Finding technicians and good employees is a hot topic. If, as a business, we are making our 5-year business plans, why are we not already looking for the employees we know we’ll need in 5 years? Where will those people come from and what type of person will they be?

It has been my experience that good employees are made, not born. If you have hired a “good employee” in the past, it’s because someone else has trained them before they came to you.

Here are a couple of examples. At one shop, I was lucky (or so I thought) to find and hire a Super Tech. This was the kind of guy that built and installed a hydrogen generator in his car just to see what it would do. He was a diagnostic wizard. He could locate and repair the hardest problems faster than anyone I have met, yet he was completely unprofessional. Other technicians quit because of the way he treated them, and it would have been a mistake to let him talk to a customer.

At the same shop was an older employee. Diagnostics was not his thing, but if you gave him brakes or ball joints, he would shine. He never complained, and I think if I would have asked him to work on a car outside, in the rain, he would have done it and not grumbled. To me, that’s a very valuable employee.

My definition of a “good” employee is someone that is dependable and teachable. After that, I can work with a lot.

Dependable means showing up for your shift willing and able to work. When I think of trainable, I am reminded of John Maxwell’s “Law of the Lid”. While Maxwell’s definition specifically applies to leadership, it also applies to other aspects of life. Basically, the Law of the Lid can be described as a cup of soda. An 8-ounce cup can only hold 8 ounces until it reaches the lid. It has maxed out its capacity. People’s ability to learn and retain information is similar. Some people have the capacity to learn more easily than others. Each employee, as well as owners and managers, have their own personal lid. Determining where that lid is and accepting that you have a lid can be a revelation for some. Not every tech has to be a Super Tech, and not every advisor is going to be amazing, especially in the beginning. But, if they are willing and able to learn, then they have the potential of becoming a “good” employee.

We would all like to find and hire that amazing tech or advisor that needs no training and can immediately take the reins and make your shop rock. Good luck! Those that are out there are probably being well taken care of by the shops they are already at, and it would be hard to pull them away. Even if you do entice them to leave with some incentive, there’s no guarantee that someone else won’t lure them from you a little more. My suggestion is: find the right person and invest 5 years training them yourself to do things the way you want them done. Take care of them so that even if someone else can make a better offer, they won’t be tempted.

Another step that needs to be considered for a shop’s 5-year plan involves planting seeds for the next generation of employees. Sadly, our industry has done a poor job of promoting our trade as a reasonable career for a decent income with benefits that will support a family. My suggestion here is to start “farming” the middle school age group. There are splintered groups around the country already focusing on the younger generation, but if you want to aggressively start mining that group, you’d better make your own plans now.

If we sit on our hands waiting to see how the future will turn out, then we have no one to blame for the technician/employee shortages than ourselves. The future is ours to mold. No matter how bad the shortage is or what the perception of the industry may seem to be, we have the opportunity to change and improve it.

Article By: Bruce McDowell

Bruce is currently a Service Advisor for Garber Diesel Service Truck & Trailer Service Center

Bruce’s credentials include: AMAM through AMI, ASE Certified Service Advisor, Ford Motor Company – Master Service Manager, Master Service Advisor, Master Parts Manager, Master Warranty Administrator plus 2 Management Degrees, Stationary Engineer License, and Retired Navy. And above all… modest.