Staffing Issues in Fixed Operations - Part 2

How do you attract new team members?

Attracting and keeping a strong team is an ongoing battle for dealership service departments. Check out the innovative strategies some TVI MarketPro3 partners have implemented over the years to entice technicians and other personnel to join their team.

Michaela Reardon – Service Manager:

When we do hire our valets, we do let them know at the time of the interview that this is the entry level position. You are not stuck in this position forever, and that we are looking at them to fill other positions within the organization if they are interested.

So yes, what we call our our service consultant trainee, the in-house training that we do, we definitely pick from our pool of valets, and they have turned out to be great service consultants.

They also, we’ve had a lot of success moving them into the technician role, beginning on our express team and then into an apprentice role and then into a flat rate technician. So those are both career paths. We’ve also had valets go on to work in our parts department as well.

Chad Blair – Fixed Operations Director:

The biggest thing that I let our guys, the applicants know and our new employees know is how strong our team is. You know, just the environment. I think that’s really important, especially the new hires, is… it’s not an environment where you’re walking on eggshells or it’s not a cutthroat environment where you’re, you know, everyone’s out for everyone.

We work as a team. It’s fun, you know, But at the same time, we’re growing. There’s a lot of opportunity to move up within the business. If you put in your time and, you come in here with solid work ethic and self drive.

One of the programs that I work close with is the Honda Pact program. I’ve actually reached out and talked with the program instructor, and I invited him in here to watch my process to get to know my guys. And this is on the express side of things because I think it’s important to have a close contact with someone like that, so when they are finishing school or even while they’re in school, they have a go-to place.

I don’t think that there’s any better way of getting someone through here rather than having someone who’s been trained by… the Honda Process… they already have a basic knowledge of the technical side of things.

And the cool thing we’ve been doing is having them work here part time while they’re in school. So then when they graduate school, they end up being in here full time and they’re, ten steps ahead of everybody. So having a close relationship with a program like that that’s close to you is a huge benefit on every level, in my opinion. The biggest thing that I let these guys know is that we want you to grow within the company. We want to send you to school, and just the sky’s the limit. It depends how much you want to work for.

Maribel Martinez – Service Manager:

Right now, I have two other young men that are coming to me from Lake Washington Technical School. They are both in the automotive program. I had one young man that’s already worked for me for six months. He had another classmate that unfortunately, he worked at a different dealership, which we will not name, and he was not treated fairly. They basically used him kind of like your go-for, like do all the crap work and stuff. And they weren’t teaching him anything.

So the easy way to get someone like that team is [to say] “hey, come here, we train you. We will factory train you, we will send you to school. We will pay for that schooling.”

So now suddenly you’re giving someone a reason to want to come here because they’re going to get something out of it. Above and beyond the schooling that the individuals are already paying for, they know they are now in a position where they’re going to have some further training, which is going to be actual factory training, which will help them specialize in our brand.

Tom Miller – Parts & Service Director:

We’ve been looking for some alternate scheduling. Some people just can’t, or don’t want to work 8 hours a day or don’t want to work, you know, 7 to 6 that’s normally required in this industry, go into some part time things, alternate schedules and maybe even four day schedules, things we’re looking at.

It’ll give us an opportunity to pick up some people that couldn’t work, you know, maybe full time, you know, people who are still in school or have other obligations. We’re open from 7 to 7 during the week and we’ve got guys that start at seven. We got guys who don’t come in until eight and they work accordingly. You know, they don’t when they when they start, that’s when they finish. And, you know, guys again, want to work part time, we’re flexible to that.

Chris Seaver – Parts & Service Director:

We take care of our people. We pay them well. We try to manage their workload in terms of, you know, we give the appointment scheduling to someone else. We try to make sure that they’re not on the phone all day so that they can, you know, do their job in terms of selling and dispatching and try to balance their duty. So we try not to overload them and we pay them really well and then they’re happy being here. It’s a good family-run company.

I work with schools and the tech centers and they’ll send me, you know, one or two here and there, and maybe out of six or seven that we hire and train, one might stay with me. We have a generous sign-on bonus program. If I look at hiring a technician and he’s got some skill, offer up to a $5,000 sign-on bonus.

