What Automotive Technicians Really Think About Their Roles

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A Deep Dive into WrenchWay’s 2023 Voice of Technician Survey

So, how’s your tire and auto shop doing with hiring and retaining auto repair technicians right now? If you’re like most shops in the industry, you’re knee-deep in struggle with the current shortages of auto technicians entering the workforce. To find and attract qualified auto technicians, you’re going to have to step in their shoes and understand what appeals to them, along with what deters them from applying. In other words, you need to read their minds and adjust accordingly with your hiring and operations.

When you’ve been in the automotive industry for so long, it’s easy to lose sight of what it’s like for those just now entering the industry as technicians, parts specialists, or service writers. However, your auto repair shop’s success will depend on your unique ability to attract and retain new top talent, especially in those high-value auto technician roles. So, knowing what today’s technicians are looking for in an automotive career and what they want from employers is important.

WrenchWay recently shared its survey findings after asking technicians exactly what they think about life in the automotive and diesel industries. Because these perspectives are so critical to your business operations and growth, we’ve put together a summary of insights from the 2023 Voice of Technician Survey.

The 649 respondents in this survey remained anonymous. But their voices are loud and clear. And their preferences and responses are incredibly eye-opening for tire and auto shop owners who are looking to attract the best repair talent out there today. There were two pillar components in this study:

  • What auto technicians want from an employer.
  • Defining and improving technician satisfaction.

We explore further to unravel what these statistics and survey responses should mean to you as we head into 2024. As a growing tire and auto shop, these are key takeaways to consider.

What Matters Most to Auto Technicians?

When auto technicians first begin to find their career paths, they’ll want more than a paycheck. They’re looking for:

  • Positive company culture
  • Empathetic supervisors
  • Career growth
  • Opportunity to learn

Digging into the survey responses from mechanics and technicians, these are the career priorities new applicants are looking for the most with a new employer.

Potential Employer Asks

Respondents were asked to rank a series of new employer factors on a scale of importance. Some were auto technicians, others specialized in diesel mechanics, and some participants were students preparing for a new career in the automotive technician field. Among them all, these were the essential must-haves for technicians who were looking for new jobs or ready to break into their first job as a technician:

  • 98% Proper and adequate equipment availability in the shop.
  • 93% Paid vacation time.
  • 91% Paid training opportunities.
  • 87% Retirement contributions.
  • 81% Visible and documented career growth path.
  • 75% Consistency with performance evaluations.
  • 66% No weekend work.
  • 59% Temperature-controlled working environments.
  • 50% Reasonable tool allowances.
  • 34% Occasional company paid lunches.

 

Pay and Salary Needs

Yes, repair technicians will be looking for ideal rates of pay before considering a new position. Taking those sentiments, a step further, this survey asked participants to rate which type of pay structure they’d prefer before applying to a new position with an automotive shop. Here’s how they responded:

  • 37% Prefer hourly wages with productivity bonuses.
  • 28% Prefer straight hourly pay.
  • 19% Prefer a 40-hour guarantee with a flat rate of pay.
  • 10% Prefer a flat rate of pay.
  • 6% Prefer other pay structures that include salary plus bonuses or commissions or variations of flat rates of pay.

Flexible Work Schedules

Another emerging trend made evident by this study involves work schedules. Based on the survey findings, flexible work schedules are inherently important for technicians on the hunt for a new role. These responses suggest that a healthy work-life balance is a priority:

  • 30% Aren’t particular about weekday schedules, so long as there are no weekend requirements.
  • 29% Prefer four-day work weeks and 10-hour days.
  • 22% Prefer five-day work weeks and 8-hour days.
  • 16% Prefer to work as many available hours as possible.
  • 3% Indicated “other” scheduling preference

Photo by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/architecture-auto-automobiles-bridge-210182/ -- commuter traffic

Commutes and Travel

To justify accepting certain pay rates and schedule requirements, today’s technician applicants are also going to base their application decisions on the commute to work. With soaring gas prices, the cost of travel is playing a bigger role in how today’s mechanics and repair workers look for new jobs. These findings can inform you as an auto repair shop owner about how far you cast your net to advertise your open positions:

  • 49% Willing to commute between 30-59 minutes to work.
  • 35% Willing to commute between 15-29 minutes to work.
  • 9% Willing to commute between 60-89 minutes to work.
  • 1% Willing to commute 90 minutes or more to work.

Auto Technician Satisfaction Matters (A LOT)

Hiring new technician talent is only one piece of the puzzle. Today’s employers need to also address their technician retention practices keeping those talented mechanics in-house. The second pillar of this WrenchWay study surveys auto technicians about what they need from their employers to stay, both with the company and in the industry altogether. These insights can help you spot areas of improvement within your shop’s overall culture and inspire ways to boost technician satisfaction.

Company Culture

It can be tough to accurately and realistically measure the overall “happiness” of your auto repair shop’s staff, considering happiness and satisfaction are subjective sentiments. However, this series of survey responses suggests a LOT of work can be done to improve how auto repair shops quantify and assess technician satisfaction. Respondents were asked to assign a response on a sliding scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” And satisfaction level responses about current employer scenarios were as follows:

  • 66% Feel the auto shop provides fair compensation.
  • 64% Say their shops provide adequate equipment to do their jobs well.
  • 63% Suggest their shops provide “good” benefits.
  • 61% Would recommend their shop to a friend looking for work.
  • 59% Agree their shops provide “adequate” paid training initiatives.
  • 58% Feel “valued and respected” by those in management.
  • 47% Believe shop management communicates “well.”
  • 43% Say their shops have a well-defined career path for them to follow.
  • 42% Believe their shops are “good” at training new technicians and compensating mentor technicians.
  • 33% Agree their shops support local school districts.

