Want to identify the best prospective new hires in your area? Want to advertise your service department cost-effectively to the best local technicians? Want to establish a clandestine automotive farm club right under your competitors' noses? Savvy service shop owners and managers are accomplishing all these goals just by sponsoring automotive training seminars. At least two shop owners I know are convinced this is the smartest way to identify the proverbial ``few good'' candidates. Here's why.
Industry trade association statistics cite a shortage of several hundred thousand techs by the end of the decade. Nationwide, owners and managers are searching for groomable, trainable young talent to fix automobiles for a living.
Furthermore, bosses are always begging for capable veteran technicians who are mature enough to blend easily into their store's or shop's system and atmosphere.
If you've hired techs, you know there's a lot of mobility among them. Sadly, much of the movement doesn't reflect serious journeymen seeking broader know-how. Instead, it's the result of problematic, nomadic people-malcontents and misfits-who don't fit in no matter where they go.
Likely, you've also found that recruiting good help parallels attracting new customers: Word-of-mouth advertising always yields the best customers and the best workers. The better local techs often don't see classified ads because they're relatively well situated already and don't perceive a need to scan the want ads.
One of the shop owners I mentioned earlier has several shops across the upper Midwest; the other owns a large general repair shop in central California.
Over the years, each of us have made the same observation about classes, namely: Seminars tend to attract the better-if not the best-local technicians. After all, expanding their know-how and keeping up-to-date are two big reasons these attendees became the premier techs in town.
The next goal for both shop owners was making better local techs aware of what their businesses had to offer. Thankfully for them, both men have facilities large enough to accommodate average-size tech classes. What better way to advertise your business than to bring the desired audience directly to your facility, they concluded.
Both owners are committed to education and had been sending their techs to classes on a regular basis. So they knew the price of education and correctly estimated that the cost of promoting and hosting classes would be offset by the fact that their own techs would attend free.
The seminars led to several solid hires for both businesses. Indeed, the new hires have been the targeted audience-personable, veteran techs looking for better working conditions and employers who appreciated their talent.
Equally important, both sources agreed, is that the plan created highly confidential, coveted ``short lists'' of eager prospects who said, ``Call me the moment you have an opening at your shop.''
Considering the nationwide shortage of good techs, I invite you to put a dollar value on having your own list of prequalified, willing workers!
Regular readers know I've emphasized the importance of finding techs who possess the proverbial ``fire-in-the-belly'' attitude. One eager beaver tech will generate more profit and referrals than three unexcited workers will.
Both shop owners stressed that hosting seminars proved to be the most cost-effective way to identify fellows who love to fix cars.
For one thing, watching who turned out consistently for every class was an indicator. Another way to measure eagerness was observing which of the ``regulars'' always arrived 30 minutes early and then stayed 30 minutes after class to pick the instructor's brain on tough technical questions.
A third, invaluable indicator was casually identifying regular class attendees who paid for their own training.
``Above and beyond the other traits we look for in prospective hires, there's no stronger indicator of eagerness and commitment than a tech who pays for all his own training because his boss refuses to support education,'' one shop owner commented.
In fact, the first new hires resulting from the seminar program were fellows who always paid with personal checks and requested that receipts be made out to them rather than the shop where they worked, sources said.
Organizing and hosting classes can be tedious, thankless work. It's certainly not everyone's cup of tea. But as two bosses have already proved, it may be the shortest, surest path to finding the caliber of worker you really want.