Repair Your Shop Before You Replace Your Technicians

Bus repair shop

Before you hire any more mechanics, make sure your shop is a place where people want to work. If it isn’t, you will never stop looking for mechanics.

old broken rotary phone

I used to hate calls from numbers I didn’t recognize. It was almost always someone trying to sell me something. Now it is the opposite, 9/10 calls are from an HR Rep or Shop Manager who desperately needs to hire mechanics and they want me to sell them on our service. Finding new clients used to be an arduous process of calling every shop I could find and asking if they were hiring mechanics. Well, there is no reason to ask if anymore, the more accurate question is how many technicians are you looking to hire and the smart shops are not waiting for a recruiter to call them they are reaching out directly. (Quick, shameless plug, give me, Dave, a call at 1-833-762-5787 I’ll tell you how we can find you some good techs.)

So, if you are looking for techs, don’t feel bad, you are not alone. The why is more important than anything and is usually my first question. Why are you hiring Mechanics? This question tells you a lot, the answer I want to hear, and every company wants to give is that they have gotten busier, they are growing and need to hire more mechanics to handle the increased work load. If this is your situation, then you are in the best case scenario, let’s get to work right away to find you some good techs so that you don’t have to turn business away.

Very often though, the reason I hear is that they just had a bunch of techs quit or they are planning on replacing some of the techs that are underperforming. If this is your situation, then please read on before you take any sort of recruiting action. If you hire more techs before you solve your underlying problem, you will just be spinning your wheels.

Your first step is to ask why (sometimes I feel like my 4 year old, constantly asking why about everything. I’m sorry buddy I have no idea why the sky is blue, go ask Alexa.) What you need to be asking, or what I will end up asking you is “Why are technicians leaving or not working out?”

Why are your mechanics leaving?

This is a tough one to figure out but is important, especially if you have several mechanics leaving or if constant turnover seems to be an issue for you.

The first step is the most obvious step, ask the techs that are leaving, (you guessed it) why? You may or may not get a straight answer but you may as well at least try. When you get an answer,  don’t just settle for what they tell you, probe a little further. Try to find out is the job closer to home, is it a different shift, more money, better benefits, do they hate their supervisor or manager, do they not like the other techs on the shop floor, are there safety concerns etc. Let them know that you will not be mad about the answer and any feedback they can provide will only make the shop a better place for the technicians they are leaving behind.

Do not ignore what they tell you! Even if what they say sounds trivial to you, it is important to them and may be important to others.

If you can’t get any information from the departing mechanics as to why then you need to take a critical look at your shop. Sometimes you are too close to the problem to get a good read on what is happening, ask for an outside opinion. There are usually a couple of issues that may be causing people to leave.

When I am recruiting mechanics for a new job, the number 1 answer I get as to why they are looking is because they want more money. I have learned over the years that even if they truly think that this is the reason they are looking, it probably isn’t the only reason or even the main reason. I will always try to find at least 1 pain point that is not money related. Below are some of the common ones that I hear often:

  • Safety Issues
  • Bad Shift
  • Tools Going Missing
  • No Support From Management
  • No Recognition for Long Hours Put In
  • Unstable hours
  • Not Enough Hours
  • Being Asked to Sign Off On Unsafe Work
  • Not enough being invested in Shop Tooling

What is your shop doing to address the above, is there anything you can do to improve? Even small improvements can go a long way and send a clear message to your staff that they matter.

Why are your mechanics not working out?

Are you looking to replace a mechanic that you currently employ who is not working out? Before you do so, see if you can fix them. We are always preaching that a good mechanic repairs an issues, they are more than just parts changers. As a shop owner, it is your job to repair your shop before you replace your technicians.

This is especially true for techs that have worked with you for some time and were good but are no longer performing. Maybe they are having issues at home or with a co-worker. You owe it to them and yourself to find out what is going on and if there is anything you can do to help.

If they are struggling on the technical side of the job, is there training you can provide? Can you partner them with one of your stronger technicians who can teach them? Let them know you are concerned with their performance, see if they have any ideas.

Other possible solutions could be:

  • Reduce pay to a level that matches their performance
    • Did you hire them as a B tech but they are performing like a C
    • Offer them to drop to a C with the opportunity to move back up to B if performance increases, not a punishment but a way to save their job with a commitment you will help them get to where they need to be
  • Provide Training
  • Provide Tooling (are they lacking the right tools to get the job done)
    • Does your shop have adequate tools (Scan tools, hoists etc.)
  • Mediate any issues that may be happening on the shop floor between technicians
  • Train your Supervisors/Managers on how to work with people
  • Encourage open lines of communication
  • Offer them time off to sort out any personal issues they may be going through
  • If you have an EAP, remind your technicians of it and encourage them to use it, asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

There is a real shortage of mechanics right across Canada and the USA. It is incredibly difficult to find good technicians and incredibly important to hang on to the techs that you have.

If you are having a hard time pin pointing what might be the issues in your shop, feel free to give us a call and we will see if we can help and as always, if you need help finding mechanics to hire Rockstar Mechanics is your best bet.

For more tips on employee retention I recommend this post from earlier this year 5 ways to increase Employee Retention In Your Mechanic Shop.

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