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WrenchWay: Top focus to hire techs should be proactive shop promotion, school involvement & better pay

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Business Practices
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Successfully attracting and retaining technicians during the ongoing shortage centers on proactive plans to promote your shop, build a pipeline of students, and competitive pay, according to advice shared at the 2024 Southeast Collision Conference.

Jay Goninen, the co-founder and president of WrenchWay, presented the tips during a class on May 17 at the conference, held in Greensboro, North Carolina. WrenchWay focuses on helping shops and dealerships find and hire qualified technicians with the mission of promoting and improving technician careers.

First off, to attract and retain technicians, shops have to pay well, and if there isn’t enough profit to do so, Goninen recommends getting help from a coach to improve business operations to be able to increase wages.

For example, Goninen said a technician told him he didn’t want the technician shortage to get better because he’s being treated better at work, paid more, and his career is in high demand.

About 42% of techs leave the industry within the first two years of entering, Goninen said.

“We’re basically eating our young and it’s because we’re not taking the time to actually put them through some type of training program and sometimes, frankly… our expectations of a young person are probably a little unrealistic. Younger techs expect a career path as well.”

Goninen said sharing your vision of the company with them and being transparent about what your goals are as a company can be beneficial because they’ll know there are future opportunities for them.

According to WrenchWay’s 2023 “Voice of Technician” survey, one of the primary things technicians expect is proper equipment (98%) in the shop. And younger techs want more work/life balance — “working to live instead of living to work,” Goninen said.

Next is paid vacation (92%) and paid training (89%) followed by retirement fund (86%), well-documented career path (78%), weekends off work (75%), thorough and consistent performance reviews (71%), temperature-controlled building (63%), adequate tool allowance (41%), and periodic company paid lunches (31%).

“You can’t find technicians because there aren’t enough so we need to work on keeping the ones we have and bringing a new pipeline in,” Goninen said. “What we find is about 75% of technicians aren’t actively looking, but they would be open to listening to your opportunity.”

“We need our best and brightest to speak highly of our industry… A lot of times when you go out there, you don’t get that sense… if we don’t treat our good people good, or we don’t treat our good people great, they’re going to walk and, even if they don’t walk, they’re going to tell other people to walk and not stay in our shops. That is brutal. We have to get a hold of that.”

If technicians decide to leave your shop, Goninen recommends conducting well-prepared exit interviews with thought-out questions) to get an idea of improvements that might need to be made.

When it comes to the hiring process, make it as easy as possible to receive more applications, Goninen said. He said try applying to your own job posting — is the process complicated and frustrating? Also, post on multiple job boards rather than focusing solely on one, and make sure to respond fast to applicants, he said.

Goninen said research has shown 84% of technician candidates say a company’s reputation, brand, or brand influences whether or not they’ll apply for the job. They want to see photos, videos, and stories of what it’s like to work in shops.

Overall improvements shops should make, according to Goninen, are:

    • Prioritize recruiting — make it a top priority but at the bottom of your to-do list and keep in mind that what worked in the past isn’t going to work in the future. Treat it like any other major company goal — document the process, conduct ongoing reporting, and have monthly meetings on the topic.
    • Improve job descriptions — front load the important details because candidates spend an average of 49.7 seconds skimming applications before deciding if it’s a good fit, he said. Keep it clear and concise and include the salary. Eighty-seven percent of techs think it’s important to include salary in a job posting, according to WrenchWay.
    • Improve your hiring process
    • Start a long-term recruiting strategy with schools, such as support throughout the year with supplies, equipment, and tool donations; classroom speakers and demonstrations; shop tours; advisory committee participation; internship opportunities, and job shadowing.
    • Use social media correctly — Nearly 70% of potential applicants will go to your website or social media pages before applying, Goninen said. Go beyond the “we’re hiring” posts — post content technicians care about and show them your shop culture as well as why you’re a great place to work, including via videos.

Regarding videos, Goninen said it’s important for shops to get out of their comfort zones.

“There are some really good people in your shops that have really cool stories,” he said. “I love the stories of people in our industry that started off at the lowest level and worked their way up. How about you put together some type of video of that person talking about their journey and how they grew within your company? That goes a lot further than just putting a ‘we’re hiring’ ad out.”

Videos can also be made of daily operations with a quick synopsis from techs about what they’re doing.

“It’s going to be really hard to get back to fully staffed until you start to do some of this stuff proactively,” Goninen said. “Don’t wait for everything to be perfect and right in your shop before you start a program with a school. Get out there, talk to the schools, become a really big advocate of those schools, and understand what they need.”


Featured image: Jay Goninen, the co-founder and president of WrenchWay, speaks during the Southeast Collision Conference on May 17, 2024. (Lurah Lowery/Repairer Driven News)

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