Getting the Most out of Your Shop’s Employees

Larry has always paid his techs above average flat-rate commissions. In fact, he pays the highest commission rate of all the shops in his area. Larry prides himself on that and has always believed that money is the biggest motivator of people.

But despite the generous pay plan Larry’s techs eventually leave to work at other shops. Even the best ones leave. That hurts his business. Why does Larry have this recurring problem?

 

Learn the True Things that Motivate People

Decades of research into human behavior has shown that money is a poor motivator in the workplace. Money does not encourage loyalty from employees, as Larry has discovered, and it certainly does not motivate workers to strive for excellence.

Other things motivate people more than money does. Ignoring those things, or even trampling on them, can be disastrous, as Larry is experiencing. But nurturing those aspects of human behavior can yield great results for your shop. Let’s look at three basics of motivation and examine some easy ways you can apply them in your shop.

auto repair shop employee retention

People are Born Motivated to Succeed – Acknowledge That Fact

Years ago a scientist named Maslow asserted that people are born with three innate motivations. We all are driven to survive physically, to belong, and to feel important, in that order. I am simplifying this a lot, but you can Google ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ for more detail. It’s very interesting.

If your techs, then, come to you already motivated to achieve success, to be productive, and to become an important part of your business, what makes them leave? Simple. The way you run your business is demotivating them. Let’s see what might be wrong.

 

Our Basic Motivation – The Drive to Survive

Starting from earliest time, humans have been born with an inner drive to eat, to have proper clothing, adequate shelter and all the basic necessities of life. That means that every tech you hire already wants to earn enough money to pay his rent or mortgage, and to buy food, clothing and medical care for himself and his family. Make sense?

If a tech is not earning enough money to provide all that for his loved ones, he is not lazy. If you hire intelligent, skilled techs but see them quit, the fault lies with your management methods. Do you hamper your techs’ productivity by making these three common mistakes?

  • Do you assign only one car at a time to each tech, when they can easily take responsibility for two or three vehicles and plan their own work flow?
  • Do your techs have a lot of dead time in each day, like when they have to wait for each new assignment or for you to sell the work? Keep them busy instead. Learn how to delegate your work flow better and then trust your techs to get it done.
  • Do you avoid asking customers to buy upsells that your techs recommend because you promise every vehicle finished by 6:00 pm the day of drop off? Learn to manage your customers better.

 

Our 2nd Motivation – Our Need to Belong

What is the culture like in your shop? You might have heard this famous management saying: “People don’t leave jobs; they leave people.” Let’s look at two ways managers strongly influence their shop’s culture: how they handle mistakes and how they provide training (or ignore it).

Mistakes; everybody makes them. When mistakes happen, though, is the standard operating procedure to make the tech feel embarrassed or inferior? Are the techs punished or penalized beyond having to make up the work at no pay? If so, then you are teaching your techs that they are not important to you. Don’t expect loyalty.

Why not use mistakes as an opportunity to improve your business? Learn why the mistake happened. Investigate what the tech was basing his diagnosis on. What unclear instructions or complaints did you receive from the customer, and how poorly did you communicate that information to the tech? What time pressure was making him or her rush through the diagnosis, what faulty equipment and information system (or lack thereof) played a part in the mistake? Many factors contribute to mistakes, and often much of the ‘blame’ falls on the work environment, and not entirely on the tech.

Training. Techs get into this field because they enjoy learning about cars. Why not incorporate some training into your weekly schedule? Find out what areas each tech is weak in and then teach them a little on that topic every week. Find journal articles that explain those topics, and give that reading material to your techs. Develop a culture of constant learning in your shop. Help your techs advance their skills and then watch how their attitude towards you improves.

 

Our 3rd Motivation – The Need to Feel Important

Admit it, some customers would rather talk to a technician about their car than try to explain it to you. Give your techs a role in customer service. Put your ego aside.

Also on that note, some of the best pricing and marketing ideas will come from your techs. For example, you could encourage them to suggest bundled service packages, and then you could post those specials in your waiting area.

Here is one example of bundle pricing. Rather than list your services a la carte on a menu board, try grouping related items together for a small package discount. You could advertise a tire balance and rotation, a road test, a steering and suspension inspection and a wheel alignment as a ‘Vibration and steering service,’ all for one price. That makes it easier for customers and better for you and your techs.

 

Summary

Learn the basics of motivation and profit from them. Stop doing things that demotivate your techs. Instead, build on the things that feed their inner motivation. They will be happier and you will be richer. If you’d like to speak to one of our experienced shop owners to receive actionable tips on how to get the most out of your employees, contact our auto repair shop consultants today!

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