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Hiring Mechanics in a candidate driven market
Hiring Mechanics in a candidate driven market
With demand for Mechanics at an all time high, what steps can dealerships take to successfully recruit in a market where demand far outweighs supply?
As dealerships across Ireland reopened after the recent COVID-19 restrictions, there was a significant backlog of service and repair work. With customers rescheduling their appointments, lead-in times have dramatically increased and many dealers are struggling to meet this demand. This comes on the back of an ever-reducing supply of experienced mechanics in the industry. Now, more than ever, the Aftersales Department is becoming the central source of revenue for dealers.

At at time when consumer sentiment is low, the retail sector faces an unprecedented set of challenges. Notwithstanding an uncertain Budget just around the corner, dealers are now focusing on their Aftersales Departments to ensure the financial viability of their businesses.

At the core of any successful Aftersales Department is its team of Mechanics. However, recruiting for Mechanics in Ireland today is an enormous challenge, with experienced candidates in short supply. With that in mind, dealers now need to ask themselves what they can do in order to attract Mechanics to their business?
Firstly, why is there a shortage of Mechanics?
The shortage of qualified and experienced Mechanics in Ireland was an industry-wide issue long before COVID-19, however, with the increased demand on workshops today, the challenge facing dealers in recruiting Mechanics is now more challenging than ever.
Lack of Apprentices
As Ireland entered into recession in 2008, the number of Motor apprentices fell dramatically. In 2007, there were 450 new apprentice registrations. This fell to just 158 in 2009.* While intake levels recovered somewhat since then, anecdotally, it would seem that there are not sufficient numbers of Mechanics qualifying to meet the current demand.

* Department of Education and Skills, Review of Apprenticeship Training in Ireland
Motor Apprenticeship Registrations 2010 - 2016
As the Irish economy began to recover in recent years, the apprenticeship intake did improve. However, school-leavers considering their options and wishing to enter the motor trade, were also presented with a series of alternatives, several of which were in the construction sector.

In 2016 (the most up to date publicly available statistics) 310 Motor Apprentices qualified.** Given that this figure includes all Motor-related apprenticeships, is this enough to meet nationwide demand?

** CSO, Further Education Outcomes
Mechanics exiting the sector
In line with Europe's ageing population, Ireland's workforce is getting older and retirement levels are rising. In addition to those Mechanics leaving the sector due to retirement, some have chosen to exit the industry for other reasons.

Often Mechanics choose to become self-employed and setup their own repair businesses, giving them increased flexibility and autonomy.

Mechanics are also exiting the sector all-together to work in different industries such as pharmaceuticals, engineering and IT. These businesses are often in a position to offer attractive employee perks; generous paid leave, health insurance and increased flexibility.

While many of these jobs are offered on a contract basis and may not have the same level of job security as a Mechanic in a dealership, the motivations behind such a change in career path, should not be ignored.
Overcoming the challenges of hiring Mechanics
It is clear that recruiting Mechanics is a significant challenge so what can dealers do to attract and retain a higher calibre of candidate? With low unemployment and a high level of Mechanic vacancies, dealers are undoubtedly operating in a candidates' market.

We speak to Mechanics and dealerships on a daily basis and here are some of the key recruitment trends we have identified.
1. Salary & Benefits
While the Motor Industry has faced historical challenges when it comes to wage parity with other trade apprenticeships, the current acute skills shortage will undoubtedly focus the attention on this area once again.

There is a lot of competition between dealerships to recruit qualified and experienced Mechanics. As the majority of qualified Mechanics are currently in employment, the challenge to attract them to your dealership is even greater. One of the most important motivating factors for Mechanics when it comes to joining a new dealership is remuneration.
Top 5 reasons why dealership staff consider leaving (US)
Graph: New Motor Apprenticeships in Ireland
Data source: Cox Automotive, 2019 Dealership Staffing Study
Given the current shortage of Mechanics in Ireland today, in order to attract new candidates, it is important that your salaries are competitive. It is often difficult to know what 'competitive' means in real terms, however, from industry analyses and salary benchmarking, Start Monday can offer advice here as to current market rates.

Highlighting additional company benefits will further make you stand out from the competition. While these benefits are not offered as standard across the industry, if you offer generous paid holidays, sick leave, company pension, fuel card or a preferred car purchase scheme, be sure to include these in your job ads or on the careers section on your website.

Offering a strong basic salary along with a clearly-defined bonus scheme and training plan, will mean that your dealership will become an appealing option for prospective candidates.
2. Bonus & Overtime
Most dealerships in Ireland offer Mechanics a monthly bonus aligned to workshop efficiency and/or productivity.

Workshop bonus schemes however can differ from dealer to dealer. Explaining clearly how your bonus scheme works in a job ad, will dramatically improve your ability to attract qualified Mechanics.

