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[Author: INEDA Staff, 05.2020 | Keywords: Recruiting, Workforce Development]

The stakes are high. Recruiting and retaining technicians will be one of the top three success factors in the ag and construction equipment industry over the next 10 to 15 years. And whoever figures out the workforce equation is going to be in the driver’s seat.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of diesel service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow nearly 13% from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. The agency also said 67,000 technicians will be needed to replace retired workers, and 75,000 new mechanics must be added to meet additional demand by 2022.

As a result, recruiting today may require you to think outside the box and try new things. The following are some tactics used by those involved on the front line of technician recruiting and retention, including those in other industries.

Some caution tape, however, should surround these tips. These are not “easy buttons.” While some ideas may produce great results in certain locations, they may not in others.



Look beyond just-out-of-high-school

Target hiring people in their mid-20s who’ve had some life experiences. “New hires don’t need to know how to rebuild engines. You’re looking for attitude, attendance and soft skills,” said one dealer where the average age of people coming to work in their dealership is 26.7 years.

He suggested looking for people working in factories making $15/hour running a punch press or fulfilling orders in a warehouse. “We like hiring mature people who have gotten their life started. They may have a family, they have responsibilities. The unifying thread among all of them is that they realize that this is their chance to embark on a new career.”

Get good at social media…

Take advantage of free promotion on social media. Encourage employees to put up regular short posts about their jobs, milestones and success stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For example, a technician completes a rebuild on a big engine. He snaps a selfie standing next to his project and posts it to his account with a few comments on what a challenge it was. Ten of his friends see it and put the post on their sites, where 10 of their friends see it and post it. Before long, this one post has racked up hundreds of views – all positive about the dealership.

Designate an employee to take photos for anniversaries, promotions and other celebrations, and quickly post them to the company site. These celebratory postings are a nice way of reminding family, friends and acquaintances that the person in the post made a wise decision by going to work at your dealership.

…but don’t dismiss the tried and true

Old-school methods still work, including help-wanted signs on company property or trucks, word-of-mouth and employee referrals. Be sure to keep track of what methods work.

Explore what’s available digitally

Determine how you can target a select online audience. One dealer uses geotargeting on its Facebook tech recruiting ads. “People are moving away from traditional job boards and more toward social media,” said the dealership’s recruiting manager.

This dealership also uses sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed, which allow users to read a review and apply while they’re in the app. “Techs have to be able to apply on their mobile devices. The easier you can make it to apply, the better.”

Some dealers have found success using a targeted data set for recruiting. For example, tool buyers (individuals who have financed Snap-on and Matco tool sets) can be targeted on Facebook, job boards, and search engine marketing.

Be transparent in your messaging. This includes being direct about starting base pay, hiring and relocation bonuses, along with highlighting company culture.

It is important to note that these campaigns will fail if there’s no timely lead follow-up, ideally within 5 minutes after a lead comes through. Don’t use text or email as your first touchpoint. While these are good follow-up methods, your first method of outreach should be a phone call. If they’re reaching out to you, they’re also reaching out to your competitors. Research shows that when a lead is contacted by phone within 5 minutes, the chances of actually speaking to the person go up 900%.

Make sure youíre inviting to women and minorities

The more diverse your dealership is the more viewpoints you have to tap into. Make sure your workforce mirrors the community.

Make it a priority to grow your own techs

Since it can be difficult to hire technicians off the street and there simply aren’t enough tech school
graduates to fill the need, it’s important to “grow” your own techs.

Take the time to train an inexperienced new employee. “If you bring in an 18-year-old to wash parts or sweep the shop floor and they have a good head on their shoulders, they’re not going to be washing parts or sweeping the floor very long,” said one dealer. “They’re going to be standing next to the guy doing the work and asking questions. And if they show that kind of interest, then it’s on you to help them develop their skills.”

Up the ante

Invest in your employees and create an environment where they don’t want to leave. Consider whether
putting money on the table will make a difference, especially since your competitors for tech talent are likely offering everything from subsidized to free training, tool reimbursements, signing bonuses and guaranteed jobs.

Some dealers are even helping technicians with their education loans without a required period of employment, reimbursing the employee as they make payments, up to a designated amount.

An American Diesel Training Centers representative said he’s seeing an 85% retention rate when students receive assistance from an employer, usually in the form of paid training. “I think the real issue here is a funding issue. If you remove the two barriers of time and money, it opens up a massive pipeline of people.”

