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Gen Z and Service

Autosphere » Dealerships » Gen Z and Service
Gen Z has a different view on work, which could be a big benefit for dealers' service operations. Photo Shutterstock

The newest workers could be a big benefit to Fixed Ops.

One of the biggest issues dealers are currently facing is a lack of qualified service technicians. As mentioned elsewhere in this issue of Autosphere Magazine, the Motor Vehicle Retailers of Ontario (MVRO) and Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) released an automotive trades labour market report in 2023, revealing that the province of Ontario had a shortage of 3,000 service technicians.

More registrations, fewer techs

Todd Bourgon, CEO of MVRO notes that between 2017 and 2022 new vehicle registrations in Ontario grew by 8.5%, while between 2016 and 2021the total active number of service technicians in the province declined by 3.2%. Furthermore, we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic that many people chose to leave their profession, either by bringing forward retirement dates (it’s no secret that our service technician workforce is aging in Canada) or choosing a different line of work. This situation is by no means confined to Ontario. Across the country and in the U.S., dealers are having to grapple with a chronic shortage of technicians.

So, what can be done? While one approach is to bring in temporary foreign workers to help address the shortage, longer term, dealers will need to look at the next generation of young people to fill these roles. While for the longest time, many of them (and their parents) did not see the trades or automotive service repair as a viable career option, it does appear that things are starting to change.

More consideration for skilled trades

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted that Generation Z, which is starting to enter the workforce in significant numbers, are far more likely to consider the skilled trades than their predecessors. Factors such as the cost of tuition at traditional universities, the perceived takeover of white-collar positions by Machine Learning technology and the fact that in many cases, skilled trades programs allow students to earn while they learn, are making skilled trades an increasingly attractive option.

A 2023 study in the U.S., commissioned by Jobber, also determined that among high-school and college-age youth surveyed, skilled trades offered far better career stability than white-collar positions, though many parents still aren’t aware of the real benefits these types of jobs offer.

For dealers, this represents a significant opportunity to tap into the emerging workforce. While we’re already seeing greater collaboration between dealers and technical colleges in aggressively promoting technician recruitment and apprenticeship programs, Generation Z’s different approach to the world of work could create multiple benefits.

According to Sophie Corriveau, Automotive Recruitment Advisor with Auto-Jobs.ca, “members of Generation Z are accustomed to working collaboratively, whether online or in person. Their penchant for teamwork can foster a workplace where ideas flow freely, creativity is encouraged, and communication is seamless.”

A different approach

For savvy dealers, this could enable big changes in the way they run their Fixed Operations departments, promoting a culture where collaboration is actively encouraged and seamless communication between service advisors, technicians and administrative staff, as well as customers, is an integral part of the process. Consistently, one of the biggest issues impacting CSI and customer retention for dealers in Fixed Ops, relates to lack of transparency and communication with customers, so this potentially, could be a big game changer.

Additionally, as Cindy Brannan, Vice President of People and Culture at LGM Financial Services explains, research from Indeed demonstrates that Gen Z employees are already demonstrating a strong work ethic, as well as an expectation of working with new and advanced technologies, plus a willingness to embrace change and placing value on in-person interactions.

Active promotion

Brannan notes that dealers can leverage the growing interest in trades careers among young workers not only by offering apprenticeship programs and partnering with technical schools, but actively promoting the benefits of working in the automotive industry, such as job stability, and earning potential, while at the same time leveraging the power of social media to actively promote career opportunities within their stores and groups, as well as collaborating with third party career portals like Indeed or through platforms such as LinkedIn. “Generation Z grew up in a pivotal time during the technological revolution,” says Brannan.

“They’ve always been surrounded by technology and have also watched firsthand how it has evolved throughout their lives, making many of them tech-savvy and early adopters of modern technologies.” Therefore, for dealers, the ability to resonate with Gen Z on that level and foster a sense of collaboration, consistency and advancement within their organizations can very much lead to winning outcomes—not only for employees, dealers and their customers, but the wider economy as a whole.

 

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