It seems that no matter where you go, shop owners are on the hunt for new employees. The automotive technician shortage is real. In fact, according to a recent Wall Street Journal study, all the trades are in dire need of quality people. But what are you doing to ensure that your existing employees stay with you? We spend so much time creating marketing strategies to enhance the customer’s experience, but what about your employee’s experience?
Let’s face it, working in an automotive shop environment is hard work—no matter if you’re a technician, service advisor or manager. The daily demands on the employee, combined with an enormous amount of stress, can take an emotional toll on even the best person. And it’s tough for shop owners, too. Shop owners have an endless list of obligations and wear so many hats that it’s hard, at times, to clearly define their true job description. At the top of that list of obligations is your employee’s well being and creating a healthy work environment.
If people are not in a positive, healthy work environment, eventually they will begin to emotionally shut down, and not long after that, they will leave that workplace. In other words, if your workplace is not conducive to a positive employee experience, people will eventually leave you, perpetuating the endless cycle of replacing employees.
While it may not seem realistic to think that an employee will stay with your company for their entire career, there are things that you can do to decrease employee defection. And as always, the buck stops with you, the shop owner. You need to reach your employees on an emotional level and create a work experience that unifies your people with the vision and the mission of the company.
Let’s take a look at the hiring process. You spend a considerable amount of time looking for the right person to fill a position, not to mention what it takes financially to find and recruit someone these days. But once you hire someone, your job isn’t over. In fact, that’s when your job actually begins. The first day on the job is crucial to the employee’s experience at your shop. Too often, a new hire is given little to no training and is thrown into the mix and has to learn as he goes along.
Trial by fire for new hires is a sure way to set the wrong tone. Not even seasoned veterans feel totally comfortable in a new setting and they will not know your policies or procedures. Give your new hire time to acclimate to your company’s processes and work environment. Create an orientation process and spend time with the new hire. I know you're busy and you need to get the new hire to work as soon as possible, but the more time you spend in the beginning, the stronger the employee/employer relationship will be, which will pay big dividends in the long run.
In the first few weeks with a new hire, spend a lot of time with them. Give them feedback on their progress and look for any reasons to praise their performance. Ask the new hire for their feedback, too. Develop a relationship. What you are doing is building a solid foundation. And just like a physical structure that is deeply rooted in the ground, a strong employee foundation will be deeply rooted in the culture of your company.
For existing employees, it’s also important that you develop strong relationships with them. If it’s been a while since you sat down with your employees, do so. Find out what their personal goals are, what motivates them to come to work each day. Everyone employed is an important part of the success of the company; they need to know that. And they need to hear that from you.
Make sure the shop layout is also conducive to a healthy work environment. Do you have the right equipment and shop tools to do the job? Do you have the right inventory, information systems and workflow processes to make the day go as smooth as possible? And don’t forget about the service advisors. They need the proper point-of-sale material, support staff and information system to do their job also.
One last thing: If you find yourself complaining about your employees, please stop. You either have the wrong people employed or the problem is you. If you keep the wrong people employed, there’s no sense complaining about it. Do something about it.
For your company to succeed, you need your employees to succeed. Help them become successful by creating a workplace environment that enhances their experience each and every day. This shows you care. And just like customer retention, employee retention always goes back to the experience.