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Employee Management

Finding Good Employees for Your Auto Body Shop

One of the biggest complaints I hear from my body shop clients is that good employees are hard to find. So, what can you do?

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Micki Woods is a marketing and business development specialist for the automotive industry. She used to own her own body shop and was on the management team of one of the largest auto body shops in Los Angeles County. She now speaks, teaches and emcees events across the country. Visit Micki’s website at mickiwoods.com or email her at [email protected]

One of the biggest complaints I hear from my body shop clients is that good employees are hard to find. It has always been a struggle to find quality employees who truly care about their job, but lately that problem has been rearing its ugly head. So, what can you do?

Three Strategies

Unfortunately, in the auto body world, we seem to have adopted the mantra of, “He who taketh thou employee shall prospereth.” (OK, so I just made that up, but you catch my drift.) So, how do you go about finding good, quality personnel outside of the usual stealing, asking your jobber or hitting up your paint supplier who seems to be the “TMZ” of body shops? Here are three ways I help my collision repair clients find employees:

  1. Make a name for yourself. First and foremost, if you take care of your employees and the employees are truly happy, they’ll naturally be a mouthpiece for your company and job applications will be flowing in constantly. I could honestly do a mic drop right here because this is THE best and most effective way to bring quality employees to the table. Think for a second about the last time you saw or chatted online with someone you hadn’t connected with in awhile. What’s one of the first questions that is asked? It’s usually: “Where are you working now?” When your employee answers that question and is hyped up to be a part of your team, it won’t be a quick, blah answer. It will be something along these lines: “I work at ABC Body Shop as a detailer and dude, it’s awesome!” After your detailer shares some things he loves about working for ABC, guess where that buddy wishes they had a job? That’s right – your body shop! And here comes the application…
  2. Employee referral bonuses. Allow your employees to team up with you in looking for great talent. Offer them a referral bonus, maybe $300 to $500-plus, if they refer someone and that person stays with the company for at least six months. This keeps your employees invested and gives them some “skin in the game” to make sure they’re only referring quality people that have the potential to last a long time with your company.
  3. While you’re living, you should be looking! Anyone can be trained in a skill, but it’s nearly impossible to train someone to be driven, a hard worker or to have a zest for life. If you meet someone ringing up your family’s frozen yogurt that you’ve seen bustling around the whole time who then provides you with a smile and a huge dose of charm, give them your card! They would be great as a customer service representative! Fabulous prospective employees are around us all the time, but we often get lost in the mindset that a body shop employee must come from an actual body shop in order to fit in. That’s not always the case. As you know, some of the best employees are ones you brought in at a young age, often at an entry-level position, groomed and trained. And now they’re your production manager and a stellar and devoted employee! #winning #lifer

Millennials and Entitlement

Everyone seems to be having a difficult time relating to the younger segment of millennials as employees. The Pew Research Foundation recently established millennials as people born between 1981 and 1996, which would make them 22 to 37 years old. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the average employee in their 20s may or may not show up for their first day on the job, will get bored easily and will expect to be able to use their phones as they desire. Time Magazine stated, “Millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that a recent study showed that 40 percent believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance.” Yep, you read that right. So, to sum it up, 40 percent believe they deserve the job with your shop whether they’re on time or not. That is what we call “entitlement,” my friends, and it’s an ugly thing.

Here’s the positive side of that. If 40 percent feel entitled, then there is hope for the other 60 percent, so let’s focus on those people since they’re really the only ones we want on our team anyway.

Studies have shown that millennials want to feel that they’re part of a greater good and also desire immediate feedback. Fortune magazine describes millennials as “[communicating] with a sense of openness and have no patience to wait around for annual reviews.” Honestly, I think we all operate at a higher level when we have frequent, immediate feedback and feel called to a greater purpose. So, let’s use this info and make our company better as a whole.

At our Verifacts, CIC and CCC meetings, a common theme runs throughout: our responsibility as repairers to keep our customers safe. This is NOT just a message for owners and managers. This is an important message that our employees should fully understand and buy. We may help out Mrs. Jones who’s grumpy after getting rear-ended, but we have a higher calling! Our millennials may need that reminder, but we all do too.

Keep our “true purpose” top of mind. Speak about it regularly in emails, face-to-face conversations with fellow staff members and to customers. Create a motto for your company that speaks to that truth such as, “We fix your vehicle like our children are going to ride in it,” or, “Repairing your vehicle properly and safely with a smile and helping hand.” (That’s a really good one. I just came up with that right now. Someone use that last one, please!) Put that motto everywhere and embrace it!

I often see managers or owners give up on millennials and let them run free because they don’t know how to deal with them. This never works! When interviewing, you must make sure to go over all the expectations of the job and make sure that your current employees are practicing these good habits for the newbies to follow. (Weeds will kill your garden, so get rid of them!) Specifically, inform your new employees about your tardy or no-show policy. And if they’re doing something incorrectly or in a way you would prefer them to change, advise them immediately. This is necessary not only for your millennials but for all employees. Do not be afraid to step up and set forth proper expectations.

Keeping Devoted Employees

I’ve worked with businesses of all kinds and seen many different styles of management and ownership. What consistently works across the board, in every industry, boils down to one thing: value.

Value is not something that just holds a monetary position. Let’s take a look at how to value your employees on all levels, which will result in them working for your company for a long time.

Do your employees feel valued by you? Do they feel important, cared about and needed? Although we don’t want our employees to think we need them more than they need us (letting the inmates run the asylum), at the end of the day, without a great team of employees our companies could not grow and prosper. Employees who stay late, put in the extra effort and are personally invested are those that feel valued. Treat them with respect, get to know about them and offer them gratitude when it’s due and you’ll build a solid relationship that will last many years and possibly a lifetime.

From Extra to Expected

For decades, body shops never provided health benefits. But most adults are looking for body shop employers to provide them with good benefits as part of their pay. Many shops offer time off, but I hear complaints that shops make it difficult for employees to get away due to being short-staffed or other issues. As we talked about above, set out your time-off, vacation and holiday policies and make sure you’re willing to abide by them as well.

Financially Valued

How are you compensating your employees? Find out what others in your area are paying and pay a little more. Invest not only time in training in your people but also some of your pocketbook. Don’t view it as an expense but as an investment because a good investment allows you to reap rewards on all fronts.

The clients I have that pay extraordinarily well have employees that hold on to their jobs tightly. They will put in the extra time and go that extra mile because they know that no other job will compensate them financially the way their current job does. Everyone else wants a job at these shops because they know they’ll never make the same amount anywhere else, so it’s truly a privilege to be there.

When I worked for the late Marsh Gluchow at Valley Motor Center Autobody, he abided by the rules. There was a high level of expectation, and every employee knew it going in. On the flip side, Marsh gave every employee a Ralph’s grocery gift card for $100 at Thanksgiving so people could buy a Thanksgiving dinner for their families. At Christmas, he would throw us a potluck dinner and give us 1 percent in cash of what our earnings for the year had been as a tax-free gift. Who else did that? NO ONE! He had yearly parties for the Valley Motor Center “family,” and he compensated his employees better than other shops in the area both in salary and commission. Not only that but he truly cared about us, and we all felt valued. As an employee, I felt like I was invested in the well-being of the shop just as Marsh was invested in me. I can honestly tell you that the entire staff worked long hours and had no problem going above and beyond for Marsh (and the company) because he was so good to us and our families. He truly cared, and thus we did too!

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