LAS VEGAS—It's time to debunk the myths surrounding the automotive technician shortage in the aftermarket, according to Dwayne Myers, president and CEO of Dynamic Automotive in Frederick, Md.
Despite the scarcity, employers can attract and retain quality technicians by improving their hiring process and providing employees with a career path within their companies.
Besides operating a four-outlet auto repair business, Mr. Myers is chairman of the Auto Care Association's education committee. During the 2019 Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo in Las Vegas, he educated attendees on his methods for attracting and retaining employees during a job market that has seen historically low unemployment and lukewarm interest in automotive careers.
While admitting it is difficult to find and retain good technicians, Mr. Myers debunked what he called popular myths about reasons for the tech shortage:
- No one wants to work anymore. "We've got to give them a reason to work with us," he said.
- Millennials are a lost cause. "There is a group of millennials that are great for this industry. We just have to interact with them a little differently than we used to."
- After investing in on-the-job training, new techs will leave the company. "I think out of all of them, that's the one I hate the most because, to me, that's the wrong mindset to start with," he said. "If you're worried about them leaving before you even create the relationship, most likely I think that you're part of the problem or are the problem."
- They'll leave for a dollar more in pay. "A person will leave you for a dollar more especially if they are in the lower tier level and if there isn't something else for them to lose. … If you have a plan, then they have more to lose than just that dollar."
- You can't hire a rock star or you can't hire a great person or you can't afford them. "It's not all about the pay. It's also about what you bring to them with the pay. That plan. Are you going to invest in training? If you do that, you can bring in that rock star to help you grow your company," he said.
Attracting and retaining talent is a process, he said. The first step is the hiring process, then creating a plan for development of entry level help and establishing a career path — what they are going to be doing in the next several years.
"That path is what locks them into your company and makes them a valuable asset to you," he said.
Mr. Myers advised that employers need to make the right choice from the start. He warned employers not to shortcut the process because they may end up hiring the wrong people, which could hurt the company's culture.
"You need to take the time to do the interviews, vet the people and, if you have the right type of plan in place, you'll get the applications in there," he said.
Employers should take the approach of hiring someone as if they will never be able to fire him or her.
"It's a marriage. So if you take the time, you'll most likely pick the right person for your team," he said.
During the interview, let the applicant know ahead of time what the company culture is, what training is provided and how important teamwork is.
Teamwork is important because employees usually train each other for the next job. "So without teamwork and a strong culture of working together, that would never work," he said.
Establishing career paths for employees is key for developing a team, Mr. Myers said.
More experienced employees need to train their replacements so they can freely move up in the company without concerns about who can fill their former job positions. Otherwise, managers may be reluctant to promote someone because he or she does a good job in a current position.
"If we work on training their replacement ahead of time, they'll be able to move up and we have someone to fill that spot," Mr. Myers said.
Meanwhile, teaching leadership skills benefits all employees, no matter what level they are at in their career path. Leadership training helps the whole team get better, he said.
"When you continue the cycle of training each other, what you end up doing is you stack your deck with talent, which allows you to grow. That way you can grow organically and through new locations, if you have talent in your pipeline," Mr. Myers said.
He also encouraged employers to create "road map" reviews to find out current employees' plans/goals for their careers and what skills they want to learn.
"There's no reason to wait until someone has a job to teach them what their next job skills will be. We have technicians right now that are learning leadership skills for when they are going to take over a location in the next few years," he said.
"By training them ahead of time, one, it broadens their minds; two, once they finally take over that position, their success rate is a lot higher. It's not like throwing them to the wolves. They've actually had some time to learn what they're going to be doing.
"It's also (ensures) a healthy work environment. People like to know they're growing and where they're going to go. If you actually take the time to show them (a career path), it makes a difference in their whole mental attitude, which is a healthy place to be."
Road-map review is a goal-based review, he said, and it helps with the employer-employee communication process. The employees write down their goals for the next year, three years and five years. The employer reviews goal statements from the previous review and discusses ways to achieve the goals, reviews job performance and creates action items to achieve the new goals.
"If we don't do something about (goal achievement), we lose that buy-in. So there is something we have to follow through on and do something with the investment we put into that review process."
Mr. Myers said his company has 45 employees with six on a path to be location leaders. He said the road-map review has achieved several benefits over time for his auto service business:
- The company has a fully staffed team, with a good retention rate;
- Employees stay with the company if they know it has a plan for them; and
- With a full staff and positive team work, the company has been able to increase store sales and add stores.
"I believe that having a plan — that includes apprenticeships and road-map reviews that are combined into a career path — is what will attract and retain the talent we need to be successful," he said.