Ensuring that each Mechanic understands the bonus scheme will maximise their motivation to achieve target consistently and ensure that you are maximising workshop revenue.

We often see the phrase, 'overtime available', mentioned in job ads, however, there is rarely any detail provided regarding the amount of overtime and/or the applicable rates.

It is important that in early conversations with your prospective new hire, you clearly outline current overtime available and corresponding remuneration.
3. Training & Development
Mechanics are keen to further develop their technical skills and it is likely in the near future that these skills will have a shift in focus. New vehicles are increasingly being built with advanced driver systems, sensors, cameras and software programmes. Additionally, the sale of electric vehicles and alternative engines is expected to rise significantly in the coming years and these vehicles will require a different maintenance and repair skill set.

As vehicle technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, the training and development of Mechanics to maintain and repair these vehicles needs to be set in motion now. Having Mechanics with these additional skill sets will be essential to the long term success of your workshop as consumer demands shift.

Providing a clear training path, from the beginning, will attract candidates with ambition to maximise their technical abilities. Indicating that you are willing to invest the necessary resources to further develop your employees, will give your new hire reassurance that this opportunity is for the longer term. Additionally, it will likely result in improved employee retention.

However, this career path needs to be supported by a formalised training plan and continuous improvement, which should be facilitated through; offsite and online training, mentoring, shadowing and cross-training in other areas of the dealership.

Consider training external to OEM-sponsored and technical courses. If your Mechanic is technically excellent and fully up to speed with product updates but lacks proficiency in your IT system for example, or customer service skills, this could result in loss of revenue.

To highlight your company's positive approach to employee development, consider featuring staff member profiles on your website showing their career path from Mechanic, perhaps to Master Technician or into management. This will give the prospective candidate reassurance that there are opportunities for growth at your company.
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4. Proactive Vs Reactive hiring
Most dealers who contact us regarding Mechanic recruitment, tend to hire on a reactive basis. It is usually only when a Mechanic suddenly leaves your business, goes on holiday or takes extended sick leave that there is an urgent requirement to hire.

Taking into account notice periods, interviews, reference checks and onboarding - unless the candidate is out of work - it will be very difficult to refill the position in a reasonable timeframe.

Some of the consequences of reactive hiring in a candidate-driven market include:
  • Loss of labour sales revenue
  • Loss of parts and accessory sales revenue
  • Lost productivity when positions are open for too long
  • Compromising on candidate quality due to need to fill vacancy quickly
  • Extra pressure on other Mechanics to take on additional work
  • Impact to CS levels due to increasing lead times

On the other hand, developing a proactive approach to hiring Mechanics will allow you to build a pipeline of skilled, available talent that you can call upon when demand is there.
Proactive hiring - engaging with Mechanic candidates now - will mean that when you are ready to hire, your time to hire will decrease, the quality of candidates will increase and staff retention will be maximised.
How do you know what candidates you might need in the future? Conducting an analysis of the current skill and experience level in your workshop, in addition to succession planning for those set to be promoted or retiring soon, will highlight the gaps in your workshop team.

Perhaps one of your Senior Technicians is set to achieve Master Technician status soon and you will need to backfill his/her position. There are also unpredictable instances where your workshop is in high demand and you need extra resources, for example, for a recall or seasonal campaign, busy holiday periods or extended sick leave.
5. Onboarding
With Mechanic unemployment levels in Ireland very low and a significant number of vacancies across the country, candidates have many options when it comes to where they would like to work. Therefore, it is crucial that you have a strong onboarding process in place, so that you can retain employees from the start and maximise productivity, as soon as possible.

Your onboarding process should not focus solely on admin and paperwork, most of which can be done in advance of your new hire's start. Initial onboarding should focus on; induction training, shadowing programme, introduction to the rest of team and initial product and systems training.
Organisations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.
Source: Julie Coucoules, Glassdoor's Global Head of Talent Acquisition
Onboarding should continue beyond the first week and a formalised 'check-in' system should be in place at regular intervals to provide employee support.

At a basic level, ensuring that you have the necessary tools and PPE for your new hire is essential.

From our perspective in Start Monday, those dealerships with a robust onboarding programme for new Mechanic hires, have a far greater level of employee retention over the long term.
6. Continuous feedback & support
Aftersales productivity and efficiency levels are tracked by workshops in order to maximise resources. However, it is vital that each Mechanic understands not only what is being tracked but why. For example, if a Mechanic is struggling to complete jobs in time, what support or training will be triggered as a result? Does your Mechanic need to further develop his/her diagnostic skills or receive product training? Sharing this information with your technical team is vital in not only maximising performance but building trust within the Aftersales Department.