Generous pay, I probably pay as high as anybody in the industry right now. We will hire these young people and let them know we’ll pay for a starter set of basic tools. And if you’re here for two or more years, the tools are yours.


Matthew Stradone – Parts & Service Director:

We really kind of fit in with wherever we can, so we work with a lot of different schools between Lincoln Tech, UTI, local programs, anything we can get ourselves into. Ford has a good program at Catonsville Community College through the ASSET program there, so we’ve kind of utilized any avenue that we can to find technicians.

What I would tell you is, the biggest deal is getting the entry level technicians and giving them a path and a training process to follow so that you can grow them. And ultimately, I feel like you build the most loyal technicians, and it’s easier to retain technicians that way because they’re starting with you. They’re learning your processes, they’re learning, you know, your ideas and and they’re really practicing what you’re teaching them. So ultimately, I think that’s been our success.

Experienced technicians that come in, they’re not necessarily looking for the roadmap as much as when they come in the door, you give them the tools that you tell them that you will. You know, when we say, hey, we’ll get you certified, we’ll get you set up for training, and we do it.

Rusty Gold – Service Manager:

Most of it is just the team spirit. I try to allow a lot of freedom to these guys. I do not micromanage my guys and I think they like that as far as coming to work, they like who they work with. I try to keep the chemistry of my people very happy and I think most of the guys like coming to work here. So I think it’s all just the atmosphere.

Dollar-wise? You know, we’re competitive, but I don’t do anything crazy money-wise. I think it’s more of just a comfort zone. I’m a big family guy, so if they’ve got kids, it’s a perfect place to work because if they’ve got Donuts with Dads, I’m going to make sure they’re there. I’m not going to force them to be at work when they should be with their family.

Tri-C has an excellent program, it’s called ASEP, that is a GM-backed program and being on the advisory board, I get to have first pick so we get a great pick of who’s coming up. And same thing with the high school level. I try to get those kids in here in the summertime just to get a feel for what they’re about. Get them used to the store and then hopefully promote them on to the Tri-C program.

They’ve been working excellent. I have got, I believe I’ve got seven ASEP graduates here right now. I’ve got one that just graduated last year. I’ve got a gentleman that’s just starting this fall in the program that I picked up from the Polaris Vocational School, so it works.

Andrew Nevling – Fixed Operations Manager:

So a lot of shops, you’ll see they have big sign on bonuses and they promise people the world. Our shop is we’re very open, we’re very honest. It’s a family atmosphere here. Everybody knows each other. They know each other’s spouses, they know each other’s kids. A lot of people are excited to come to work.

Once they come in and see the flow of the shop and meet the people we work with, they realize that they’re comfortable here. This is where they want to be. And it’s just the team atmosphere is the biggest and I guess a perk that we have here where people want to be here and they learn and there’s huge opportunities for growth.

Chris Shillinger – Service Director:

I’m just very fortunate right now. I got a great set of techs and I’ve got several in the wing that want to come here and work so I mean, right now. I don’t have to do a whole lot to incentivize them. They want to come here and work. So I’m pretty fortunate. I don’t know if it will be that way forever. Techs are hard to find, but I’ve got a great bunch of techs.

Wendy Capri – General Manager:

We just keep running ads through Hireology. We run some local ads from the local paper. That didn’t really bring much. Hireology is helping. I also have some Facebook ads that’s also gotten us a few technicians.

We are looking at maybe some hiring bonuses or signing bonuses. I am careful with that because sometimes you have someone that you’ve had for 25 years, and they say, “that guy just got this, and I’ve been with you this long,” so we have to be really careful. It’s again, a tightrope right now.

Ralph Wilson – President:

Well, I don’t know that we do anything special to incentivize them to come here. We feel we have one of the best programs around. Our pay scale for flat rate technicians is excellent, I think the best in the area. So sometimes word of mouth gets out there, but there’s a huge shortage of the flat rate technicians.

The other way is, we go to the trade schools looking for a prospective candidate that we can bring in at the journeyman level, that’s that’s our best source of our future mechanics is to bring them in as an apprentice and work them up through journeyman.

Actually, about the only thing that we’ve done we’ve had some success with is actually incentivizing our employees, our own employees, to encourage people to come here and apply for a job that they know, and they come. And we’ve had some success with that. Sure.

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