Jul 13, 2023

Thinking Outside the Box When Hiring Technicians

Thinking Outside the Box When Hiring Technicians

A simple math problem. When it comes down to it, your shop can’t find quality techs because there simply aren’t enough of them to fill all the open jobs. The unfortunate part is that the math isn’t even close.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the diesel industry will add 80,000 jobs per year through 2031. That is on top of the roughly 73,300 open jobs for automotive technicians.

It’s not fun to come to terms with this, especially if you’ve been around the industry for a long time. It hasn’t always been this hard to find techs, and it’s one of the reasons it’s so hard to get a grip on now. As an industry, we were able to largely skate by without dedicating much time to staffing, but it’s become apparent that recruiting and hiring technicians can no longer be an afterthought.

Working On Your Business, Not In It

In the book, The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, he stresses the importance of working on your business instead of in it. In order to do this, you need to take yourself out of the weeds.

Working on your business rather than in it is much more challenging than it sounds. If you own or manage a shop, you probably have some type of technical background. You’re used to being in the weeds and might even enjoy it. The problem with staying in the weeds is that it consumes your time and doesn’t allow you to work on business-critical items, such as staffing.

With that being said, it’s really tough to get out of the weeds when you’re short-staffed. Many of you probably feel like you’re on a hamster wheel when it comes to hiring new employees—constantly trying to keep up with the daily tasks of keeping the shop running, knowing that a couple of extra bodies would be just what the doctor ordered.

Stale Recruiting? Time for Change!

When recruiting technicians, thinking outside the box can be hugely impactful. In order to do this, you have to:

  1. Realize there aren’t enough techs
  2. Start to think differently about hiring
  3. Spend more time on staffing

Most of our industry is very reactive with staffing. We wait until we’re absolutely desperate to find somebody, post on Indeed, and are disappointed when we don’t see hoards of quality resumes coming through. This needs to change in order for our industry, and your shop, to be in a better position.

Here’s an exercise: Think of this in terms of a five-year outlook rather than the reactive way we currently hire. In doing this, you’re able to go from focusing on the immediate need to thinking through a strategy to ensure you don’t end up in this same situation.

A good strategy will cover both the short- and long-term aspects of staffing, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. However, don’t confuse uncomplicated with being easy. You still need to execute it, and that is definitely not easy.
Technician Recruitment Strategies for the Short-Term
For a short-term strategy, start by brainstorming different ways to get in front of good technicians. Keep in mind that there’s no silver bullet. You need multiple avenues to find techs. For example, word-of-mouth, Indeed, social media, and WrenchWay (shameless plug) are all great ways to get in front of technicians.

Write out all the ways you’re going to get the word out, and then lay out how often you’re going to do those things.

Lastly, find yourself an accountability partner within the business to make sure it happens.

Technician Recruitment Strategies for the Long-Term

For a long-term strategy, we need to revisit the fact that there aren’t enough people in the industry. What are you going to do to bring more in?

This starts with the schools and, more specifically, high schools. Most tech school students already have jobs, and we’re seeing more and more shops covering tuition for those students. So, they’re most likely tied to a shop already, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support our tech schools. However, it does tell us where we need to spend more time.

A nice long-term solution could be working with your local high schools to help support their program (i.e., tool and equipment donations, speaking to the class, attending advisory committee meetings, etc.).

High schools are always in need of industry assistance, and the more visible you are at the school, the more students will consider you for a future employer. By doing this, you’re creating a relationship with a school that helps you build a pipeline of future technicians.

Once you get exposure within the school, you can put them into a long-range plan. Maybe you take a group of students and line up job shadows. From there, you find which one you like and enroll them into an apprenticeship program with an end goal of them going on to tech school. The plan is probably going to vary depending on what your capabilities are. The important thing is to have an executable plan and hold yourself accountable to making it happen.

Time to Take Action

Ultimately, what we’ve done as an industry hasn’t worked. It’s created a lot of chaos and until we look in the mirror and start doing things differently, we’ll have to live with the consequences of our inaction. Start thinking outside the box, recruit on multiple platforms, and get involved with schools. Do these things, and you’ll have a big advantage over your competition!

Jay Goninen