WESTLAKE, Ohio—The revolving door of technician turnover is no stranger to Bill Housholder. As service director at John Lance Ford of Westlake, Ohio, he has seen his share of techs leaving. Just when the large Cleve land-area car dealership began to train an apprentice, the new recruit would get discouraged and move on.
``In a typical shop, there is no incentive for veteran technicians to work with the apprentices,'' said Mr. Housholder. He handles 27,000 repair orders annually in his shop.
``The veterans don't want to work with young technicians because they view it as time away from their job. If they are spending time away from their work, they are losing money because most of them are paid on a flat-rate system,'' he said.
Four years ago, John Lance Ford's service department began what it calls a ``parameter pay plan'' for service technicians.
It gives the veterans an incentive to work with the apprentices. The plan pays apprentices an hourly rate and sets a daily flat-rate hour production objective based on their current skill and experience.
If the apprentice exceeds the objective, a bonus pool is set aside for the technicians involved in the apprentice's development.
The seasoned technicians receive their bonuses when the apprentice has gone through certain training steps and has been put on a flat-rate system.
If the technician leaves the dealership voluntarily or is fired, the bonuses are forfeited.
Since the plan was put in place, turnover has dropped from 26 percent to 10 percent a year.
In addition to the parameter pay plan, each full-time, non-management employee who has been with the dealership for at least a year receives an annual profit-sharing check.
The baseline for profit sharing is $1,000 per employee. The amount is tied to the percentage increase or decrease from the previous year's net profits.
For instance, if profits are up 30 percent, eligible employees receive $1,300 each. If the bottom line is down 30 percent, eligible employees receive $700.
``The profit-sharing program has really helped with employee morale,'' Mr. Housholder said. ``It has reduced the `It's not my job' mentality.
``If they leave the lights on or set the heat too high, they know that affects their profit sharing.''
To develop a better work environment, the service department uses a lateral support group organization. Each assistant service manager acts as a service adviser and works with three or four technicians. Each group is assigned a certain group of customers.
``In larger dealership service departments, the community feeling has broken down,'' Mr. Housholder said.
``We believe we've organized our shop into consistent groups. Customers get treated with a personal touch—not blown through here like cattle. It makes employees feel special, too.''
Management selects a group leader who is respected by peers. Mr. Housholder meets with all the group leaders each week to discuss team performance and each technician's performance.
``They'll let me know if there is a problem with a technician,'' he said, ``or if there is something that I need to praise the technician for.''
Founded in 1914, John Lance Ford claims to be one of the country's oldest family-run Ford dealerships. It is a member of Republic Industries Inc.'s AutoNation group.