Keeping a car dealership’s mechanics takes more than money

In its recent survey of automotive service managers, Carlisle & Co. asked service managers across North America to share their strategies for retaining technicians.

In 2021, Carlisle noted, 28% of technicians left their brand — adding that those numbers would be higher if they measured those who left the dealership, not just the brand.

Why is it important to retain technicians for dealerships? Well, as one service manager wrote in the survey, “Technicians are any dealership’s most valuable asset, and I suspect a lot of dealerships don’t understand that.”

To underscore this point, Carlisle estimated that the loss of a technician costs a typical dealership $172,000 considering lost production, lost revenue and the price of finding a replacement.

The survey also revealed that the average dealer would hire about three more technicians if they could find them. Considering the 16,000 dealerships in the United States shows that the industry is short by almost 50,000 technicians.

But money alone is not a panacea. While technical compensation was the theme most often cited by service managers when discussing retention, other factors such as benefits, career development and work environment were also important.

Several service managers told Carlisle that offering benefits such as matching 401(k), insurance packages and interest-free loans for tools, for example, has been successful in keeping technicians happy. Others have found the free training and description of a career path for technicians also worked.

“By supporting technicians and encouraging them to grow in their role, service managers are seeing higher job satisfaction and retention rates for their staff,” Carlisle wrote.

Finally, a positive work environment cannot be overlooked as an important reason technicians stay.

“A happy technician is one who is more likely to return to work day after day, and service managers have found that creating a positive and respectful culture can help keep morale up [and retention] high,” Carlisle wrote.

Some things dealership service departments need to think about as they continue to battle technology retention issues.