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Employees: The Lifeblood of the Auto Body Business

We consider our employees the lifeblood of our business, but finding, retaining and developing the best employees is one of the most difficult challenges we face in all of the markets we serve.

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Joe Carubba is owner, president and CEO of Carubba Collision Corp., a multi-shop operation in Western New York that has grown to four main offices, a dealer satellite office and six production facilities. He has worked in the auto body industry for 35 years, starting out with his father part-time in the 1970s sweeping floors and cleaning cars. He was named the BodyShop Business Executive of the Year in 2013. His philanthropic efforts have included Make-A-Wish, the Food Bank of WNY, and many others. He can be reached at [email protected]

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We believe that our organization’s ability to create and deliver the best quality, speed and cost performance is critical to maintaining our competitive advantage and achieving continued growth.

We also believe attracting, hiring and developing the best people is the foundation for achieving the best performance needed to strengthen our position as the repairer of choice in the markets we serve.

A Difficult Challenge

We consider our employees the lifeblood of our business, so managing them successfully is key to our success. Finding, retaining and developing the best employees is one of the most difficult challenges we face in all of the markets we serve.

Being a multiple-location organization has its advantages. Perhaps the advantage we enjoy the most is our economies of scale, or our ability to spread costs for recruiting, onboarding and developing our people.

Our success creates opportunities for our employees. In fact, we view our employees as stakeholders. Their success is directly related to our success, and their opportunities are directly related to our growth.

Following are a few ideas that define our philosophy and strategic thinking around our most valuable asset – our people. While the majority of collision repair shops are single locations and thus are smaller with lower budgets, I hope the ideas presented here help you think of ways to achieve better results when it comes to attracting, hiring, retaining and developing the best people needed for continued success. This may require a change in thinking from “We can’t do that” to “We can do that if we…”.

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Engaged vs. Disengaged

The Gallup organization, through extensive research, found that, on average, roughly 20 percent of all employees are engaged in their particular business. They like what they do, are open to new ways of doing things, and are proud of their profession and where they work. The remaining 80 percent of employees are not fully engaged. They work primarily for a paycheck and are passive about the business’s success. Nearly 20 percent of those are actively disengaged, are not happy with how things are going, and share their negative attitude with everyone they come in contact with, often unknowingly sabotaging improvement efforts. They’re the bad apples in the barrel. These facts have influenced our hiring and professional and personal development efforts.

Our mantra for recruiting new employees is, “Hire based on attitude and teach skills needed to do the job.” Some of our best employee-stakeholders had zero collision repair experience when we hired them. One in particular came to us from the hospitality industry and, within five years, was promoted to manager of training at our locations. When we’re looking for non-technical employees, we prefer and have hired people outside the business most of the time. This has led us to our “grow-your-own-employee-stakeholders” thinking.

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Orientation

Our initial training for all new hires begins with an orientation presentation that’s delivered within the first few days of a new employee’s start date or an existing employee-stakeholder’s promotion. It helps them understand our vision, mission, values and goals. The trainee is then introduced to the entire management and leadership staff so they understand the organizational chart, and is briefed on our repair process as well as our strategic relationships with insurers and other work providers.

We have a front-end training team that visits shops on a rotating basis to take care of any policy changes that need to be implemented for existing employees. Sometimes we’re able to accomplish small policy changes via the phone or meetings.

All new non-tech hires are trained on the job, always accompanied by the trainers and a co-employee who has been assigned to them. For entry-level techs, we set up one of our facilities as a professional development center. We put junior-level technicians to work in our professional development facility, where they start out disassembling drivable jobs with mid-level damage. Once they’ve gained some competence doing that, we may move them to one of our other facilities as disassembly technicians. Other areas of on-the-job training at our professional development facility include detailing, meticulous disassembly, parts cart management, parts check-in, mirror matching and delivery to the technician.

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Consulting

I’m a long-time fan of bringing professional consultants in from time to time to train our management and administrative staff. This training has included topics like theory of constraints, lean collision, job instruction, flawless repair planning and several other workflow-related topics.

Last year, we added a director of operations who goes from shop to shop auditing the location’s processes and performance and driving continuous-improvement efforts.

All of our facilities are I-CAR Gold Class and OEM-certified on most makes and models.

Promoting

We promote from within to the point where we help prospective employee-stakeholders develop a career path through the entire end-to-end system. We’ve successfully promoted guest services representatives to estimators and even location managers, responsible for managing entire stores.


10 Keys to Hiring & Managing Employees

  • Hire attitude, teach skills
  • Alignment around company vision, mission, values and goals is paramount
  • The ability for us to understand each employee’s strengths and execute career paths accordingly will allow us to grow
  • Encourage professional and personal development opportunities
  • Encourage continuous improvement
  • Recognize jobs well-done
  • Encourage pride of profession
  • Encourage pride in our organization
  • Workplace environment excellence
  • Competitive compensation with performance rewards

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