Creating a positive culture of employee engagement requires more than completing an annual employee survey. Aftersales management may find it difficult to meet frequently with each Mechanic on a one-to-one basis, due to the demands of their role. However, each Mechanic has a different set of technical and non-technical requirements and it is important to understand these needs in order to identify the possible skills gaps in your workshop.

It is equally important, beyond remuneration, to provide positive feedback to employees to maximise motivation. Creating a more engaged workshop team, with continuous feedback, will have a positive impact on the productivity of your team and on your bottom line.
Highly engaged teams saw a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity.
Source: Gallup, Workplace Insights
Continuous feedback is more important than ever today, given the uncertain economic environment we find ourselves in. With the retail sector frequently changing due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is important that Mechanics are regularly updated and provided with peace of mind in relation to; job security, performance and overall satisfaction. Providing regular, real time feedback to Mechanics will further improve their motivation and ultimately, their productivity.
7. Transparency
While there may be valid reasons that a dealership does not wish to publicly disclose its pay structure, there should at least be transparency around the hiring process. Outlining the interview format, number of rounds etc., in addition to the work environment and any additional benefits, will significantly improve the quality of your job ad.

Pay transparency is a growing trend amongst businesses today. While it is predominantly a feature of technology companies, websites such as Glassdoor - which encourages employees to anonymously share their salary details - are increasing in popularity.
Jobseekers crave transparency on pay, not only to make an initial judgment about whether to consider applying for a job, but also to assess if an employer holds long-term potential for them.
Julie Coucoules, Glassdoor's Global Head of Talent Acquisition
Providing a greater level of transparency and detail in your job ads will encourage more qualified candidates to apply. On the other-hand, including only vague information in your ad such as 'competitive pay,' 'overtime available' or 'salary DOE' is unlikely to result in a high volume of qualified applicants, especially as your job ad is similar to the multitude of other dealers also looking to hire Mechanics.
8. Flexibility
While COVID-19 resulted in many employees shifting to remote working, this was clearly not a viable option for Mechanics. However, this sea change in working practices has highlighted the desire for employees across all sectors to avail of more flexibility when it comes to their daily work.

Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) represent a large cohort of Mechanics working in Ireland today and studies have shown that, as a group, they are more likely to demand flexibility when it comes to employment. Given that your next Mechanic hire is likely to fall into this age bracket, dealers will need to consider how they can structure their shifts in order to meet this demand for increased flexibility.

While the role of a Mechanic may be excluded from many of these demands - due to the nature of their work and inability to work remotely - it is difficult to ignore this sector-wide trend.
92% of Millennials identify flexibility as a top priority when job hunting yet less than 10% of advertised jobs offer flexibility.
There are flexible working arrangements that you can offer Mechanics which could prove highly attractive, for example, offering late start or early finish times or shift work.

One of our recent Mechanic vacancies offered a 4-day working week (whilst maintaining the market salary) and the interest was unprecedented. Candidates told us that having that extra day off meant that they could save on childcare, spend more time with their family and essentially, have a better work life balance.
The Value of a Mechanic
The overall contribution of a Mechanic to a modern Aftersales Department cannot be overstated. Not only do they have a hugely positive impact on the bottom line, given the changing technology of modern vehicles, their technical expertise is now more valuable than ever in a modern workshop.

Between labour, parts and accessory sales, your Mechanic is a consistent, predictable and significant source of revenue for your business. However, many dealerships around the country are missing out on this substantial revenue due to their inability to hire experienced and productive Mechanics.

With that in mind, dealers need to quickly reassess their overall recruitment strategy or they risk significant loss of revenue in the years ahead.
Summary
There is no doubt that the Irish Motor Industry is fast approaching a tipping point when it comes to the recruitment and retention of Motor Mechanics.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Mechanics are leaving the industry in significant numbers. Also, the amount of Mechanics coming through recognised apprenticeship schemes, is nowhere near the level required to meet current demand.

The rapidly evolving technological landscape will only increase the pressure on dealerships to grow and retain their team of Mechanics. There will also need to be significant investment made in the levels of training and technical development provided by the OEMs in the years ahead.

With the next Budget looming and a very uncertain economic outlook, dealerships are increasingly relying on their workshop for financial stability. Maximising workshop productivity and efficiency rates will continue to be a key focus for dealerships in the years ahead.
Sample Mechanic profiles
A snapshot of our current Mechanic candidates
BMW Mechanic
4 years experience with BMW dealer
Extensive OEM training
Advanced diagnostics
Hyundai Master Technician
15 years with Hyundai dealer
Trained to Hyundai Master level
Hyundai training
Peugeot Mechanic
20 years with Peugeot Citroën dealer
Peugeot & diagnostic training
Volkswagen Mechanic
11 years with Volkswagen/Audi dealer
VW Group training
Interested in hiring Mechanics?
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