AM Online

Golden handshakes and flexible working could cure tech shortages, opinion

Fraser Brown, managing director of automotive consultancy MotorVise

Difficulties in recruiting qualified and experienced technicians remains challenging for dealerships nationwide.

Many are deterred from offering huge pay rises to tempt new starters through the door as it either creates pressure to increase existing staff wages or creates a divide within the team.

It’s a conundrum however that does have an answer, although it appears that for now many vehicle workshops remain understaffed or unable to expand to meet demand.

A recent Motor Ombudsman poll found that 43% of franchise dealers and independent garage workshops said that difficulties in recruiting experienced technicians to their team would continue to present a challenge in the coming year.

However, this represents an improvement on the 50% of businesses that said they had struggled to recruit in 2022.

This may indicate a slight improvement in the recruitment of mechanics or may simply reflect that some businesses have either given up or shelved expansion plans and are therefore missing an opportunity to grow revenue.

In my opinion there are several ways in which dealerships can address this undoubted nationwide shortage of technicians.

The first is by bringing new blood into the industry through apprenticeships, something that dealerships have generally failed to address for a decade or more.

One of the main reasons for the skills shortfall is the advancing age of current vehicle technicians, with many having reached or approaching retirement and fewer young people being attracted into the industry.

If dealerships adopt a ratio of one apprentice for every two technicians at all times, it will go some way to addressing the problem as long as training, support, and mentorship are in place.

Although this doesn’t address the immediate need for experienced and qualified technicians, it provides a medium to long-term solution.

When it comes to recruiting qualified technicians then one answer would be to offer a £5,000 golden handshake rather than offering a huge pay increase and the obvious repercussions that has for the business and its wider workforce.

Obviously, terms and conditions must be conditional to prevent people claiming the cash and then leaving shortly afterwards.

Another highly effective suggestion is to allow technicians to work a 10-hour four-day week – which allows the ramp to be used 10 rather than eight hours per day, freeing up one in five ramps.

This results in greater productivity and happier technicians, who appreciate the opportunity of an improved work life balance. This is something I’ve implemented at a variety of dealer sites, and which has always proved popular.

Afterall, any technician should be tempted by the prospects of a £5,000 signing on bonus and a four-day week.

In addition, common misconceptions about the automotive retail linger and it is vital that dealerships continue to highlight the attractive career prospects available and that the culture has shifted to delivering outstanding customer experience.

That relies on an efficient, responsive and skilled workforce, which is why successful dealerships are investing in nurturing, coaching, mentoring, and motivating their teams.

Author: Fraser Brown, managing director of automotive consultancy MotorVise

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