Recommending the Career Path to Others

This technician satisfaction survey used the Net Promoter Score (NPS) method to calculate how likely today’s auto technicians are to recommend their employers and roles to a friend. Each response is assigned a point value that contributes to the NPS score. On a scale of one to ten, participants’ responses lower than six are considered detractors, while passives are those with scores totaling six to seven, and promoters are those with scores of nine to ten.

  • 21% of respondents were promoters, agreeable to referring a friend.
  • 34% of respondents were passives, undecided about referring a friend.
  • 45% of respondents were detractors, not willing to refer a friend.

How to conduct your own NPS survey

Your NPS survey will only feature one question: “How likely are you to recommend working here as an automotive technician to a friend.” Your participants should remain anonymous and assign a number rating from zero to ten to answer this question. Zero represents “not likely at all,” and ten represents “extremely likely.” Some NPS surveys pose an open-ended second question asking why the participant answered the way they did, which can be more insightful. However, only the primary question is used to calculate the NPS Score.

With your rating totals, determine percentages for each of the three categories based on total participation – promoters, passives, and detractors.

% Promoters – % Detractors = NPS Score

(Passives are not included in the NPS calculations.)

Your NPS Score could range from -100 to 100, with 100 being a perfect satisfaction score. Of course, you can reach out to Conceptual Minds for survey creation and delivery as well.

Photo by Lukas: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-survey-spreadsheet-590022/ -- metrics

Industry Issues Driving Technicians Away from Their Careers

In addition to identifying what it is that drives technician satisfaction and what they want from an auto shop employer, it’s important to highlight what it is that today’s technicians don’t like. To explore further into what factors are contributing to the subpar satisfaction rates, this survey asks technician participants to address what issues need to be addressed first to make a significant impact on their decisions to stay with their current employers. Here’s what they said:

  • 37% Say auto shops should provide adequate tool allowances or pay for tools completely.
  • 28% Say they want more respect for their performance in these technical roles.
  • 19% Say shops should eliminate the flat-rate pay structure.
  • 10% Say auto shops should foot the bill and provide necessary training.
  • 6% Fell into the “other” category, citing solutions addressing pay, benefits, and management styles.

what needs to change

Industry Issues Driving Technicians Away from the Industry

WrenchWay took its survey initiative into technician satisfaction even further by asking participants to weigh in on the industry. And when asked if they’d ever considered leaving their careers and the industry altogether, the response was nearly 50/50. Asking those who said they had considered stepping away, these were the factors inspiring those sentiments:

  • 35% Said it was stress-related to inadequate pay and compensation.
  • 15% Said it was the physical and mental demands of the job.
  • 12% Said the cost of tools had them reconsidering their careers.
  • 9% Said it was poor management.
  • 7% Said it was a continued lack of respect.
  • 4% Said it was subpar benefits.

Photo by Laurel and Michael Evans on Unsplash -- auto shop

What Auto Repair Shop Owners Can Do with These Insights

Recognize what it is that today’s technicians want most in an automotive career. As a shop owner, you can revise your employee experiences to align with some of these priorities. And when you place hiring ads, highlight these important must-haves upfront to appeal more to those looking for a great-fit career.

This survey also reinforces the importance of understanding your own staff’s needs and preferences. Consider conducting your own employee surveys to see what improvements your teams suggest. Ask them what they’d like to see in terms of benefits, work environment improvements, and company culture initiatives. Use their insights to inform real change that results in higher technician satisfaction.

Most employers try to adopt a five-characteristic approach to establishing a healthy workplace environment. Your auto shop can use these five principles to inspire new policies, appreciation activities, and company culture improvements:

Trust – Foster an environment of trust and empowerment for all your employees, allowing them to learn, grow, and be accountable for their roles and responsibilities.

Respect – Recognize everyone’s contribution to your overall tire and auto shop’s success with appreciation events, acknowledgment, and respect from everyone, management included.

Communication – Transparent communication and realistic expectation management leads to improved cooperation and team association.

Safety – Take every step necessary to ensure technicians’ safety and enforce risk mitigation. Demonstrate that you prioritize and value your employees’ abilities to perform their tasks in a safe environment.

Equity – Create processes that enforce a level playing field and equal opportunities for growth and learning for everyone in your auto shop.

Take More Auto Industry Deep Dives with Conceptual Minds

We’re always looking to spot auto repair industry trends and resources that can help our tire and auto shop clients find new ways to get ahead. This is just one of many exploratory deep dives in our arsenal. Check out our ongoing blog series to discover other hot topic insights you need to improve your business model and grow. And contact us when you need help with strategizing the best growth path forward in today’s complex automotive industry.

Learn About Conceptual Minds

As veterans of the automotive industry, the Conceptual Minds team are experts at growing car counts through effective and personable marketing. If you are unsure of your current marketing strategy and would like some guidance, contact us today at 877.524.7696.

Need help with improving your auto shop’s company culture and reputation?

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