Savvy management teams commit themselves to the long-term grooming of younger technicians. They recognize that growing their own talent sounds great, but it also requires patience and persistence.
To use a sports analogy, an executive may be fortunate to sign one or more budding superstars — advanced athletes who improve a team immediately.
On the other hand, most rookies have to be coached along the way before they're comfortable competing in the big leagues.
Occasionally, a rookie exceeds expectations with a stellar performance in a pressure-cooker game. But that's the exception, not the rule.
Unfortunately, some tire dealers and service shop operators behave as if greenhorn techs are supposed to turn labor hours like seasoned veterans of the service bays.
That's an erroneous and counterproductive assumption about younger techs. But the notion seems to endure among many managers.
They whine to me that the younger techs aren't ready for the shop. Then these owners and managers add insult to injury by asserting that vocational schools don't prepare kids for the working world.
Surely, some aspiring technicians are better prepared for life in your service bay than others.
But long-term, the entire management team may have far more influence on that youngster's potential than any factors outside the business. Please consider these proactive steps.
First, I urge bosses to clarify their approach during the hiring process.
Be sure prospective hires understand that they must prove their abilities and knowledge gradually, steadily.
Emphasize that you'll move them along at the pace that suits them — no faster, no slower. Everyone from the service manager and shop foreman to the other technicians will judge their abilities, and therefore, the pace of their growth and the level of their assignments.
Second, tailoring the workload to a younger tech as closely as practically possible is the way to keep that tech on board.
The service manager and shop foreman, for example, should caucus often to discuss the progress of younger techs.
What's more, they should meet with each tech regularly to offer feedback and constructive criticism. Then adjust each tech's workload accordingly.
Younger technicians share something with rookie athletes: They thrive on feedback from their coaches.
The conscientious ones want to succeed so they crave hearing what they're doing well — not to mention how to improve the things they aren't doing well yet.
The death knell for rookies or young techs is indifferent, unresponsive coaches or managers. Insufficient or ineffective feedback breeds discouragement, then discontent.
I have met my share of younger techs who either moved to another service facility or else abandoned the auto repair trade because of three problems: Inadequate or ineffective feedback, unreasonably difficult assignments or else boring work.
Some of them have endured, for instance, six months of nothing but oil changes and tire repairs. Others described being upbraided for not producing — whatever "producing" meant because bosses never defined the word.
Third, rookie athletes and greenhorn technicians have another thing in common with each other. That is, ineffective leadership may squander their potential by failing to lead, coach and groom them.
Sometimes the sports analogy seems trite. But make no mistake about this: Many aspiring technicians whom one boss labeled worthless have developed and thrived at another auto service facility.
Last but not least, a prospective technician who becomes a long-term success at a competitor's service facility may suggest that your leadership style is lacking.
Keep an open mind about your approach; never hesitate to embrace new ideas and different ways to coach and groom younger technicians.