Previously we’ve talked about the challenges of finding and keeping good mechanics. While it’s always good for an auto repair shop to reduce overall employee turnover, it’s crucial to retain good technicians because without them, your doors stay closed. The problem is that technicians are skilled employees who, for the most part, can find another job in the business simply because they are so necessary for fixing cars. They will not stay long if they remain unhappy. This makes it more of a challenge than motivating other employees. So how is a good auto shop manager supposed to motivate mechanics so they work in a way that benefits the business? Here are a few ideas:
Create a positive work environment for the technicians – It’s important to understand how various workers in your shop interact with themselves and your customers. Technicians occupy a unique position in an auto shop, and they are aware of the role they play. Pay attention to the the dynamic they create between themselves and within the shop before you begin implementing any kind of incentive structure. You do not want to create bad blood either within the technician pool or between the other staff and the technicians. Understanding the mindset of your mechanics and how they view what they do for your shop is very important. Also, if one of your technicians is causing dissent or poor performance among the others, retaining that employee will not be good for profits in the long run, regardless of whether another bay remains open this week. Keep this in mind.
Recognize the important work technicians do – Don’t muzzle yourself with your technicians. If they need to be corrected for the benefit of the shop overall, don’t hesitate. On the other hand, the old adage, “You get more flies with honey than with vinegar,” holds true. If you have to criticize or correct, give whatever positive feedback you can along with it, and write down concrete steps for improvement. Giving employees concrete – even written – expectations is always a good idea. They should know what the shop’s mission statement is, and what their role is in fulfilling it. Of course, it is always a good idea to praise your technicians, privately and publically, when they do good work. For some people recognition is more rewarding than anything else, including money.
Use incentives – Tie any positive incentives for your technicians, including money and raises, to performance, and state explicitly what the goal is and how performance will be measured and rewarded. Your technicians’ work directly affects the shop in numerous ways. If you want to improve customer satisfaction and retention, give out rewards for great customer survey results or for car problems that are diagnosed and fixed the first time around. To encourage productivity, reward for flagged hours or hours upsold within a certain period of time. To increase efficiency and smart use of resources, give rewards to technicians who only use a specified amount of supplies per quarter. All of these require some kind of record keeping, of course, but they will send home the message that specific actions will result in specific, and positive, results.
You can encourage a little friendly competition between your technicians for rewards as well. Many people relish a race or a chance to show how good they are.
If you have had any success motivating your technicians to perform better for your shop or increasing the overall satisfaction of your technician pool, please take the opportunity to login to our forums and let other auto shop owners and managers benefit from your experience. That is what the Automotive Management Network exists to do!