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Why Training Will Help You Get and Keep Skilled Techs

Ask a typical shop owner what the best way to keep techs loyal is, and the most common answer will be “money.” But this isn’t correct — it’s been proven wrong countless times in other industries.

Numerous studies have been conducted to learn what motivates employees. When asked to list the 10 things most important to their workers, managers almost always put money, commissions and bonuses at the top of the list. But when employees were asked, they placed money a lot lower.

What will keep techs loyal to you?

If you’ve studied management or psychology, you know that workers often say these things are more important than money:

1) They want to feel respected by their managers.

2) They want to feel important to the company they work for.

3) They want to feel like their work is meaningful — that it makes life better for somebody.

When you provide ongoing training, you help meet those needs. But shops that ignore their techs and treat them as disposable will find their technician turnover rate is very high, and very costly.

Benefits of training techs

By raising the skill level of all your techs, your shop will get more work done more efficiently, and with fewer cases of misdiagnosis. You make more money like that, and it reduces your stress level.

This will also let you expand your opportunities to capture more business. For example, some techs don’t feel comfortable with wheel alignments, perhaps because of all the math involved. Train them well, increase the number who can do alignments, and you’ll probably find more legitimate reasons to recommend alignments to your customers. This applies to other types of repair jobs, as well.

In addition, your techs will feel more confident in recommending other work. Leave them at their present skill levels, though, and they won’t let you know about those other potential sales. That’s simply human nature.

Continually training techs will encourage them to keep working for you. Think about it: Most independent shops don’t provide structured, formal ongoing training. If you do, then you’ll have an advantage in attracting and retaining the best techs in your area.

Reducing tech turnover reduces inefficiency, mistakes and lost sales that happen every time you spend time looking for new techs to hire.

Training costs next to nothing

It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Many shop owners rose from the ranks of skilled technicians, as perhaps you did. So, it can be as simple as sharing your knowledge and experience. Here are some inexpensive (and maybe fun) ways to train your techs.

  • Collect online articles that expand on weak areas your techs seem to have. Somebody can’t get air conditioning systems charged to just the right level? Give him three articles to read, then go over the material with all your techs.
  • Collect trade journal articles on subjects that seem to come up regularly. Comebacks on wheel alignments or wheel balances? Get some material together. Drivability misdiagnoses are common. Build your tech library for them. Take it seriously.
  • Realize that some techs learn better by reading or by doing things hands-on, rather than by being lectured. Don’t lecture; lead instead.
  • Invite your local trade school teachers to deliver classes to your techs on advanced subjects, maybe once or twice monthly. Pay them their nominal fee.
  • Have a weekly “lunch and learn” for your training sessions. Spring for pizza or sandwiches so you can concentrate on teaching. Don’t take calls during that hour. Encourage note-taking. Make your techs realize that their skills are valuable to your shop’s financial health.
  • Each tech seems to know things the others don’t. Consider having techs take turns sharing their knowledge on their favorite subject with their peers. They might feel awkward at first, but it will soon become fun as everybody sees the value. Remember, everyone wants to feel important at work — it builds morale.

Lose the old-fashioned attitude that if you’re training a tech, it means they’re in trouble or not as good as the others. The more your techs know, the more valuable they’ll be to you, and to your team.

Which subjects should you train in?

As your techs take their ASE tests, use their lower-scoring areas as guidelines on what training they need. Track comeback patterns in your shop. The fewer mistakes that get made, the more profit for you.

Here’s one method: Get an artist’s easel from your local art supply store. Buy a pad of 24-by-24-inch sketching paper for the easel and several colored markers. That’s your visual aid. When the class is done, let your students keep the pages most important to them.

You can even keep the easel set up in your waiting room. When you have a diagnosis to discuss with a customer, draw it out on the sketch paper, then give the customer the page. This one tool can help you build trust and credibility with both your customers and your techs.

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