As you may have noticed, business as usual is anything but usual. The days of employees coming to work, punching the clock, doing the work and keeping to themselves is almost a thing of the past. Notice I said “almost.”
A Thing of the Past
Our industry’s Baby Boomer “A” techs are becoming a thing of the past – they’re either becoming appraisers, moving on to a more body-friendly (no pun intended) job, becoming part of management or, if they played their cards right, retiring.
Let’s face it, most people cannot wrench on cars their entire lives. The years and even decades of hard work put in by these special men takes a toll on their bodies. Still, these men came to work no matter what. No matter how late they were out, how sick they were or how much vacation they had left, they worked. The tank is getting close to “E,” and we need to embrace this.
This is not one of those things that can be overlooked or worked through and ignored. This is one of those things in our industry that needs major attention.
Take a moment to sit down and think about your shop and who’s left from the Baby Boomer generation and how much they have left in the tank. The average age of a seasoned technician is getting up there. From what I’ve seen, there are not many top-producing technicians in their 50s and 60s. There are some, but they’re getting fewer and further between. Those guys put their time in for your company and will at some point move on.
With that backdrop, let’s take a look at what’s to come: Millennials. Millennials are now becoming our go-to technicians, our workhorses, our profit producers. They are the heart of today’s workforce.
Millennials are categorized as people born between 1980 and 2000. These folks need to be managed differently than Baby Boomers or even Generation Xers (post-Baby Boomer but pre-Millennial). Depending on your style of management, you can either make a Millennial shut down or you can make them produce.
Something you need to realize about managing the younger generation is this: No one works for you. Yes, that’s correct. These newer generation employees do not work for you. What do they work for? A paycheck. Who do they work for? Their young families and the experiences that life brings them.
Our country has gotten to a point of comfortability. For the Baby Boomer generation, you had to just shut up and put in your work. You couldn’t dare risk your job. Money was too tight. Go ask almost any Baby Boomer technician in your shop if they grew up in a wealthy household. Nine times out of 10, the answer will probably be sarcastic laughter. As in, “Absolutely not.” Since they did not come from money, they had to make their own. Remember, their parents lived through the Great Depression.
This concept of “no one works for you” may be a humbling one. After all, we are the boss. We are the creator of this well-oiled machine. We started from the bottom, washed cars, cleaned toilets, worked Saturdays and Sundays, and worked outside in the snow after walking five miles to work in it! OK, that might be an exaggeration, but you see my point.
In all seriousness, you need to realize that this generation does not work for you. They work for what that paycheck can bring them in life. If you’re going to succeed in managing Millennials, you need to grasp this concept, and it is a concept. Just carrying the attitude that “Everyone is here because of me and for me” can completely discourage this generation of worker. That attitude from an owner or manager will bleed out of his pores, and it cannot be hidden by words. You must embrace change and have a change of heart to navigate this transformation.
Moving on, let’s take a look at Millennials’ positive traits and what makes them tick. After all, these are our new go-to guys (and gals now, too!). How can we fuel our new workforce?
Millennials have a certain confidence about them. They believe if they’re properly equipped, they can have great success. This one is easy: Make sure they have everything they need to succeed! This means from equipment to information to something as simple as the proper amount of space to work in. Information is so key here. This generation of worker wants to know exactly what they’re supposed to do and, more importantly, why. Gone are the days of, “Dig this ditch over here and don’t ask any questions.” Millennials grew up with the explosion of the Internet and masses of information, so it’s part of them. Embrace this part of them. Someone who has the skill and is also provided all the information they need is a recipe for success.
This next idea is a hard one for some to swallow. Millennials are experts with technology. Allow them to use it. As long as they’re using it for the proper things, technology can bring the information they need to get the job done best and, more importantly, the fastest. I’ve seen so many instances of just a simple YouTube video or car forum webpage solve some of the most puzzling problems. Keep in mind that time is money and that Internet forum just saved a lot of time. In our industry, with insurers breathing down our necks, time savings are everything.
Fun at work. Yes, this is a thing. Millennials are oftentimes friends with their co-workers. They were brought up working in teams and groups. They’re also thinkers and can solve things together. If your shop allows for this type of work in any capacity, test it out. A heavy tech and an apprentice is a good example. Working side-by-side with a good friend every day can create that fun environment they’re looking for.
Cast a Vision
Lastly and possibly most importantly, cast a vision for your young employees. I’m sure you’ve heard “Toolboxes have wheels on them for a reason” many times before. Well, the wheels on these new boxes roll easier than ever. If the younger generation employee doesn’t feel that your company is moving forward, they may just up and leave. They want to know that there’s room for growth and that their pay can grow with their experience. They don’t want to go out and see what’s going on in the industry and see that you’re not with the times. Meet often and inform them. Communication from management to technician is paramount. Show them your ideas and where your company is headed in the future. Let them know you’re embracing the changes of the industry and, most importantly, hear their ideas. They’re thinkers.