The SOP: How to Prevent Your Techs from Burning Out

March 4, 2024
Auto repair is hard work. For some techs, losing the passion boils down to a lack of appreciation and decreased learning opportunities. Jeff Compton, auto technician and host of The Jaded Mechanic Podcast, explains.


When I talk to techs, most of them burn out because they get stagnant with the pace of a shop. Most of the time, it goes along with feeling not compensated at the level they feel they deserve financially, or not feeling appreciated. But most techs don’t quit (over money). That ranks closer to about the fifth reason. Most feel like they're not recognized as vital to the (shop’s) success.


Remember: Your Techs are the Product

A lot of techs aren’t challenged with repairs. Most enjoy learning new things, and the work can just feel mundane and routine. They lose that fire. If you want to push your techs to stay on the cutting edge, they need training, destination events, and technical training that renews their vigor for this industry. It boils down to your culture—for your technicians, especially. They’re the product you sell when you're in this line of work; the people vital for making the repairs, and you have to see them as such. The way a salesman loves the car brand they sell, have that same enthusiasm for your technicians. You can't look at them as an expense. You have to see them for what they are—the product. Don’t let the day-to-day routine or lack of appreciation cause dread for your techs. Thank them often as they are the reason your shop stays in business.


Don’t Pigeonhole by Skill

In a perfect world, we'd all want five techs who could fill each other shoes at any given point, but we all have different strengths and weaknesses. Pigeonholing happens because he or she becomes your go-to diagnostic tech, your go-to interior work tech, or your go-to suspension tech. That’s when burnout can happen. They want to learn new things and that comes back to training. You have to give them exposure. A lot of times, I see shops with (a tech who) can diagnose in half an hour and you have another tech who may get the same result, but it might take 90 minutes. (Shop owners) fall into the trap of giving that work to (the tech) who can knock it out in 30 minutes. What that sets you up for is a precarious situation because that tech then becomes efficient, and the other techs do not develop their skills. That tech becomes so vital that if you lose them, how do you succeed him? You want to avoid that in the aftermarket. Every one of your techs should be able to navigate most of the scan tools that are in the shop; they should be able to learn how a basic circuit can be diagnosed properly. Efficiency grows with time and opportunity. Don’t burn your techs out by over-relying on their skillset.


Encourage Curiosity

Don’t just focus on just the bottom line, which is the effective labor rate. That's an important factor and I'm not trying to disregard it. If you want to see that vigor and fire and confidence a tech gets when they take a challenge that's out of their wheelhouse and knock it out of the park by actually getting to the end result, then don't look at the bottom line like, “Ah, I missed out on X amount of dollars because I didn't dispatch to my strongest player.” Play long ball. You want to see that tech develop to become an even better tech a year from now, two years from now. You want all-star players; that's the end goal. You're not going to get there if you keep them doing what they're strong at. You have to challenge them. And it's up to the leader, the manager, to challenge them in a way that doesn't punish them financially. There's a mentorship (opportunity) involved in your strongest guy being able to guide them through and show them the processes. I'm big on processes. If you have a process on how to do a repair, or how to do a diag, that process can be shared with somebody else. If you don't have a process, you're completely at the whim of how that technician decides to attack that job. Most shops will have a really good working front office and have a lot of processes that are documented in place. It has to be the same in the back. That must become your shop’s culture. 


Don’t Discount Years of Wear

Lastly, this is a really hard industry physically, and that can lead to burnout too. Most techs reach a point where no matter the love for the job there are certain things that they are going to say, “I don't want to do that.” Get past the idea that when techs say that it's about pay or frustration. Sometimes, it can be physical pain.


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