The Importance of “Professionalism” in Recruiting and Retaining Excellent Technicians

The Importance of “Professionalism” in Recruiting and Retaining Excellent Technicians

Guest writer Steve Johnson addresses the important issue of hiring and retaining employees in this week’s post, “The Importance of ‘Professionalism’ in Recruiting and Retaining Excellent Technicians.”

Finding good people and employee retention have for years been tough, relevant issues in the equipment industry, especially with regard to technicians. This also applies to other jobs at your dealership.  The “great resignation” has brought the issue of retention to even greater prominence. Now, some might say, “aw, they’re just lazy, want a handout, have had it too easy,” etc. 

I don’t buy it. 

I’ve seen too many motivated young people at career and technical colleges, at Skills USA and other venues to buy that. I’ve seen too many great employees and great employers who show me a different story to buy that. There are too many young people out there who make great employees at companies that re far-sighted enough to educate them well and provide great career opportunities. There are too many companies out there that manage their retention rates well through expert and informed “professional” human resource management. Here I am not just referring to the human resources department, but the entire organization’s management. 

I remember once asking an equipment dealership owner what he pays beginning techs and mentioned what I thought was an average number. His reply? “Absolutely not, nobody can live on that! In a different mid-career job, I worked for a training organization, and one business owner was angry at me because he had trained all his people and they had all quit and moved on. He said it was my fault. In reality, it was because his shop was far less than desirable as a workplace. Another said he couldn’t find any good techs. Then he told me he was paying them a way below market rate at $8.50 / hour. Seriously? Which of the above was the more professional reaction? 

There have been many articles I’ve read over the years as to why people want to leave their jobs and do leave their jobs. It seems to me that the reasons are not that different today from those years ago… an unlivable wage, no upward mobility, poor leadership, a negative company culture, below standard benefits, a chronically overworked staff, and so forth. I would never expect employees in today’s labor market to stand for that, and apparently many are not. In my opinion, the “great resignation” is largely more an issue of employer human resource management professionalism than an employee issue. 

In summary, my belief is that running a professional organization has everything to do with dealer professionals treating people like the human professionals they are in a professional environment. What does that mean operationally? Here are some thoughts on employees staying or leaving. 

  1. Fair and equitable pay is an important factor; everyone wants to do their best supporting themselves and their families. Fair and equitable benefits are also important; ask anyone who has had medical issues and did not or couldn’t afford to have health insurance.
  2. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t feel burned out at times; needs some personal or family time; or some vacation time to be with their families? How about providing on average a good balance of work/personal life.  
  3. Not all, but most “motivated and productive” employees do want to have continuous learning opportunities, both OTJ and more formal learning, to help them move along in their career into better paying, more responsible jobs. There are other ways to enable this than just “climbing the company management ladder.”
  4. Most employees would like to know that their employers are paying attention to them and their near- and long-range personal and professional goals. Consider that the costs of not paying attention to such things continue to go up.
  5. See #4 above. This is particularly true for all leaders and managers, from parts and service managers all the way to the top management.
  6. Does your company have an employee feedback mechanism to take the company pulse. For example, does management “walk around” the company often to be accessible and get the pulse? What if you found that half your company wouldn’t recommend employment there to a friend? I know of that happening at one company. Does management make an honest effort to find out why people are leaving? Do they act on the collective information results?
  7. Does management set a good professional “work ethic” example to employees; what about employees to other employees. Do the rules apply to everyone? Are honesty, good character, integrity, mutual respect and fairness words that apply to actual practice at the company and are at the top of the company’s value list?
  8. When you hire a new, qualified technician, or even an intern or apprentice, do you have them on the wash bay, or make sure they are working and gaining new experience at the highest level they are qualified for?
  9. Does your shop appear as a professional environment should, or does it hearken back to memories of years ago that preserve the old “grease monkeys” image. Are your employees proud of where they work? Does your employee dress code reflect professionalism or something less desirable? Yes, even maybe uniforms in the shop.
  10. Are up-down and down-up company communication’s what they should be? Does staff communicate well to all concerned parties? This includes any performance reviews… “If we’re doing our job as leaders, a performance review should only be two columns: Column A is what you do great and Column B is what you do not-so-great. Now, here’s how we move things from Column B to Column A.” (Story by Carly Guthrie, Guthrie HR Consulting, San Francisco, CA)

My goal here is to urge you to think about “company professionalism” and how that impacts your companies’ human resource management as you develop a hopefully successful recruitment and retention plan. Yes, the above over-simplifies the issues greatly. However, I believe that if companies work to manage the career interests of new and experienced employees continuously and professionally and give them challenging and rewarding work opportunities in a professional environment, those employees will thrive. So will those companies.

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