Ultimately, the best way to keep great technicians is demonstrating that you always have their backs.
If you aren't familiar with this expression, it basically means looking out for someone as carefully as you look out for yourself.
Unfortunately, some owners and managers I encounter don't seem to know how to look out for employees — especially their techs.
Over the last several decades, many tire dealers have embraced a broad range of automotive repairs. The transition has been so extensive that a dealership now may operate more like an auto repair shop that specializes in tires.
Competent, reliable technicians are the foundation of any successful auto service business.
Understandably, then, tire dealers have spent more time and resources on recruiting as well as retaining techs.
It's a shame how some bosses who claim to be focused on sensible employee retention methods behave in a seemingly clueless manner: They routinely do the opposite of the things that build technician loyalty.
Repeatedly, experience has shown the counterproductive approaches that eventually force a competent employee to look for another job. Frankly, bosses who persist in these misguided methods are misguided or clueless themselves.
The truly effective ways to retain competent techs aren't difficult to pinpoint. Rather, they are there for the gleaning — if and when a boss listens to workers carefully.
Mind you, I am not a human relations professional or management ace, but I have witnessed a great deal since my first job in a full-service gas station in the late 1960s.
I have visited auto service facilities throughout the country, observing procedures and listening to techs' concerns.
What's more, my technical training assignments have taken me through 38 states and across Canada. So, I've heard countless techs' cares and worries during face-to-face conversations.
These hard-working folks often cite some critical examples of "having a tech's back." For one thing, this means offering timely recognition.
Recognition is the well-deserved "attaboy" and/or pat on the back. Many techs have told me that well-earned praise and recognition is as important as a paycheck is.
For another, having someone's back means never asking a tech to do anything a manager would not do him or herself.
For instance, don't dump some sort of unsavory rush job on a tech at the last minute — especially one that's potentially hazardous.
Common-sense safety may mean cooling down a vehicle so a tech doesn't burn him or herself on searing hot engine or transmission parts. Have the tech's back by acknowledging the safety risk and scheduling ample cool-down time.
Third, have a tech's back by listening to concerns about those challenging repairs that may — for a variety of reasons — defy the labor repair guide's estimates. If you care to listen, for example, the tech may explain that a seized part here or a rusted component there may double the time required to fix the vehicle correctly.
Have the tech's back by selling this repair cautiously to the car owner. For example, clarify that extreme conditions may unavoidably increase the labor cost. Don't penalize techs for circumstances they cannot control.
Fourth, have a tech's back by selling thorough repairs versus short-cut, minimalist methods.
Suppose a vehicle arrives with multiple problems — ranging from potentially tolerable to serious.
Perhaps the car owner insists on fixing only one of those problems.
If so, politely but firmly explain that neither the dealership nor its tech can be responsible for those pending failures — and the related repairs — that the customer wants to overlook at this time.
Simply put, never penalize or criticize any tech for a motorist's foolish choices. Instead, patiently inform the person as clearly and as practically possible. Beyond that, the repair responsibility is the car owner's alone.
Remember that you need not literally walk in a tech's shoes to have his or her back. Communicating with a tech will suffice.