Have a recruiting plan

Develop a proactive recruiting strategy so you’re not hiring out of desperation (like the 60-year-old who suddenly wants to start saving for retirement).

Continue to actively recruit even when your shop is at capacity. Set a goal of tech interviews and come up with a plan to make yourself accountable for executing it. Make sure you’re consistently evaluating what works and what doesn’t. Be intentional. Set up reminders to stay on task. The better you get at this, the better your business will be.

Celebrate incoming tech interns

Hold a National Technical Letter of Intent Signing Day. Model it after the NCAA’s National Signing Day for athletes, where students typically sign a letter of intent and don a cap featuring the institution or sponsoring employer. Events like these will help solidify the commitment to your dealership. It also gives the student a vision and the knowledge that they have an official spot at your dealership.

Brag about the industry

Get out in the community and share the economic impact equipment dealers have on their local communities and state. Many do not realize how much your dealership contributes to the local community.

Interesting statewide facts may include:

  • More than 275 Iowa and 200 Nebraska dealers sell and service agricultural, industrial, construction, lawn, leisure and outdoor power equipment.
  • Iowa dealers employ more than 6,000 and Nebraska dealers over 4,000 team members in a variety of roles, including service and repair technicians, sales and support, parts and inventory management, marketing, information systems and technology, and office and administrative services.
  • The combined gross annual equipment sales and services for Iowa dealers exceed $3 billion and Nebraska dealers exceeds $2 billion. The combined annual payroll for Iowa and Nebraska dealers is more than $480 million.
  • Local dealership facts could include:
  • Number of employees at your dealership
  • Total years of service/experience of employees
  • Years the dealership has served the community
  • Community involvement

Talk about the long game but be honest

Successful diesel techs, with their innate equipment knowledge, can carve out a steep upward trajectory. But candidates have to earn the next rung on the ladder through good old-fashioned effort.

It’s important to let new technicians know that there’s a career runway. Millennials want a lot of responsibility. They want it now and they want to move fast. When you hire the right tech, you won’t have any problems with them begging for more responsibility.

Recruit the parents

Host an event at your shop and invite parents along with the students. Have your techs actually working on equipment, so they can see what techs do and what it’s like to work there.

It’s important to tell the parents that you’re going to take care of their son or daughter and that you’re going to make sure they do well. Be sure to share any scholarships or tool reimbursement plans your dealership currently has in place.

Look into apprenticeships

More and more dealers and manufacturers are establishing registered apprenticeship programs, such as the one recently started by John Deere. Apprentices who participate in this earn-while-you-learn program will get structured on-the-job training and technical instruction with an experienced mentor at participating dealerships. While in the program, apprentices will track and report their on-the-job learning and technical training time in conjunction with their employer.

Talk about the opportunities

When talking about the variety of positions available in your dealership, be sure to discuss potential career paths and/or room for advancement. Share how growing technology has influenced the types of jobs available at your dealership, as well as the tools necessary to do the job.

Hire a hero

The Reserves and the National Guard are sweet spots for recruiting because their units are all locally based. Their members work and serve in your community and are just a phone call away.

These “weekend warriors” pull one weekend of active duty service a month and one two-week mission a year. The rest of the time, they are civilians with civilian jobs. While not all Guard or Reserve units have mechanics and technicians, a high percentage of them do have motor pools.

Get to know ñ really know ñ your local educators

Develop relationships with area tech schools and staff to help bring in both entry-level and experienced mechanics to your dealership. “Having that relationship allows us to walk onto the campus – and they know us – and talk to their students about the options that exist in our dealership and our industry,” said one dealer.

Take back the high schools

High schools can be a tough recruiting challenge since students typically rely on guidance counselors who may not know that high-paying jobs are going unfilled in their local area.

One dealer wrote a letter to 3,500 guidance counselors and educators across his state. He was surprised at the feedback, with many of the comments along the lines of, “I had no idea.”

Deere dealer 21st Century Equipment goes on more than 80 high school visits a year to connect with students in Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming, said Wayne Brozek, corporate vice president of aftermarket. “There’s enough talent inside our own fences; we don’t need to try to poach from other places,” he added. “We just need to educate the people who are at our back door.”

