What Happened To The Dream?
While talking to shop owners and helping them realign the business for success, the conversation of staffing always comes to a head at some point. Building the team that works well together can sometimes take years. In those years of adding people and working with everyone to find the best spot for their skills, we build a sense of loyalty to those who have been with us through the good times and bad. Loyalty is a cornerstone in any organization and is a vital to its growth, but at what point does loyalty become a liability?
The average worker in the U.S. typically reaches their maximum earning potential between the ages of 45-55. They have paid their dues, they know the job and have become good at it. In many occupations, the golden years can continue past 55. In order to do that, continuing education plays a major factor in maintaining ability at its peak level. The senior tech in many of our shops may be 50 or older, may have worked with us for an extended period, may have been valuable to the organization and may have reached the end of their best producing years.
This is written for those technicians and the shop owners who employ them. We all know we cannot stop time and the effect it has on the body but it is even harder for the technician. After 30 years of bending under a hood, the up/down/squat/kneel of setting thousands of lifts, the busted knuckles and the strain on shoulders and elbows; the body starts to protest. I have never been a technician, but I am well aware of the limitations that my body is starting to place upon me. The key here for myself and the technicians we are talking about is to keep the experience and knowledge that we have now at the forefront of the industry. We cannot fall behind. My wife has reminded me that our experienced workers are usually the ones that come in on time, are willing to go that extra mile and call out from work less often. All that is well and good, but if we do not encourage the continuing education of these same technicians their skill level can drop too far.
When cars switched from carburetors to fuel injectors, some people fell behind. When the computers became part of the cars’ operating system, some people fell behind. When those same systems switched from OBD I to OBD II, some fell behind. Now we have Electric cars and who knows what else in the future, how many more will fall behind. As shopowners, are we providing the opportunity for continuing classes? Are you making education part of the culture of your shop? Are you encouraging your staff to attend? Do we sponsor the atmosphere for growing the knowledge base? As technicians, are we attending these classes? Are you seeking out training on your own, if it is not provided to you through the shop? Are you taking the responsibility for your professional and personal life? If you are not finding that additional training, growing your knowledge base and putting it to use, then problems are looming on the horizon that will rob you of your “Golden Years”.
It is a national holiday today. I am headed for a gathering and a great day with friends and family. The sun is out, the weather is good and I am deeply troubled. On Monday, I will have to advise one of my shops to let a technician go. He is 59 years old, was a master technician but now is as skilled as the average ‘C’ tech. He has not kept up with the changes in the industry. The work that he is performing can easily be done by technicians making far less than his $28/ hour flat rate wage. Worst of all, he is only producing, on average, 26 hours of billed hours a week at that lower skill level. He is producing too little; at too high a price for the tasks he now has the ability to perform. There was once a time when any technician could get a job almost instantly. That time is not now. Shops have closed and literally thousands of shop bays are now behind locked doors. Who bears the ultimate responsibility? We all do. Shopowners need to reward the loyalty shown them and encourage the constant technical upgrading that is vital. You need to provide training and support so your staff can prepare for their future. The painful alternative is letting someone go who has been with you for years because the industry has passed him by. The technicians need to find the classes and attend, the training must never stop. If your shop does not actively support training, then you must find it on your own. It is, after all, your life we are talking about here. The Industry must continue to provide the education so we are equipped to satisfy the consumer’s needs.
I have fun writing most of the things that I do, but not this time. Hot food and cold beer with good people is always good. Today will be a good day. Monday will not. On Monday, I can assure you that the taste in my mouth will not be from a fresh pie hot form the oven.
By George Zeeks
By George Zeeks