry, we also have a lot of techs planning to retire within the next ten years. Even worse, too many existing technicians are unhappy and possibly leaving the industry. In fact, nearly half of them leave within the first year. Addressing this problem may be more important than getting new talent!”
Suggesting that an attractive work environment might help some of those unhappy techs stick with the industry a bit longer, Goninen noted that before the industry can appeal to that 73% who are unsatisfied, employers must first understand who these techs are. They are qualified techs who are currently employed, but they are open to new opportunities, so they likely browse job boards and Facebook groups.
“You also have to understand what applying for a new job means for them,” Goninen stated. “Assuming your jobs are posted on your website – ALWAYS post your jobs on your website! – more work is coming their way when a tech applies for a job. First, they’ll need to update their resume. Then, they’ll need to come up with an excuse to take time off work; we all know that every minute of a technician’s day is accounted for. Applying makes it too real.”
Goninen continued, “There are a lot of barriers to a tech applying for your job. Until the pain at their current position exceeds the pain of applying for a new job, nothing will happen; we often get paralyzed instead. A technician is only going to apply for that job if they’re truly confident that they’re interested and it will be a good fit, that they’ll be happy in the new position.”
The recruiting and hiring process begins with creating awareness through the job posting, but before the application process, assessment and application review, interview, job offer and employment, there’s a step that is often missed: the consideration gap. “This is where most of the buying process is done,” Goninen explained. “We need to fill in the gap by giving them the information they need to decide whether they want to come work for you. Do this in the job ad with videos and photos that show what it’s like to work as a technician in your shop; you need to create a job ad that helps your business stand out from the hundreds of other postings on that site.”
What exactly are technicians looking for in an employer? At the end of 2020, WrenchWay conducted a poll on this topic and found that over half (58%) are most concerned with work environment. Career development and compensation were the main factor for 15% each, and 12% were most concerned with benefits.
Addressing these results, Goninen stressed, “Salary MUST be competitive! But you also need to get creative with benefits, such as offering flexible hours, paid certifications and paid school involvement. Make sure you’re researching benefits regularly to know where you stand compared to your competitors. When you treat people like individuals and work with them, it improves employee satisfaction and performance.”
“A lot of shops will say that health benefits are out of their budget, but if you’re hiring a young person who has a family to support, that’s a big deal that detracts from whatever else you may be offering,” Goninen continued. “Good technicians expect benefits now, and if you don’t offer it, they can find a shop that does.”
Career development is also important to technicians, and though older techs want to know how they can get to retirement performing less intensive work, it’s especially important to the younger generations who want to know what their purpose is and how they can continue advancing. “Career development plans should be individualized and ever-evolving,” Goninen advised.
“Great programs share the vision and give clear expectations. You need to be painting a picture of why this is important to them and how they reach certain levels. Be candid but professional in your conversations, but also be flexible because people’s lives and goals change.” Goninen added, “Check in regularly. Don’t do all the work on career planning and then never follow up – if your employees don’t see progress, it will be difficult to reengage them.”
When it comes to work environment, Goninen recommends, “Listen to your techs, and then take action! Little things make a big difference. Techs want to work for shops with up-to-date equipment and technology that makes their lives easier.”
Goninen also offered some action items for shops: “Always be improving, and that starts with tracking progress. The better you make your shop environment, the better off you’ll be. It’s vital that you continually research ways to make improvements and then execute on those ideas.”
In addition to recruiting constantly, Goninen suggested being everywhere: on job boards, on social media, and through employee referrals. Job postings should “show off what you have; most job postings don’t share enough information. In fact, 75% of techs say there’s not enough information on most job ads to allow them to decide whether to apply.”
“Transparency is key, and even if it makes you uncomfortable, you need to provide the information that helps a tech makes an educated decision – talk about compensation, benefits, career development, and the hiring process. Upload photos and videos to give a tour of the shop and introduce them to your current techs,” Goninen continued. “But be authentic! This can’t be a marketing pitch, which is why it’s so important to involve your team and give them recognition for how much they mean to your business.”
Concerning the video aspect, Goninen offered, “Document, don’t create. Don’t overthink this. Often, people come up with an elaborate plan, but videos work far better if you just document the things already going on in your shop. This helps with customer relationships too. It’s important to explain why your shop is unique and really push that information to techs who are considering whether they want to work for you.”
Goninen also stressed the importance of being involved with collision education programs at local vo-tech schools. “When you’re on the advisory committee or serve as a resource for the school in another way, you’re at the top of that instructor’s mind when there’s an awesome student to place. Be intentional and work with schools to get new techs involved with the industry and familiar with your business. I cannot stress it enough: It’s so important for the industry to get involved with schools at a local level!”
Concluding, Goninen provided a demonstration of the WrenchWay platform, which was designed around the topics he had discussed. He said, “It’s hard to find qualified technicians, and doing it successfully requires an ongoing process. There’s a drastic tech shortage that isn’t going to get better overnight, but if we can retain the techs we have, we’ll be on the right path.”
For more information about IGONC and future events, visit igonc.com.