THE TECH SAGA CONTINUES
Have you been following the saga of the tech-averse techs (say that three times fast)? If so, you know our original blog post got pretty long, so we broke it in two.
You can reread the first half here.
So, what do you do if some of your techs—or anyone, really—are just not all that enthused with a new technology you’re trying to introduce?
Well, for starters, you can show them why it matters.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
So, what happens if you do have a technician, or several technicians, that attempt to flee or stonewall advances? You aren’t going to keep your shop in the stone age just for them, right?
Of course not.
“It’s really difficult trying to get them to buy into the technology,” Ashley tells us. “How do you get them to buy in, and do what you need them to do for the program to be successful? It’s only gonna be as good as what you put in.”
“Technicians want to do their job, repair their stuff, make their money, and go home,” Aaron says. “But now you have them learning something that, in their eyes, you don’t really need. That’s a hard sell.”
The key to this psychological block is to let them know what’s in it for them.
You want a tech to embrace new technology or software? Show them how it’s going to make their life easier, speed up their work, or make them more money. If the tech isn’t going to do any of that, give them a good explanation of how it will help the business. Get them fully involved in the rollout so they know any difficulties they encounter will eventually smooth out.
Here are three steps you can take to help streamline a new technology in your shop:
Tell them what’s in it for them. Why should a tech go along with this change? “Because we’re going to use this software/system/equipment going forward” is valid, but hopefully there’s rationale behind it. Let’s say your shop is switching to Fullbay. Point out the expected increase in profit and streamlined workflow and how that will benefit them.
Need templates? Go for the old “If-then” type statements. “By implementing X change, we’ll see Y improvement,” or “This will save you 5 hours of paperwork a week,” or “This will improve profits by 40% and lead to bonuses,” and so on.
Choose your champion. Provide a trainer or at least a mentor to help a new tech learn how a particular piece of software or technology works. Jimmy tries to roll out a new application or technology to a senior tech or foreman first and let them get the hang of it. Then he seeks feedback about how that software works. This individual then acts as the shop champion—but instead of challenging other techs to duels or fighting off dragons, the champion helps them get the hang of it.
Develop a training program and keep checking in. We’ll discuss training in more detail right after this paragraph, but let’s talk about check-ins. They’re important. Critical, even. Some shop owners treat new technology as “set and forget.” If you have a tech struggling to adapt, that mindset isn’t going to help. See how training is going. Get feedback. If someone is having a lot of trouble, offer what help you can.
TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN
As we mentioned above, part of getting a tech acquainted with new technology is a solid training program. This seems like it should be obvious…but it’s not.
“It’s too easy to forget about training,” Jay says.
Shops don’t usually set out to under-train their techs, but sometimes it feels like an impossible ask. You might mean to get training set up, but training tends to get pushed to the end of the to-do list because every repair operation has a zillion things they need to do right now.
This can be especially daunting for smaller shops that need all their techs constantly turning wrenches. We get that. But not figuring out how to train your techs is thinking short-term—maybe extremely short term.
Your techs may be the ones who need to learn, but it’s on you to make it possible for them to do so. “A lot of issues start at the top,” Jay remarks. “If you’ve got a culture of learning and a culture of wanting to get better, I think that helps the whole shop … that leadership is important. Making sure you’re leading the way on that, and prioritizing it, and making it important to the whole company can’t be overstated.”
We can’t offer you a one-size-fits-all training program for any sort of technology (though we can point you toward Fullbay Learn if you use Fullbay and want to know how we suggest training). All we can suggest is that proper, comprehensive training is a must. Make accommodations for the shop to be shorter-staffed for a while if someone needs time to train up.
LOOK AT YOUR RECRUITING AND HIRING PROCESSES
Like we said earlier, we try not to paint techs with too broad a brush. For every mechanic who goes home to an off-the-grid cabin, another goes back to their apartment and builds Skyrim mods. But if you find yourself surrounded by people who are really, really uneasy about technology or specifically new software, there’s a few things you can try.
Look outside your hiring bubble. Shops are rightfully concerned about a tech’s wrenching abilities, but technology is not going away. It’s going to keep changing. Jimmy points out that wrenching isn’t the only thing a shop needs to look for—like making sure a technician fits the culture and is dependable, and yes, understands or is willing to figure out technology.
So, if “Good with a wrench & gets along with the gang” are the only things you’ve really looked for, make a point of looking for people who can at least work on a computer comfortably. Are you anticipating more diag or computer work? Make sure you ask specific technology-related questions to those candidates that you hope will do that diag work for you. Want to mold the perfect tech? Set up an apprenticeship program for those that have the most interest in learning new technology. We know it’s not feasible for everyone, but these are places to start.
Ask the right questions. Start probing about how tech-savvy all candidates are during the initial interviews. “I ask, ‘How are you with technology?’” Jimmy says. “I ask them if they can diagnose a printer if it’s not printing. I also ask, ‘If you get a new phone or tablet, can you connect it to the Wi-Fi?’”
Those aren’t terribly advanced questions, but they are a good indicator of general comfort with technology. Even if they aren’t sure, the willingness to try to puzzle it out generally indicates a positive personality trait.
Individualize training and management. One thing almost all of our experts emphasized was the need to train and manage a person, not a group. There will be techs who pick up new tech (heh) almost instantly, and there will be techs who need extra time. You’ve got to try to be fair to both, within reason.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Whether you embrace software and new apps or not, one thing is clear: The diesel industry continues to evolve. If you want to stay in business, you’ll have to embrace new technology (and yes…shop management software like Fullbay!). Those that do will have an advantage over less tech-savvy shops in efficiency, productivity, and ultimately profitability.
We’ve all heard the scare stories about autonomous trucks and alternative fuels supposedly conspiring to end the trucking industry (and thus its associated repair industry). Except that’s not true at all. Our friends at MOTOR even shared a story about how the exact same situation went down in the automotive industry (spoiler alert: we still have an automotive industry).
In the coming years and decades, the following will happen:
- Electric trucks will still need maintenance and repair.
- Alternative fuel vehicles will still need maintenance and repair.
- Self-driving trucks will still need maintenance and repair.
The way these repairs are made may change, but they will still need to happen.
The point here is that until Skynet activates and machines repair machines, the world will always have a need for skilled technicians. But those techs—and their employers—will need to at least keep current on technology and software if they want to do good work and turn a profit.
Helping techs get more comfortable with that tech is a huge step forward.