A forum member writes:
“I have a shop in Michigan, and I'm wondering if some of the other local (or not local, for that matter) shops have issues with high turnover in the mechanics department. We go through a new mechanic every couple of months. They usually are not great on diagnosis and always want cash advances. I guess my real question should be, where can I find a decent mechanic who won't break the bank? I already know good ain't cheap and cheap ain't good.”
One forum member replies:
“I do see that most shops in Michigan have a problem with turnover, and those that do always seem to have a problem replacing them. In the shops with the lowest turnovers it is interesting that their techs seem to be very highly trained—usually an AS from a college and they also are consistently doing training on their own or with the shop's help.
“When I was a fixed ops manager and needed techs I would constantly ask myself, ‘Where do the best techs hang out?' and go there with business cards in hand. It worked out well. Training seminars, college career days and now online forums that allow you to contact participants would be my first suggestions.”
A shop owner from West Bend, Wis., writes:
“We have had more turnover with staff than I would like in my nine years of business, but looking at resumes as we hire it seems to be trending that a lot of techs will stay the longest at their first place of employment and then shorter duration at the next place(s). I wish I could share some great tips for finding a good mechanic, but really I have found that patience pays off and just being thorough in the interview process.
“I tend to focus more on attitude, desire and overall how they will fit into our team. I am not expecting perfect, but I do want to see techs and other staff progress and get better, and I have made it a point to support and encourage this growth with paying for training. Even if the tech isn't where you want him to be now, can you train him to get there? An employee that needs cash advances may be a red flag that they lack financial discipline.
“If you need a great diagnostic tech it may mean stepping up and paying him and/or offering a workplace environment that makes him WANT to work for you.”
Another forum member responds:
“We have some turnover, but certainly not every few months. Are you losing techs that are not that good? I'd look at your business culture and practices. You can't work hard at keeping customers but treat your employees poorly or expect them to work in poor conditions.
“If you are not attracting techs that are worth keeping, the same applies. I'm not saying you give them the world, but your business needs to be profitable enough to pay them a good wage equivalent to your area.”
A fourth forum member replies:
“Allow techs to feel some ownership in the layout of the shop. Let them discuss/decide what goes where—after all, it's their work environment, not yours. This makes them feel ownership and participation in the business. It has worked well for us and many other shops. It's sort of like they helped build the place, so they will take care of it and stay longer. If bad attitude and bad work is the problem, then work on your hiring practices. Look at how they dress, how they take care of their own car and what their outside hobbies are.”
The questions and responses are posted on the Automotive Management Network website, which is operated by Deb and Tom Ham, owners of Auto Centric (formerly Ham's Automotive) in Grand Rapids, Mich. The comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.