Here at sMedia, we are helping auto dealerships manage digital transformation by empowering their teams through tech enablement. (And also recreation, real estate, and electronics sellers.) Our Behind The Wheel blog is here to help answer some of the tough questions like GA4 (coming soon), and provide expert analysis and updates on topics and tools that impact the industry.
As if chip shortages weren’t enough, the industry is faced with a massive mechanic shortage. Our People and Culture expert delves into some of the whys, and what you can do to improve your mechanic situation.
Why is there a shortage?
We can break the shortage down into 4 primary reasons
- There are fewer people enrolling in trade schools. With exceptions, mechanic apprenticeships were down over the past decade. Academic performance toward a university education has been pushed in high schools over the past couple of decades, seemingly ignoring trades.
- Retirement. It’s estimated that 10,000 baby boomers retire per day in North America, some of them are mechanics and aren’t being replaced fast enough.
- Entering a trade is harder and more expensive than ever. Many mechanics are expected to have their own tools and that can mean investing $50,000. How many people do you know that come out of school with an extra 50 grand in their pocket?
- Work conditions. Words out – and the word isn’t good. Try to google “should I be a mechanic” and you’ll find hundreds of examples of mechanics sharing stories of being taken advantage of, working for poor wages & no benefits, with high expectations on requirements (tools) that don’t align with compensation. You might be a great employer, but this perception is your problem too.
How can you get an edge with recruitment?
There are 3 areas I want to address: Where to recruit, incentives you can offer, and compensation considerations.
Where to Recruit:
To be truly competitive you may need to consider some approaches you haven’t before.
- Attend High School career fairs that have shop programs
- Attend Trade School career fairs that offer automotive repair
- Host your own job fair (virtual fairs will encourage participants outside your immediate area)
- Update job postings to highlight your workplace advantages. (Opportunities, perks, and incentives that set you apart. Reference positive workplace culture.)
- Creative Marketing! How are you getting your message out there? Consider new approaches to get in front of the right audience. (Put hiring stickers on all oil filters so if the vehicle ends up elsewhere, you might have lost the service, but maybe you gain a mechanic.)
- Or try the new Smart Resume feature in Smart Offer which allows potential hires to upload their resume anywhere you want.
- Here are some other resources:
- Offer paid education with a retention clause built into an employment offer
- Supply tools or provide a tool allowance. Most jobs don’t start with a massive mortgage down payment upfront. Supply the tools to do the job, and don’t deduct compensation for using ‘your’ tools.
- Offer apprenticeships: Investigate your federal & local government incentives
- Consider more attractive employment benefits like health, dental, and retirement pension.
- Be market appropriate. Your inventory is valued significantly higher due to shortages. Guess what, that applies to labor too. Open the wallet up if you want to attract top talent. You can’t sell a car you don’t have, and you can’t fill a bay without a technician to work it.
- Are you still offering Flat Rate compensation? This may not be attractive to new employees. It takes time to get more productive, and rate work doesn’t offer a stable income. It also doesn’t reward employees for training, assisting, or any of the cooperative activities that make a great productive team.
- Consider an hourly wage plus target bonuses – both parties win.
- Consider other benefits like banking hours in peak periods to be used in slow times. You’ll push more through your bays, and the employee will get more needed and appreciated downtime.
- Training is an ongoing need and you’ll need to account for it. Consider a training bonus for experienced techs to offset any income lost from doing fewer tickets. They will take the task more seriously and not become resentful of lost income, and you will gain a more experienced team of technicians increasing your fixed ops capacity.
Good luck out there, it’s a tight labor market, get creative!
– sMedia Peoples & Culture Team