How to Create a Technician Retention Plan – Part 4: Caring

Parts 1-3 of this blog series outlined technician retention through providing individualized training paths, growing students and apprentices, and offering creative compensation. Now, it comes full circle to fostering a shop environment conducive to loyalty through technician and manager relationships.

All employees want to feel appreciated and respected. This is especially true for technicians who also want their direct supervisor to understand what they go through every day. Yet, problem customers, mounting overhead pressures, and OEM demands fill most managers’ capacity to the brink. How can a manager find time to nurture technicians and create an atmosphere of encouragement, care, and respect?

Done correctly, crafting this type of environment doesn’t require a tremendous amount of your time. But it does require two things: making it a priority and getting out in the shop. The payoff is a sizeable impact on the technicians’ engagement and performance.

  1. Master the Impromptu 1-on-1
    • Annual performance reviews are extremely important but cannot be the only form of individual communication. Take a walk. Randomly stop and chat with a technician. Don’t center the conversation on work. Let them know you value them as a person, not just as an employee.
    • Always conclude a conversation with, “Is there anything I can do for you today?” Be prepared for the “white whale” requests, but you will find that there may be simple suggestions that can have a huge impact when addressed. Sometimes, just knowing you are interested in helping is all they need to feel appreciated.
    • Take to heart the findings of Gallup’s Employee Engagement Study, “The State of the American Manager.” It reminds us that “Employees are people first, and they have an intrinsic need for bonding that does not automatically turn itself off between the hours of 8 and 5. The best managers can understand and relate to their team members’ inherently human motivations.”*
  1. Hold Shop Meetings
    • Formal shop meetings keep employees in the loop. Distributing an annual calendar listing the monthly date and time along with advance copies of the basic agenda each month lets everyone be prepared.
      • Leave time at the end of the meeting for roundtable discussions. Some technicians only feel comfortable discussing an issue in a group.
      • Spot early signs that a meeting may be getting off topic or turning negative. Keep the focus at all times so the meetings stay productive and generate engagement.
    • Stay positive and use these meetings to tell the shop as a whole what is not being done correctly. Every issue can be viewed as an opportunity if addressed correctly.
    • Keep it short and don’t reschedule meetings.
    • Pay your flat-rate technicians for this time; it is definitely worth the investment. They will be more engaged knowing the meeting isn’t costing them time and money.
    • This is a great venue for acknowledging technicians in front of their peers for tenure, birthdays, training completions, or general praise.
  2. Maintain the Equipment and Facility
    • A technician’s bay is their office. Broken, unavailable, or outdated shop equipment is the equivalent of working without a computer or phone. You wouldn’t want to work that way in your office, and neither do they.
    • Shop equipment that is maintained and working not only increases efficiency but boosts morale. Keeping a clean, organized, and well-lit facility will also reduce accidents and show your technicians that you value them and the space they work in every day.
  3. Feed Them!
    • Nothing makes technicians happier than free food in the shop. Most technicians work very hard and do not get many breaks to eat. When the pizza boxes come out, it gives them the chance to take a well-deserved break and shows your appreciation.
    • Hold a technician appreciation barbeque. Grill massive amounts of hamburgers and hotdogs. Provide chips and drinks along with tables and chairs so the technicians can hang out in between jobs. Block your schedule for that one day and make them your priority!
    • If your shop is not air conditioned or has less than stellar air circulation, provide ice cold water and Gatorade on hot days. Technicians have an extremely physical job and the heat can make it tougher. Small gestures can pay big dividends in morale and your relationship with the technicians.

It may be true that employees leave managers, not jobs. Get creative and be the kind of manager that no one wants to leave. Engaging and fostering genuine relationships with technicians is an extremely effective part of any dealership’s retention plan.

With a shortage of quality technicians available, a well-crafted retention plan helps you keep the technicians you have and make them even more valuable than you thought they could be. It’s time to do what it takes to make long tenures in your shop the new normal.

*”What Managers Must Know from the Gallup Employee Engagement Survey,” www.getlighthouse.com/blog/gallup-employee-engagement-survey-managers/.
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