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Top Technician Succession Planning

Autosphere » Mechanical » Top Technician Succession Planning
Devin Purcell is a Red Seal Automotive Technician with over 20 years of experience and a professor at Fanshawe College, London, Ont., in the School of Transportation Technology and Apprenticeship. You can reach him at [email protected] or find out more of his opinions at https://www.autoknowit.com/. Photo Devin Purcell

Keeping and growing proficiency and expertise

If you’ve opened a trade journal or business magazine in the last 5 years, I am sure you have read countless articles talking about succession planning. This succession planning discusses how business owners can plan for their retirement or remove themselves from the day-to-day operations of their business. 

Every day, a shop runs the risk of losing one of their key technicians, whether they leave for different opportunities or even just retire from the trade. With every passing day, technicians are becoming harder and harder to find. Even though it may not be possible to retain a key technician, business owners and service managers need to equip themselves with every tool possible to retain these technicians’ skills. Not only when it comes to daily operations of the shop but also their technical skills. So how can we use some of these techniques and create succession planning for our key technicians? 

In-house training

The key to great technician succession planning is the adoption of an in-house training program. While the trade in Canada excels with an excellent apprenticeship program, we find ourselves forgetting to cultivate the skills of entry-level technicians when their training is complete. After all, where are we going to find tomorrow’s top-level technicians if we don’t create them today? 

Think of a great succession plan as the ability of an entry-level technician to continue their “apprenticeship” under the watch full eyes of a senior technician. You may think this could be a waste of time. Did they not just get their Certificate of Qualification? They should be able to fix any problematic vehicle that comes their way. 

Identify what makes your key technicians important

First, take a look at what makes your senior-level technicians important to your business. I feel confident in saying that it is not only their ability to fix the most difficult problems. It probably also includes their great ability to discuss difficult issues with customers, and possibly even the ability to work the front counter when someone takes holiday. 

I can tell you from my own experience that when I became a licensed technician you probably didn’t want me talking to customers, let alone looking at a profit loss statement. I would not even know what those words meant. 

Find a great mentor

When you have identified the traits of your key technicians that you would like an entry-level technician to acquire, it is time to put a plan in place to cultivate those traits. 

You will need a good mentor. A mentor technician should have the skills necessary to build the technical knowledge of your junior technician. It is a good idea to also have someone that the entry-level technician can confide in when things get difficult, discuss their career and personal improvements, as well as be able to lean on to teach them and guide them through difficult repairs. 

All departments are important

When creating your next key technician, it is important to ensure that they get exposure to every department. I am going to go ahead and say this here, you can agree or disagree with my opinion. Let the technician work alongside the parts personnel, and also have them work the service desk with an advisor or the service manager. 

You are not only investing in the ability of the individual technician but also creating a better team in the process. Walking in the service advisor’s shoes for a few days will quickly allow the technician to see how critical a thorough diagnostics and well-written technician story are to their job. Also, what about working with the parts personnel and experiencing what the COVID-19 supply chain shortages really mean to your business? These are critical aspects they need to learn in order to advance.

When they go back to the service bays, they will implement the skills that they learned in these micro-learning sessions and quickly increase efficiency between departments. The key to this is to create the great interpersonal skills that make our key technicians “Key!”

Review The Process

Have planned meetings between you and the junior-level technicians. Discuss what is working, and what isn’t working and adapt the plan as necessary. 

These meetings may indicate that your organization lacks a certain type of training in people skills or electrical diagnosis for example. Seek out what your technicians need and get the training that’s required. 

We need to remember that not only do our technicians need to be trained in the skills required to diagnose, service and repair, but they also need great interpersonal skills to reach the top level in our industry. 

I do not think I have to tell you that we are experiencing a technician shortage in our industry right now. Some are looking at how to attract more to the trades to fill up the service bays. Let’s not forget that while we are looking for new technicians to fill the jobs that we have. We also have to ensure that our junior technicians are being trained to take over senior-level roles. 

By growing our own key technicians, we can ensure that we key, senior-level technicians to fill the role if we lose one of our senior-level technicians.

 

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