Why is it Hard to Fill a Position?

I recently received a phone call from Jason Barber, a recruiter for several automotive Original equipment dealerships. His firm has a long history of recruiting automotive technicians. He had contacted me to ask about an article, “Flat Rate or Not”, that I had written for Technician.Academy. He questioned some of the ideas that it presented on technician pay and wanted some details about the suggestions that were presented in the article.

His Question to Me

In the article, I discussed the value of a seasoned technician and how to compensate them. I explained that as we age, we are not able to turn the rate of daily hours as we once did. Because of this, the older technicians would see their weekly pay fall off. One of my suggestions was for the shop to determine a guarantee for these technicians and include a bonus for exceeding a set flat rate. In the article, I also addressed some onboarding methods to grow your own technicians from community college programs.

Jason stated that the turnover level for young technicians was extremely high with students fresh out of automotive programs. From years of training hundreds of automotive students across the country, I understand that good students expect more of a challenge than they are getting from the lube rack job they receive out of college and to receive better pay for that higher challenge. We discussed these items in depth and how they could help a possible older technician with years of experience feel more comfortable moving to a new position along with keeping young techs in the bay.

Our Conversation

We struck up a conversation on the technician shortage, as I was curious about his position and the difficulties that he faced filling job openings. The recruiter explained that most of the dealerships that he worked for were in the larger metropolitan areas such as Dallas/Fort Worth, California, and Virginia. I wondered if he dealt with open positions in rural areas like my location. Jason stated that most of those open positions are easier filled through local services like newspaper ads and word of mouth. I asked him how he found possible candidates to fill the open positions, and he said that he spent a large portion of his time searching through career builder and just simply cold calling potential individuals that matched the dealership’s needs. He stated that he would look specifically at individuals with 2-3 years’ experience that where certified and had bumper to bumper skills.

Jason told me of a recent relocation package for a technician he had been involved with. He got the technician five more dollars per hour and $2,000 of relocation expenses covered by the employer.

What are Technicians Looking for?

I asked Jason to rate on a 1 to 10 scale what he thinks technicians are looking for when deciding to change jobs. At the top of the list of valued items was Insurance with a score of ten. Pay carried a nine then retirement comes in at a close third with an eight. Reimbursement for training, tools, time off, and ASE certifications all had a rating of seven. At the bottom of the list were working conditions (shop cleanliness, climate controlled shop, other employees), which he rated six.

What Stops a Tech from Changing Jobs?

Jason told me that he finds several qualified technicians, but most of them are apprehensive about changing jobs. Some of that is due to the fear of the unknown, which we have all experienced when changing jobs. Another one of the top reasons that hold a technician from changing jobs is having co-workers that they like and respect. This is especially true when considering shop foreman and service directors that they currently work with. If the technician was to change and not mesh with the new service director or other workers at the new job site, this could directly affect their ability to excel at the position. This can be especially true when it comes to working strictly flat rate.

Opinions on Filling Positions and Retaining Employees

Jason thinks too much is being made of the younger generations and their wants. That 25-year-old tech may have a hard time adjusting to the fact that their boss isn’t going to treat them the way their momma treated them, but just like every generation before them, the millennial will grow up to become the next generation that runs the show. They must deal with the new incoming and entitled generation. It’s all circular, and this generation will be at the helm running everything in 20-30 years. They will be complaining about the incoming generation and their nuanced behaviors.

My Thoughts After This Conversation

I tend to agree with him about the focus shown towards young recruits that they are important for the future of the industry. I do believe we have, as a society, raised a generation expecting a participation trophy, and in the real-world experience of the service bay, there is no trophy for just showing up and doing your job.

One major problem I do see is the mass exodus of experience leaving the service bay each year. This is disastrous when it comes to onboarding new employees. There is no way to replace those years of experience and the value they represent when it comes to mentoring the future technician. I want to thank Jason Barber for his insights into this subject.

I look forward to your questions/comments on this topic. Contact me by calling 812-618-6101 or email [email protected].