Staff retention and recruitment in the autobody repair sector.

The great resignation, or the great reshuffle is an ongoing economic trend in which employees have voluntarily resigned from their jobs en masse, beginning in early 2021 in the wake of the covid pandemic.

Unfortunately, the autobody repair sector did not escape unharmed, the most common reasons for resigning include greater salary opportunities elsewhere, the rising cost of living in Ireland, limited opportunities for career advancement, poor work environments, lack of benefits, inflexible work policies, and general job dissatisfaction. 

The staff resignation rates indicate worker confidence in their ability to get higher paying jobs, which typically coincides with strong economic or industry stability and low unemployment rates within the employees chosen sector, both of which are currently influencing the sector in Ireland. 

The most serious staff attrition rates have been experienced by the service industries. The staffing crisis that now exists in the autobody repair sector in Ireland was in part influenced by non-nationals who had worked in the sector returning to their home countries during the pandemic, finding local roles at home before their Irish employer was able to reinstate them, and the technician then deciding not to return to Ireland.

The COVID-19 pandemic allowed workers to rethink their careers, work conditions, and long-term goals. Many workers are seeking to gain a better work-life balance.

Industries that require an in-person presence, have been hit the hardest. COVID-19 stimulus payments and increased benefits allowed those who relied on lower-wage jobs to stay home, those who were in roles they felt were under paid or did not enjoy, had time to experience a different lifestyle and decided to either change their career, their employer or the way they worked.

The long term staffing difficulties in the autobody repair sector was made worse by the Covid 19 pandemic and the rapidly increasing cost of living in Ireland,  however, the industry must identify ways to take advantage of the changes that have taken place in the labour market.

Identifying Talent and taking advantage of the new opportunity to recruit.

People are more prepared than ever to leave their current job and change career, this has been problematic for the autobody repair sector, but can it be reversed?

Career or job mismatch, when the career or educational path chosen is not aligned with the persons current interests, ability or natural skills, this can be used to the advantage of the industry, a recent study found people between 25 and 40 years old had the greatest interest in career or employer change, low-wage, and frontline workers have been identified as those most dissatisfied with their work, and are most interested in career change. 

The automotive repair industry must target new sectors to attract new talent, the autobody repair sector now offers good salaries along with good opportunities and conditions, there are opportunities to attract new talent if employers are prepared to widen the scope of their search.  

While employees might feel empowered by being able to leave their roles as soon as they see fit, in instances where they change career, they may struggle to progress due to their lack of experience and connections within a new industry. The ability to offer training and career support to all new entrants regardless of age is essential and is now available to the autobody repair sector.

Technician productivity has also reduced post the pandemic even when employees stay in the same role, they are not as productive as they were in the past. Refresher training and training in new tasks can help re-engage and motivate employees.

Meanwhile, staff turnover is not good for any business, it limits productivity, increases recruiting costs, leads to knowledge loss, damages company culture, and lowers employee engagement. To retain and or develop a strong business in any employment market but more so in the market we are currently experiencing, a business must have a strong and effective employee retention programme. 

What is an employee retention programme?

An employee retention programme is the process and strategies that a company develops to retain staff. The aim of the programme is to mitigate the risk of your staff leaving your company in favour of working for your competitor or worse still leaving the industry altogether.  Every employee represents an investment of both time and money for your company. Hiring and training new employees is costly. 

Why you need a retention programme.

Your employees are and will remain in great demand by your competitors and other industries. They can freely choose their employer and post the pandemic are more willing than ever to change employer, they are continually and frequently being approached through todays targeted communication tools with job offers. To retain your employees, you must identify their desires and ensure your offering is as closely aligned to this as possible. 

Negative effects of employee turnover on your business:

·        Recruitment costs:  agency fees, job advertising, and training.

·        Time: Interviewing and training

·        Loss of experience and knowledge: valuable knowledge and experience resulting in a shortage of talent and skills.

·        Reduced productivity: a considerable amount of time is invested in training new employees and cultivating their skills to suit your business. 

·        Poor company culture: High turnover is not a good signal, high turnover implies lower employee satisfaction.

Why do staff leave their employment. 

High turnover rates can be a sign that current employees are dissatisfied. Low engagement and low morale may be due to factors within your control or something you can’t change. For instance, you can change your company culture, but you cannot resolve the cost-of-living inflation problem. It is not possible to continually approve salary increases on demand. 

However, it is essential to identify the reason if you are to have any chance of putting in place a remedy.

Internal influencing factors.

·        Remuneration: Employees who feel underpaid for their work are likely to look for better opportunities.

·        Employer expectation: An employee may be asked to take on too much or asked to do tasks they’re not trained to do.

·        Career opportunities: an employee may feel there is no career progression opportunities for them, or even flexible work arrangements. 

·        Boredom: The job may have started as an exciting opportunity but now feels boring. A lack of engagement will diminish an employee’s passion and enthusiasm. 

·        Conflicts: When employees don’t have mutual respect with managers or peers, it can adversely affect their productivity and encourage them to look elsewhere.

External influencing factors.

  • Career change: Employees may feel that their jobs no longer align with their career goals or may want a career change. 
  • Financial: Better financial opportunities in a different industry.
  • Personal circumstances: Family illness, a partner getting a job transfer, moving home to another country or location.

Active employee retention programme.

According to research by Glassdoor, organisations with a strong induction process for new recruits can improve the retention of these employees by 82%. 

