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Create a Career Path

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Four Steps to Engaged Employees

As the automotive industry grapples with the ongoing technician shortage, clearing a career path for those already employed in your shop has taken on new weight.

For some employees, working as a technician is all they want. But many are looking to advance in their career beyond the bays, says John Wafler, a facilitator for RLO Training. 

“This is where many shops fail,” he says. “Typically shops start their young talent off at the lowest level, keeping the shop clean, running around doing whatever the technicians want them to, cleaning toilets, and maybe doing oil changes or changing tires. That’s it. They start that and they have no idea what their path is to fulfill their dream of being a technician.”

So how can you set your entry-level employees up for long-term success and growth within the business? Ratchet+Wrench spoke with Wafler to find out. 


Start planning before they ever clock an hour. 

Whether you’re hiring a technician or service advisor, it’s important to plan for each role. Even before you hire them, they need to see that coming on board, and staying on board with you is valuable and presents an opportunity. 

It starts with onboarding. It could be an entry-level position or an experienced position, you have to have a solid onboarding process that walks them through all the elements of their job, the culture and the expectations. It should also include a strong and thorough training program to bring them up to speed with your business model and your process. Giving employees a basic level of knowledge about the company and what’s expected of them allows them to see what their future career path could be, even if that path isn’t explicitly stated. 

Far too few shops spend enough time onboarding employees and then things don’t get communicated, things don’t get explained, training doesn’t happen. If you’re onboarding is ‘sign these papers and you’re good to go,’ that’s not good enough. From the beginning, new employees should be able to understand what they need to do to get a raise, promotion, etc. If they don’t understand that from the beginning, they are more likely to leave. 

Give them an example. 

One of the best ways to give someone a vision of what their career could look like is to have an employee in the shop who has risen the ranks. A junior tech that is able to look at the shop foreman and know that he was in the same spot 10 years earlier allows that new hire to see his path. If a shop doesn’t have that example to use, it often falls on the owner to beat that role model. 

However, oftentimes shop owners themselves don't have that vision either. That’s where a lot of owners are running into trouble. They’re just treating the business like a job, showing up, fixing cars and going home at night. For somebody to come in, let’s say their dream is to own their own shop one day, and then they look at the owner and see how much he struggles, how long he works, that he’s not driving a nice car or has a nice house.

If you come in at the entry-level and the shop owner isn’t someone you want to emulate, then you’re probably not going to look fondly on this industry to provide you a path of growth. That happens in the industry a lot, we have trouble attracting quality young people because a lot of the shop owners don’t have it figured out. 

Understand the changing mentality. 

Previous generations would look for a job and once they took that job, if things went well, and sometimes even if it didn’t go well, they’d stick it out. They’d stay in jobs they really didn’t love or weren’t passionate about more readily than today’s generation, which, at the first sign of dissatisfaction, are likely to leave and move onto something else. They want to see a path. They want to see the path that they’re on is going to take them somewhere, advance them, recognize them for their performance and reward them financially.

To do this, culture is critical. A strong culture that motivates and shows them a path to a career rather than just a job and that they’re part of something bigger than just them. Culture is one thing we talk about a lot with our clients. It’s part of employee retention. If you don’t create a positive, reinforcing, nurturing culture, then a culture will create itself and usually it’s not conducive to hanging onto employees. 

If you intentionally work on creating your culture and hold people accountable to that, then bringing the new people in will be easy. If you don’t it will be difficult to bring people in and to retain your existing employees. 

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