Hiring For the Long Haul
Think about how long it takes a technician to become really good at their job. Not just proficient, but someone who knows the duties front and back and makes real efficiency gains through that knowledge.
Might it be six months? A year? With the latter time frame, that tech is already more than one-third of the way through the average tenure, according to the 2019 NOLN Operator Survey.
Turnover is a huge consideration for operators and their managers. Reducing turnover and keeping long-term employees in place is a way to cut down on recruitment costs and improve the operation through experience. Managers try to hire somebody who will stick around, but that’s one of the most difficult things to determine.
Norm Bobay has seen the hiring process play out many times. A veteran professional development and hiring expert, Bobay launched HireMAX with a carefully developed suite of assessments that help identify quality employees before and during the interview process.
Predicting longevity? That’s tough, but Bobay says that shops can set themselves up to be in the best position to find the right person for the job and foster the right culture once they’re hired.
“It’s not what they can do. It’s who they are,” Bobay says. “And there’s a big difference between those two.”
Maintain a positive shop.
Bobay says that hiring the right person starts before a job ad is posted, because it’s the shop culture that’s ultimately going to have the biggest impact on a new hire.
The system has to be set up to not only teach technical skills but to instill teamwork and personal development. The lack of a solid culture is what most often causes employees to leave.
“They leave companies. They don’t leave people easily,” Bobay says. “If a company’s not treating them well, they can walk away from that, pretty much. But if they have a manager who’s really nice to them and pays attention to them and listens to them, it’s hard for them to leave a manager like that.”
Bobay believes that 68 percent of the time, employees quit due to the manager or the person directly above them in the shop hierarchy.
When hiring, consider how your team might accept a new member rather than just how that new person might fit in with your team.
“It’s relationship. It’s not just about the job,” he says. “It’s about who you’re working with.”
Create a benchmark.
So many operators already hire for personality over skill. This is sound advice for the industry, but even if that’s already the case at your shop, don’t fully avoid the skills question. The key is in how you use that information.
Bobay’s company has a benchmark system for his collision and auto shop clients. The pre-screen test isn’t necessarily supposed to find out who’s right or wrong for the position. It’s just a way to get a baseline of knowledge.
“It doesn't mean you don't hire the person, you just know what they’re expecting,” he says. “And you need to dig in that area and develop that.”
Bobay’s benchmark tests are color coded for low to high knowledge, so that a manager can quickly see from a group of applicants where each stands by the colors attached. If hired, the manager already knows which skills need to be trained first.
But don’t be afraid to train technical skills to someone who might have the right personality traits.
“Cars are changing every year, as everybody knows,” Bobay says. “Quicker than that, it seems. There’s always learning to do. And that’s a factor we can score in an assessment.”
Pre-screen for personality.
Bobay’s mantra is “hire the best; avoid the rest.” He says that pre-screen assessments help to ease the selection process once interviews are held and to ultimately reduce turnover.
“Pre-screens are just looking at does a person have a good attitude toward work?” Bobay says.
It’s meant to be a primer on attitudes toward behaviors like theft and drug use, as well as work-related ideas like tenure and performance. It helps to gather data without all the body language cues and personal biases that might happen during the interview.
Still, an interview is always necessary to complete the process.
Have an informed interview.
The pre-screen results can be a primer for the actual interview. In addition to the regular questions about work experience and job expectations, the pre-screener might prompt the manager to try and get to the heart of an issue.
“Everybody sometimes wears a mask. What’s a mask for? Hiding something,” Bobay says. “Sometimes they come in saying things to get the job.”
If an assessment has a manager wondering about the person’s attitudes toward drugs, Bobay’s assessment includes this suggested interview question: “What should happen to an employee who uses drugs at work?”
Then listen to see if the applicant has a tendency to defend that behavior, according to a sample interview primer. They might say that drug use is “their own business.” That might be a red flag.
When thinking specifically about longevity, Bobay says to have a keen ear about the importance of money. Wage and earning potential are important, but what if they’re the only focus on an applicant?
“Every strength can become a weakness, overused,” Bobay says. “So that’s what we watch for more than anything. We call it the ‘utilitarian factor’ in motivators. It’s all about the money.”
If it’s only about the money, that person might be quick to leave for an extra buck at another operation rather than stick it out for the long haul.
Make the right impression.
When the right employee is finally selected, the first few weeks on the job are crucial. It’s the first impression.
Take the new hire around and introduce them to the team. Give them a detailed overview of the operation and people’s roles. For managers, there are lots of ways to lead a group. But the real success is in finding ways to lead each individual.
“If he’s a real driven person, he’s an extrovert and he's dealing with an introvert, he’s got to adjust the way he manages that individual,” Bobay says. “Because his natural way is do it now. And the other way is to spend a little bit more time and give them all the information.”
That means that managers have to understand a little about themselves as well as their employees. Bobay says that he became a fan of Steve Eddy’s strategy after reading “The ABCs of 1-on-1 Meetings” in the March 2020 issue of NOLN. Instead of delegating one-on-one meetings to managers, Eddy hosted them himself as the owner. He found that employees really responded to that level of time and attention.
Bobay says that, in his experience, this isn’t how most operators do things. Time is money, absolutely, but the benefits in reduced turnover and shop culture might win out in the end.
“Doing that process is unique,” Bobay says. “And it does take some time.”
Bobay’s PAHR System
Part of Bobay’s toolkit for managers is his PAHR system. He says that the process helps to attract and retain employees. Here’s a summary:
- Prepare to hire employees. Make sure the job description is detailed, create a skills benchmark for each position that includes more than just the technical skills.
- Attract qualified candidates in a streamlined way. Compare candidates to previous pre-screened applicants and cast a wide net to advertise the position.
- Hire the best candidate. Focus on interview questions that can get more details on pre-screen answers. Give the candidate an overview of the company’s history and allow lots of time for them to learn about the company.
- Retain through the onboarding process. Introduce them to the current staff, build a relationship and develop an effective working dynamic to maximize the person’s potential.