Recruit induction is historically a weak link in the recruitment process in most autobody repair businesses. 

Do you provide pre-employment Health & safety training?, show them how the equipment operates?, etc, equipment differs from shop to shop, processes differ, give new recruits the best possible chance of success

Train your managers to identify the strengths and weaknesses of all employees including new recruits, and how best to capitalise on their strengths and implement training to overcome the weaknesses.

Pay competitive salaries.

If you want to retain your employees, you must offer a competitive salary. 

2. Provide clear career advancement opportunities “Career maps”

A career map is an evolving documented roadmap outlining where someone is in their career, where they ultimately want to go, and the specific steps they could take to achieve their objective.

Be proactive in helping them design and achieve their goals, show them the internal opportunities that could be available and the opportunities within the broader industry. A structured approach to helping them reach their career goals will reduce the risk of an unexpected exit.  

Proactively help them identify opportunities to progress their career, this can be taking on new tasks to achieve a higher salary, a promotion, or a more appealing work-life balance.

When employees see opportunities to learn and grow internally, they are less likely to look elsewhere.

A 2023 Workplace Learning Report revealed that 75% of employees who have made an internal move after two years are more likely to stay with the company. Meanwhile, just 15% of workers said their employer encouraged them to take on a new role or learn a new skill.

You can increase job satisfaction within your company by providing learning opportunities and career advancement. At a minimum, an annual career discussion with employees to review their “career map” should take place, their “career map” ambitions should be included in your staff learning and development programme. 

Employers and employees should explore potential new career development opportunities within the company with all employees, and provide the training required to those interested.

3. Create a people-first workplace

The people-first business concept is to prioritise all the people that support the business, its growth, and its revenue. The umbrella term “people” refers not just to employees, but also its customers.

Instead of asking, “How can “the company” do better?” we should ask, “How can our people benefit more?”

A good starting place is to look to the employees that impact the most people: The managers. 

Help and train your managers to be better leaders:

Encourage them to create the best possible work environments for their team, those whom they are responsible, treat everybody respectfully and equally and recognise them in meaningful ways. Encourage them to ensure your team all have the tools and skills required so that they can produce quality work and get the best possible job satisfaction, no employee produces bad work intentionally. 

  • Engage their team.
  • Ensure employees can voice opinions.
  • Ensure employees voices are heard.
  • Recognise and appreciate their efforts.
  • Open dialogue. 
  • Help employees’ “people” to achieve success. 

The job of the manager is to coach the team.

4. Make meaningful connections at work: 

Part of a people-first culture is the quality of relationships between those people. For true success, teamwork must be your company culture, everybody is equally responsible for both the good and the bad, and this requires a solid foundation.

Endeavour to establish and know the interests of your employees, sporting, culinary, travel, etc, this enables a more meaningful interaction. 

5. Recognize and acknowledge good work

A failure to acknowledge the vital contributions of employees can cause them to disengage, which can be the precursor to quitting. Managers can increase the commitment and dedication of employees with timely recognition and appreciation of their work. 

6. Provide training mentorship bespoke to the mentee’s requirement. 

When a formalised mentoring programme is implemented, and the mentor provided with a framework bespoke to the mentee, the learning advancement is faster providing greater job satisfaction for both parties.

The faster the learning progression the greater the job satisfaction

7. Encourage a healthy work-life balance.

Overworked employees fail to be productive at a point. When their bodies and minds have worn out, they can lose interest and disengage. They may decide that it’s become over demanding and just not worth it and seek a new role. 

8. Consider flexible work arrangements. 

Research suggests that what workers really want is options, consider flexible working hours, or shortened work weeks?. 

9. Provide personalised employee support.

Employees want career development and personalised support. Employers and managers must do everything possible to ensure that everyone feels appreciated and supported in the company. At the same time, senior management must refrain from instant negativity towards employees whose performance slips. Yes, of course productivity matters, but not at the cost of employee morale. A lack of morale will reduce productivity more and can increase staff turnover in the long run. Performance management must be structured, identifying the cause, and implementing a solution. The “an employee rarely does a bad job intentionally” should be to the fore, reengaging the employee and providing training is always a good starting place.

Give employees an opportunity to offer feedback and receive guidance on their work performance, career path, and overall goals.

10. Learn from the past 

Implement exit interviews to understand why employees resign. This can help to identify issues, and more importantly, cut off high turnover before it starts. 

Exit interviews offer you data that can help you find the leading causes for resignation, but only if you do something with it. Ideally, you’re using that information to improve the company’s workflow, benefits, compensation structure, and work-life balance. 

Invest in a training programme to keep employees engaged.

Staff turnover is a drain on company resources. A training programme pays dividends through job satisfaction, a feature of employment that has become the most important aspect of staff retention helping you retain your most important business asset.

Giving your employees the training and career guidance they need to succeed, will also have a positive impact on their salaries, promotion prospects, employee engagement, and the implementation of your “people first company culture”. 

Service & performance rewards

Some employers are now offering service rewards.

Birthday day off after 2 years’ service

Attendance at sporting events of interest to the employee. 

The value of the reward to the employee becoming greater the longer the service.

Some of the above will be negatively received by some employers within the industry, and if you’re comfortable with your current staffing levels and ability to recruit new employees, you would be right to ignore it all.

If not, possibly some aspects are worth trying?