Jun 10, 2024

Ye Olde Retention Webinar

Ye Olde Retention Webinar

Hello there, ladies and gentlemen! We’re continuing to recover from (and provide recaps of) Diesel Connect 2024, so we hope you’ll excuse our dust. In the meantime, we bring you an event just as interesting as our DC presentations: a recap of “Tackling the Tech Shortage: Lessons in Recruiting Talent and Reducing Turnover,” a live webinar from our friends at FleetOwner and FleetMaintenance.

The webinar hits on a pretty important subject—and it also features some folks who have been special guests on the blog! Moderator Mindy Long spoke to:

We encourage you to watch the webinar on the FleetOwner website, but if you’re pressed for time and want to know what got covered, you’re in the right place.


Listeners heard from Jay about how the industry is faring, technician-wise, and sadly things remain…well, challenging. Older technicians are retiring faster than newer ones are arriving, which means hanging on to the techs you’ve got (and figuring out how to attract new ones) should absolutely be top of mind for shop owners.

Makes sense, right? The work doesn’t get done if you don’t have techs. Except it’s not just techs who are older and looking to retire that the industry is losing. They’re also leaving specific shops due to poor management and/or unsatisfactory conditions (whether that’s low pay, poorly maintained equipment, or lack of PTO).

WrenchWay is well aware of this—they’re dedicated to connecting technicians with repair shops and helping the industry make itself appealing as we venture further into the twenty-first century (just look at all their webinars on the topic!). Their Voice of Technician Survey revealed what diesel techs are really looking for in their workplaces, which includes—yes—proper equipment in the shop, PTO, and paid training.

(Solid pay helps, too; WrenchWay found that 24% of diesel techs had considered leaving the industry over stress related to pay.)

Those are all critical elements a shop should look at when wondering what to place in its hiring packages. But shops can offer all the perks in the world and still come up short in retention if they aren’t creating a decent workplace to function in.

That has to come from management. From the shop owners.

And in the words of Hamlet, aye, there’s the rub. Management is ultra-important, and yet it’s often not treated as the specialized skill that it is. But realistically, your people are going to pick up on what you put down.

Basically, shop owners have to find ways to hire or train good techs—and then embody the culture they want to see in their shops. And that’s really what this webinar was all about.


Iron Buffalo had a problem: For every 10 techs they hired, only one would really work out for more than six months. Not a great rate for a shop that wanted to expand, right? They took a pretty novel approach: they would make their own techs.

The shop partnered with a local high school that happened to have a $20 million trades facility (which housed a diesel training program with tools and equipment that rivaled Iron Buffalo’s). Eventually, they built a program that allowed students in the trade track to intern at Iron Buffalo before having the option to join them as a full-time employee. Within a few years, they can turn that young tech into a high earner…to the tune of $12,000 per month.

These are not speculative numbers, by the way. Some of the shop’s highest-grossing techs have come through the program. Holy gorgonzola, you could buy a lot of coffee with that cheddar!

Over time, Iron Buffalo hired a Director of Training and formalized the curriculum they’d already been developing. Today, Mike says, they can get a high school apprentice to an A-level tech—and “We can demonstrate to our technicians what that path looks like, and the amount of time it’s going to take, and the level of dedication that it takes.”

Voila. A pipeline!

They encourage all their techs to participate in state and national competitions. Yes, it’s fun to win (but totally okay if they don’t); the bigger benefit, though, is what techs can learn from these competitions. “It helps us understand what’s going on in the industry and what’s important,” Mike says, “and it teaches our techs what they know, and what they could be learning, and what the gaps are.”

So, yes, Virginia, you can build a technician. But how do you keep them?

You engage them.


Let’s get one thing clear: We’re not talking about forking over a ton of money for a nice ring. We’re talking about the other kind of engagement. You know: involved, dedicated people who are eager to come in to work and do a great job. Basically the best kind of employees out there.

Yeah, that kind of engagement.

Alas, it does not grow on trees, and it’s not really something you can order off Amazon. Engagement is usually an offshoot of a strong shop culture, which is what Stacy Conner focused on in her segment of the webinar.

Shop culture, she says, has got to come from the top-down—from the owners. This is important, because if someone else sets the culture, you can all wind up in a lot of pain. “We’ve all been in a shop where there is a negative person with a very big personality,” she explains. That big personality can absolutely set the culture (and in some cases, ruin it). By designing and embodying the culture they want, shop owners can get out in front of potential problems. They create a workplace where people want to be.

Being intentional about your shop’s culture isn’t just about building out a nice workplace (although that’s ultra-important, too). A good culture encourages engagement. During the webinar, Stacy references a Gallup Poll on employee engagement; in a service-based industry like heavy-duty repair, employees who are “just there” or outright disengaged are not going to be contributing to your culture or propelling your business forward. The disengaged might even be running off customers or making costly (or even dangerous) mistakes.

Stacy and her husband, Greg, decided that the best way to avoid the disengaged and the “just there” would be to keep everyone as engaged as possible. They determined clear boundaries around acceptable behavior for everyone, and laid out out six cultural values the Equipment Experts team lives by:

  • Safety
  • Integrity
  • Communication
  • Accountability
  • Alignment
  • Results

Employees know and live these values. Questions around these values are even incorporated into new hires interviews (“Tell us about a time you displayed integrity”). People know what they’re getting into.

If someone is constantly showing up late, for example, that runs counter to both integrity and accountability. When values are clearly communicated to an entire team and not just left up to shop owners to enforce as they can, it’s the team that handles coaching those who might be struggling. Everyone is aware of where the shop is headed and what kind of behavior Stacy and Greg expect. The team, Stacy says, pretty much manages itself.

Employees feel like they have a stake in things. Because of this, they want the shop to do well. They’re engaged.

Engaged employees are efficient employees, by the way. The day of the webinar, Stacy pulled some numbers regarding technician efficiency at Equipment Experts, Inc. In 2018, they were at an average of 91% efficiency across the team. In 2024, they are at 109% efficiency across the team.


We’re pretty sure there’s a law against recapping all of someone else’s webinar, and also, this is getting pretty long, so we’ll stop here. But there’s way more for you to listen to—including the ways Iron Buffalo and Equipment Experts, Inc., build supportive shop cultures and some pretty interesting audience questions.

Whatcha waiting for? Get thee to the webinar! It’s free, and you’ll learn a lot.

Have a good time, take some notes, and tell ‘em Fullbay sent you!

Suz Baldwin