Attention to Retention: Current Trends in Fixed Operations – Part I

POSTED ON November 29, 2022

What are some current industry trends we’re seeing as it relates to fixed operations retention? 

According to historic industry trends, we've had less turnover percentage-wise during the last 12 to 18 months than ever before. As far as my client stores are concerned, though, retention is still the number one hot topic – trying to find people, keep people, and motivating them. From my perspective, we're seeing technicians leave the industry at a ratio of about 2:1 – two technicians down for every one we can find to come aboard. However, in other dealership positions we've had some turnover, but we're seeing many enter the industry from lateral industries, so it's kind of a give-and-take.  

When it comes to recruitment, I think recruiting and retaining technicians is probably the biggest challenge. You schedule the interview ... do they show up? You hire them ... do they show up to work? I’ve heard a lot of stories about people “ghosting” during various stages of the interview and hiring process.  

My clients with the best recruitment success utilize a “farm” structure – allowing new recruits to get their feet wet in the express service department, learning the business, and building up from there. They're finding them by building relationships with outside industries, local vocational schools, or a community college that offers an automotive program – or any kind of technical institute for that matter. Partnering with them, you can improve recruiting today and continue improving into the future. It can be a give-and-take relationship also. You can offer career presentations and speak to students about career paths and opportunities – not just at your store, but in the industry overall. Those institutions can be ideal places to find great people and introduce them to the industry.  

How Can You Improve Recruitment in the Service Department? 

As previously mentioned, a lot of our clients are using their service department, especially the express department as a farm. However, we have to think outside the box about the so-called “bait” we've been using to recruit people, because how we used to do things isn't working anymore. It's a big pool and everybody is looking for people right now, in just about every industry. Think of things you'd be willing to offer to individuals that are a little bit outside the box:  

  • Would you be willing to pay for training or education?  
  • Would you be willing to pay relocation expenses or give relocation assistance? 
  • Would you be willing to support a tuition reimbursement plan? 

Now, are those “outside the box” offers actually in your hiring ads? Are prospective technicians seeing those details, or are they just seeing “help wanted, entry level technician?” 

Many aren’t looking for a job but a career path opportunity. Think not just about the positions you need to fill today, but how you can support their growth, so they can support growth of the store. 

We can also think differently about where we’re recruiting. I say this somewhat sarcastically, but maybe we should be recruiting from Best Buy’s Geek Squad. These people know technology and are really good with software and data applications. One trend we are seeing on the backside is frustration over dealing with technology. So, if you have somebody who's really into that, it could be a perfect opportunity for them, and you. 

Look outside of the current industry as well. Not necessarily for technicians because you really need somebody who's an enthusiast when it comes to working with their hands and who enjoys working on and fixing things. But, when you get into some of the other positions with soft people skills – service advisors, receptionists, valets, and even managers – a lot of people could come from outside lateral industries. For example, a fixed ops VP who was a high school principal! Education can be a great place to look at for recruitment. Logistics is another industry to consider. I’ve had people who were warehouse managers or worked with big box stores. They’re great with inventory management and people. Civil services is another area to look at. Many people in the medical field are quite frankly burnt out and looking to make a change. And lastly, people with a military background. In my personal career, I’ve had a lot of success hiring people who served in the military, as they are very driven, disciplined, and typically high producers who are good at interacting with people.  

Those are just a few outside-of-the-box areas you can look at for recruiting – what other ideas might you come up with in your dealership and perhaps even with the input of your current and prospective technicians? Stay tuned for Part II of our Attention to Retention post for more insight into the cost of turnover, as well as ways to align your recruitment and retention strategy with the folks that can give you the clearest insight: Your employees