Before they even get to high school, some tech colleges or universities are introducing younger students (boys and girls) to diesel tech and other trades through summer camps. “If students can figure out which cluster they are interested in before leaving middle school, they can head into high school knowing which classes are most relevant for them to take,” said one advisor.

Take back the high schools, part 2

Hold presentations on jobs in an equipment dealership with middle and high school students. What do different jobs look like? What are they going to like doing every day? Bring some of your top employees along to talk about their position in the dealership. Be sure to explain the benefits of a community college with one- or two-year certification as well.

While only a few students in each classroom may be interested in working at your dealership, once you identify these students you can invite them to visit your dealership and/or shop to learn more about the career.

Never stop recruiting

Dealers with dedicated HR resources for recruiting technicians often are the ones filling their job openings. It’s important to think about recruiting outside of work.

For instance, adopt some tactics floating in automotive circles. Have a business card made up with your elevator pitch on it, outlining the top three reasons why people should work for you. Or make it simple: show a piece of farm or construction equipment with text that reads, “Your next job here” with your contact info. Hand them out with a comment such as, “I’m Joe, and I hire diesel technicians.”


The number one key to the technician shortage is retaining the techs you have. Here are some ways to keep your techs:

Culture, culture, culture

Culture is how you feel when you are at work, and what drives you to do a better job every day. As a result, it’s important to let your employees know you care.

One dealer owner sends each new technician a handwritten note welcoming them to the team and telling them they’ve made a great decision to join the company. Included in the note is a business card with all the important company numbers the tech can keep or hand to their significant other. Little steps like these can go a long way toward building a strong culture.

Thoroughly examine your internal processes

Focus on being as efficient and productive as possible in your shop.

One multi-store dealership held technician focus groups at all of its branches to delve into its technician retention processes. When they asked the techs what the dealership needed to be considering, the dealer got a really good sense of some of the pain points for technicians. One thing the dealer learned was that techs wanted more career progression. As a result, the dealer changed the requirements for progression to be more competency-based.

When examining its employment data, the dealership also discovered that turnover was most likely to happen in the first three years of employment. So, the dealer adjusted its compensation package for this group.

It’s also important to look at your onboarding process and the ways you make someone feel welcome. For instance, don’t make techs wait for a uniform until a trial period is up. Think about how that makes them feel. You’re basically saying, “you’re not part of the team” until they get past their initiation.


Ask your employees “What can I do to make your job better?” and listen carefully to their responses.

For example, at one dealership the techs asked management why they couldn’t wear jeans. The manager explored the question and found the no-jeans decision was rooted in a 15-year-old problem with cleaning grease from denim. Since there are now solutions to handle those stains, the techs can now wear jeans.
It was a simple question with a simple solution that added to the job satisfaction of those working in
the shop.

At another dealership, management asked its techs about installing air conditioning in the shop. The technicians got together and said, “If you really want us to be more productive all year round, we could use some overhead cranes.” By asking the techs what they thought, it gave them the opportunity to share what was important to them.

Designate a mentor

Establish a mentor program at your dealership. Students coming into dealerships today desire consistent feedback. Mentors give them someone to turn to – they are part psychologist, manager and friend. These mentors are critical, especially during the onboarding process, showing the new employee how things are done, helping them navigate their way around the big learning curve.

Note: It’s important that mentors volunteer for the job and go into it thinking they can learn as much from the student as the student does from them.

Make female techs welcome

Your culture and employment policies should already have a welcoming atmosphere in place, but also pay attention to these potential snags: Don’t ask your female techs to wear a man’s uniform. Make sure you have a dedicated women’s restroom and changing facility. And look at additional flexibilities you could offer to single moms (and dads) to help keep them employed at your dealership.

Make your techs your rock stars

Celebrate each progression of the tech’s journey via social media. Anytime a tech gets certified through the major manufacturer or another program, share this accomplishment on social media as well as the dealership bulletin board.

Share “Deconstruction” videos, where technicians speak directly to the camera and explain what they are currently working on. These videos help showcase the technician’s expertise because not only do they tell their audience what they’re doing to fix things, they explain why a component failed.

To entice viewers to keep watching these videos, one dealership puts outtakes and bloopers at the end. And, there isn’t a hard sales pitch. The video series has netted its technicians a small amount of fame with people recognizing them when they’re out. “When you get numbers like 40,000 views on a video, people are paying attention,” added the dealer.

Source: Equipment World