The technician shortage facing the trucking industry isn’t going away anytime soon. Industry experts believe things will get worse before they get better, and with a large percentage of techs nearing retirement, it’s likely competing for the services of new technicians will become industry standard in the coming years.
With that in mind, the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) has started looking for alternative options to keep service bays stocked with capable hands.
One of the those options is ensuring service providers do everything they can to keep the quality technicians they have. A retention and career development plan won’t keep a senior tech from retiring, but it can keep the rest of your staff from following him out the door.
TMC’s Service Provider study group recently completed a recommended practice (RP) offering tips on this topic, and the RP was discussed at length during a mini-technical session at TMC’s annual meeting Thursday in Nashville.
“Your people are your best asset. You should be working to keep them engaged in your business,” says Navistar’s Brian Mulshine, co-author of the upcoming RP.
Along with Service Provider study group Chairman Ken Calhoun, vice president of customer relations at Truck Centers of Arkansas, Mulshine spent a majority of Thursday’s technical session walking attendees through his new RP and the reasons why its worth installing in their businesses.
Mulshine says one of the most common mistakes service facilities make with their staff is communication. They don’t communicate job opportunities, areas for growth and advice for technicians aspiring to move forward in their career. Too often a senior tech or component expert is simply promoted when an open position needs filling, without the position ever being posted within the facility.
Mulshine says that needs to change. Employees deserve the right to know when opportunities for career advancement are available. A senior tech might still end up in that new position if he applies and is best fit for it, but Mulshine says its better the tech decide to take that next step than a manager force it upon him.
Calhoun says service providers also should be active in speaking with their technicians and advising them on their performance, opportunities for improvement and advancement. He says young technicians — millennials — are especially receptive to feedback.
“They want that constant feedback and recognition,” he says. They like knowing what they are doing right and wrong so they know where they can improve and grow. Service providers who don’t offer that risk losing those young employees to complacency or worse, competitors.
“[Millennials] will look for other opportunities after 24-36 months if they are dissatified,” Calhoun says.
Mulshine notes mentoring programs are a good way to keep these technicians engaged. He says working side-by-side with successful veterans technicians ensure your newer employees not only learn the rigors of their job, but also about your business and their opportunities for advancement within it. But the duo note mentors should not be bosses or managers — mentoring works best when a young employee is able to learn freely around someone who isn’t directly responsible for his performance.
Allowing a technician to grow in other areas also is vital for retention, Calhoun says. Some employees have skills that may be best suited for other areas — parts, sales, customer service, etc. — and he says its not a bad idea to allow them to cultivate their skills when they are identified.
The key is to keep employees happy, confident and striving to be successful, Mulshine says. It’s better to move a tech into a different department but empower him to be successful in your business than have him leave dissatisfied.