Larry H. Miller Dealerships’ vision is, “To be the best place in town to work and the best place in town to do business.” With the number of open positions available in fixed operations and the lack of qualified candidates to fill them, being a company that people want to work for is of the utmost importance.
And that’s exactly what the dealer group has done. To wit: It has more than 100 reviews and a 3.6 rating on Glassdoor. One of its dealerships—Larry H. Miller Dodge Ram Avondale—earned its spot on the list of the 2018 Top Companies to Work for in Arizona for the third consecutive year.
It’s clear that the group has found a way to keep its employees happy and by doing that, has found a way to keep talent coming.
Dan Johnson, vice president of fixed operations for Larry H. Miller Dealerships, says that the technician shortage is something that’s an issue for the entire automotive industry and needs to be addressed. Johnson shares the ways that LHM has addressed it and found a way to keep a steady stream of quality candidates coming in.
In order to bring in quality employees, data needs to be kept so you can see where you need to fill in.
“We track monthly the number of technicians that we are short on, based on a variety of factors, including tech proficiency, shop product and the amount of technicians we need to exceed monthly targets,” Johnson says. “The last five years, we have really started to put a larger focus on technician retention, as well as the recruitment of qualified, entry-level technicians to grow into full-line technicians.”
Johnson says that LHM has connected in some way with every trade school in the western U.S. and works very closely with each of its manufacturer’s programs.
“We regularly attend technical college job fairs, recruiting and hiring events and industry days to promote our group and who we are,” Johnson says. “Our service manager in each market have connected with local high schools and/or trade schools to help draw future technicians and promote Larry H. Miller Dealerships and the benefits the automotive industry has to offer.”
Implement an Apprenticeship Program.
According to Johnson, it’s vital for dealerships to have an apprenticeship program in place.
“As some of the tenured technicians begin to retire and with technology constantly changing, it is so important to have apprentices in place to fill those roles,” Johnson says.
LHM offers an accelerated career path for technician development. In order to stand out, LHM offers a competitive compensation plan with outstanding benefits, paid training, tenured employees and state-of-the-art facilities, Johnson says.
Johnson says that 1,300 service technicians and 122 collision center technicians are employed on a monthly basis by LHM and roughly 10 percent go through a version of the apprenticeship program.
A career path is key.
“Our goal is to grow and retain technicians starting at an entry level position, then move them into our apprenticeship program and eventually have them become a master technician,” Johnson says.
Candidates are found internally, through job fairs, recruiting and through trade schools. Many of LHM’s apprentices started as service attendants, porters or in express service, Johnson says.
By doing this, Johnson says the apprentices can work on manufacturer certifications or other training to assemble the knowledge and tools to proceed onto an apprenticeship position.
“During this entire process, we strive to have all of our apprentices trained or manufacturer certified and on their own within a year of hire,” Johnson says. “We believe in the process of training and growing our own this way so that they will have a better chance of understanding the dealership and succeeding in a technician position.”
Invest in the Future.
“Do not look at your apprenticeship program as an expense; rather, look at it as a 'must' to grow and retain employees or technicians through an accelerated internal program,” Johnson says.
If you’re questioning the value of an apprenticeship program, Johnson suggests asking if you’re hiring enough qualified technicians to replace the generations that are retiring. If not, then an apprenticeship program is something to seriously consider.
By growing your own employees, Johnson says employee retention and loyalty will increase, which will decrease employee expenses as there will be less turnover.
“Allowing for programs like this ensures we can promote what the automotive industry is and where it’s going in the future, which will hopefully park the younger generations’ interest to look at this as a stable and consistent profession,” Johnson says.