Friday, March 21, 2014

Work Assignment Methods & Truck Technician Retention

by Mike Chen

With the current shortage of technicians facing the truck industry, dealerships need to be more focused than ever on retaining their existing pool of qualified technicians. While there are many factors that impact retention rates, one element that should not be overlooked is a technician’s perception of workplace processes.

In 2013, Carlisle & Company conducted the inaugural Heavy Truck Technician Survey, which provided us the opportunity to dive into the issue of retention. One surprising insight that came out of our research was the importance of how work is assigned at dealerships. The survey results showed that technicians who perceive their dealerships’ work assignment methods as “fair” were 27% more likely to stay with their respective dealerships.

Upon investigating the issue, we found that most truck dealerships use one of the following two methods to assign work:
  1. Work assignment by specialty
  2. Work assignment to next available technician
Technicians surveyed were 8% more likely to find “assignment by specialty” to be fair vs. “assignment to the next available tech”. Many provided comments to give us context on their perspective:
  • “Technicians with improper training are assigned to jobs.”
  • “Jobs are often assigned to under-qualified technicians.”
  • “Give the work to the tech that is qualified to do the work.”
When we look even closer, we see that after technicians have five years of experience they become twice as likely to perceive “assignment to the next available tech” as an unfair assignment method.

Further down the line, technicians with more than 15 years of experience are three times more likely to perceive this work assignment method as unfair.

What does this mean for dealers? It means that by choosing to assign work to the next available technician, dealerships are increasing the risk that their more experienced technicians will leave. Dealerships don’t need to make technician experience-level or training the sole consideration when assigning work, but they should try to recognize a tech’s specialty and give preference to those who are the most appropriately skilled for the job.

In order to simultaneously 1) recognize experienced technicians, and 2) give younger technicians a chance at developing a specialty, dealerships could institute mentorship/shadow programs. Many technicians surveyed either requested such programs or commented that such programs were working well at their dealerships:
  • “Oftentimes jobs will be handed to a tech that does not have the skill level to handle it. They should be given to an experienced tech to shadow them and give advice.”
  • "Our system could be improved with experienced team members teaching substantial and complex repairs to less experienced team members”
  • “As a whole I believe we function very well. Mentoring of young techs is done on complex tasks as work load allows.”
  • “Everyone I work with is very willing to teach & explain their strong areas to others”
Bottom Line: Work assignment methods have an impact on a technician’s satisfaction level and their likelihood to stay with a dealership. If dealers want to avoid the time and cost involved in replacing experience technicians, they need to account for technician specialties when assigning work. Establishing a mentorship program in which experienced techs can mentor younger techs would be an effective way to accomplish this task, while giving opportunities to younger technicians who want to develop a specialty.

No comments: