Time to Recruit

April 30, 2013

Most of us have suffered through three or four years of misery: low backlogs, marginal company profits, layoffs, shop reductions. As the marketplace rebounds, now is the time to re-think your need for mechanics. I use the term “mechanics” and “technicians” interchangeably. To me, a technician is a higher-level mechanic.

First, re-examine your shop mechanic needs (see “How to Staff an Equipment Shop,” February, for some more thoughts on shop staffing). Heavy equipment is becoming increasingly high tech, so evaluate what shop capabilities you really need. In most cases, we only self-perform those maintenance and repairs that control our critical path. That’s a fancy way to say we should only do those repairs that seriously impact our downtime.

Consider establishing a “Take me first” program with your key dealers, which gives your fleet priority when a machine needs attention. This may be the best way to go, or at least be a part of your outsourcing strategy.

Second, evaluate your shop skills to decide what tasks you can do and, more important, what you cannot or should not do. Doing a shop skills inventory is essential for hiring and training plans. This will likely require that you have at least a rudimentary level of mechanic/technician job descriptions. For example, do you expect to have the in-house capability to service a hydraulic system (probably yes)? To remove and replace a hydraulic pump (maybe)? To rebuild that hydraulic pump (probably not)? The inventory determines what level technician you need to hire.

Now you’re ready to recruit people to fill those needs. Experienced technicians are scarce, so most of us will be hiring mechanics in the entry and mid levels. Here are some recruiting suggestions:

• Develop a simple company brochure with your benefits summarized. You want mechanics to stay with you, and benefit packages can keep them in place when someone offers a higher hourly rate.

• Develop a company website with a user-friendly employment tab.

• Develop a hefty referral system. It’s better to hire someone who is recommended than somebody you don’t know. The referral system can be tiered; for example, $250 to an employee if a referral is hired, and another $250 when the new-hire stays six months.

• Consider implementing a signing bonus, a tool allowance, a boot allowance, or other such items to separate your company from the general industry.

• Advertise or look in other markets. Consider those who are due to leave the military and want to live in your state (there are specific websites for this). Consider  teachers, especially those who have shop or auto mechanic experience. Consider immigrants, and actively welcome these different cultures into your shop. Advertise in languages other than English.

• Look into vocational schools. These students are in demand, so you should place a key equipment person in your company on the school’s advisory board. Offer internships, co-op programs, and scholarships.

• Participate in job fairs. They have them in high schools (sometimes called Career Days) and for the general public.

• Look into youth organizations that appeal to the kinds of people who fit our industry, for example, Future Farmers of America (FFA), 4-H Clubs, and Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA).

Draw on your reputation to attract the right kind of people. If you pay well, treat people fairly and honestly, and train and promote from within, you will have a good reputation. AEMP offers a 32-page booklet, Successful Technician Recruitment, that provides many do’s and don’ts for recruiting. Members can order it for $15 at www.aemp.org.

It’s not easy to recruit, but understand it is not a one-time shot. Build an ongoing program and assign that program to one accountable individual. Good things will happen.

Think about it.