With the continual efforts to shake the old “grease monkey” stereotype, and with more young people gravitating toward attending four-year colleges as opposed to technical or vocational schools, the collision repair industry is scrambling to find and retain good people. This shortage of qualified technicians, for example, has led lead to higher wages, benefits and signing bonuses.
As a result, the market for good employees is turning ugly. Body shops are either stealing techs from each other or bringing in green people and trying to train them from the ground up. Some MSOs and mini-chains are trying to do something about it now, and most consumers aren’t aware of this dilemma yet. But, when they have to wait weeks for repairs and prices go up because there’s not enough people out there to fix cars, customers will suddenly be just as concerned as the body shop owners about the lack of good talent.
So, here are some suggestions outlining marketing techniques you might want to consider as you pursue top employees for your shop (or shops):
Connect to Your Local Schools
For the larger MSOs that constantly need new people to fill their pipeline, working with local high schools, trade organizations and trade technical schools is almost essential. Concentrate on the schools in your backyard and also pinpoint several outside of your immediate area. Certain states are creating more collision professionals, such as Texas, Florida and California, where there are more technical schools and more automotive repair students who will soon be pursuing employment. Participate in mentoring programs, career fairs and other activities and programs that schools offer.
Setup an Employee Referral Program
Human Resources departments at large corporations have extensive employee referral systems in place that are their bread and butter when it comes to finding and hiring top people. They offer generous bonuses, including all-expense paid vacations, tickets to concerts and sporting events, etc. for employees who refer their friends and associates. Instead of conducting “cattle calls” and interviewing hundreds of semi-qualified people, why not find top candidates through the connections your existing employees already have? You will quickly find out that good body techs hang out with other good body techs, and it’s the same with painters, estimators, etc.
Train New Employees Yourself
If you want to do it right, why not control the process, including the training? Big MSOs like Service King now have a fully compensated 52-week training course developed to prepare incoming technicians for careers at Service King. As part of this program, technicians receive daily on-the-job oversight and training, use a detailed curriculum and progress through a series of competency assessments and succession benchmarks. Technicians are consistently awarded throughout the program and tutored by an assigned apprentice supervisor, to make certain that they’re ready for work when the training is complete. The theory is that if you train them your way, they will stay and be long-term happy employees.
Use Your Philanthropy and Community Service as a Recruiting Tool
Shops involved in charity work don’t do it with the idea of landing top employees, but if they can leverage these efforts, why not? Top people will appreciate a business that helps others, and in many cases, it can lead to eventual employment. Everyone wants to have a purpose and make a decent living, but many people also respect a company that helps its community and does more than just fixing cars.
Use Social Media
In this age of online social and professional networking, there is a very good chance that you and your employees are already connected to a wide range of potential candidates. Tap into this potential audience on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter to get the word out. By using as many online tools as you possibly can, you’ll be finding better job candidates at zero cost.
Make the Application Process Easy
Some shops use software linked to their web sites, so that candidates can easily fill out online applications or submit resumes fast and drama-free while others use different sites to achieve the same results. If you can make the application and vetting process simple, logically more will apply. Top sites for recruiting and submitting applications and resumes include Simply Hired, Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter.
Always Be Recruiting (ABR)
Many shops fill a specific need and then put the recruiting efforts on the back burner, but that is a mistake for many reasons. Recruiting is ongoing and never slows down or stops. Just because you’re properly staffed today, what happens when another shop lures away a couple of your top techs? That’s why you have to be recruiting all the time, especially if you have more than one location.
Devise a Specific Message
People don’t like ambiguity, especially when their livelihoods are involved. Applicants want the facts, not some fancy phrases like “We’re on the Cutting Edge” or “Ride Our Wave.” They want to know what the job’s requirements are, the training required, the hours, the benefits and the pay. Remember that the inventory of good, qualified people out there is limited, so make sure your message is clear, complete and specific about what you’re looking for. So, devise a message that will attract top people while gaiting unqualified wannabes. It will save you time and money in the long run.
Respect Every Job Candidate
Never disregard an unqualified job candidate, because you never know when that person may reach the point of employment, based on schooling, training or accumulated experience. You also don’t know who this individual might know, so always treat job applicants with respect and leave them feeling good about themselves.
Do an Annual Hiring Open House
Some ingenious marketing types at body shops have combined their customer appreciation event with an employment open house, thereby killing two birds with one stone. That way, it’s more affordable for you, and people can use the opportunity to submit resumes, meet with your managers, and even do an impromptu interview.