Retaining tomorrow's technician

Retaining tomorrow’s technician

The importance of attracting and retaining young technicians is increasing as more and more of the technician work force moves closer to retirement. The mass media seems eager to remind us that the leading edge of the “baby boomer” generation, which currently comprises the largest percentage of the nation’s work force , begins turning 60 this year.

The importance of attracting and retaining young technicians is increasing as more and more of the technician work force moves closer to retirement. The mass media seems eager to remind us that the leading edge of the “baby boomer” generation, which currently comprises the largest percentage of the nation’s work force , begins turning 60 this year.

The implication of this fact is that this industry, along with most others, is facing retirement of its work force in numbers never experienced before. At the same time, the generational group entering the work force in large numbers is that known as “Generation Y” or the “Millennials.” And their behavioral characteristics and values are likely markedly different than most fleet mangers’ values.

Consider that much of this generation has never experienced life without computers, video games, cell phones and the Internet, among other technologies. Where most fleet managers have adapted to these technologies in the work place, they are integral to the life and lifestyle of the Generation Y worker.

Think about how and where they get information, how they use it, and how they interact. It is literally at their fingertips – or holstered on their belt.

Not only does cell phone technology keep them (and us) in constant contact, but also is the source of news, information and entertainment they rely on. This is their primary communications medium. My grown children do not even have landline telephones!

The secondary tool in this group’s toolbox is the laptop computer. Its use is constrained by the availability of high-speed, portable (read wireless) access to the environment beyond the physical constraints of the machine. Just another example of the generational difference – most likely, the laptop is the primary work place tool.

In part, because of their connectedness, enabled by technology, the Generation Y worker is accustomed to instant gratification. They can find what they want, when they want it, anywhere, at anytime.

How are the technicians of this generation going to feel about “interrupting” their work to retrieve a part or locate a service manual to retrieve specifications, for example?

To the point, is your shop environment right for today’s technician? For example, is your shop management system fully integrated with your parts operations, or service information systems? Is it accessible from anywhere in the shop? Are you providing all the information to technicians that they need to do their job, when they need it?

These are not only environmental changes that should be undertaken just for the convenience of the technician, but also for attendant productivity improvements. Questions like these need to be considered within the context of retaining the new generation technician.

It is almost impossible to talk about retention without mentioning recruiting. When you have a need for a new technician, how do you go about attracting applicants?

I’m willing to bet a fair percentage would respond, classified advertising in the newspaper. Go back a few paragraphs, reread about how this group gets its information, and then ask yourself, “What are the chances that my newspaper classified ad is going to be seen?”

The shop environment we grew up in will likely not be as comfortable for the future technician. Now is a good time to explore ways to improve it and make it more comfortable. FE

Chuck Roberts is ASE’s executive director of industry relations.

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