Monday, 26 February 2018 11:42

Welcoming the Next Generation of Collision Repair

Written by Mike Lanza, Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes Business Consulting Manager

Over my 30 years in the automotive industry, I’ve seen a number of generations enter the workforce.

Each wave arrives with its own expectations and work habits. Our industry today is the result of adaptation made with each new generation. Sure, it’s the responsibility of any newcomer to learn and support the longstanding values of a new environment. But it’s also important to embrace the new ideas and fresh perspectives that come with new talent.


With college debt at record levels and tuition growing higher each year, many young people are choosing to explore blue-collar career options. Blue-collar fields often pay better and are less saturated than the roles typically marketed to high school students.


Compensation has grown as a concept over the years. No longer is it just about pay---Compensation strategies today center on creatively developing talent and motivating individuals for results. As employers, we have a valuable advantage for right-sizing our cultures for millennials: Thanks to numerous studies and a large volume of research, we know a great deal about what millennials want and expect out of the workplace.


Here are a few insights based on reporting from Millennial Mindset:


Shop Culture


Though flexible work schedules are most important to millennials, most indicate they prefer working in an office environment, as opposed to from home.


An overwhelming majority, 98 percent, say a company’s vision and values are important to consider when choosing an employer. They need to feel like what they do and who they work for matter beyond a paycheck.


Job titles matter to millennials, but in a different way than typically understood. A lot has been made of the millennial tendency to change jobs. Certainly, evidence indicates millennials don’t see themselves as long-term in any role. Increasing an employee’s ability to move ---upward or laterally---is reason to consider introducing intermediate titles to an operation, and backing them up with added responsibility. Keeping employees feeling valued and engaged transcends generational differences.


Studies have widely shown that millennials are constantly on the lookout for their next job. This should be motivation for employers to ensure they are offering competitive pay, experience and opportunity. As any collision repair shop owner knows, finding and retaining employees who perform with excellence, are reliable and trainable, and bring a high-level skill set is a difficult challenge. That’s why capitalizing on millennials entering the workforce is such a strong opportunity for a shop willing to make the right cultural adjustments.


Considering Compensation

Compensation has grown as a concept over the years. No longer is it just about pay; it’s about creatively developing talent and motivating individuals for results. To create and implement innovative and balanced benefit and compensation design---with an eye toward retaining talent and maximizing productivity---takes a carefully considered strategy. Ideally, each element of the incentive plan drives business goals of customer satisfaction, revenue and profitability.


For a compensation strategy to work, four elements must be in place:


• Fit the financial reality of the business
• Encourage and reward the right individual behaviors
• Inspire and reward teamwork
• Provide a clear picture for individual opportunity


Instead of making the common mistake of overpaying employees and hoping they stay, developing a career path that rewards employees for their contributions while protecting the margin is the key to sustainable results.


Transparent, easily understandable and simple goals are critical for employee productivity and retention. This has been true for every generation. I’ve seen the SMART matrix work for countless organizations. Employees need to know what they are being measured on, what the measuring instrument looks like and how it is used, agree that their goals are attainable and---most importantly for millennials---understand how it serves the organization’s strategy.


Naturally, many millennials entering collision repair will be on the front lines, engaging directly with customers. Therefore, it’s critical that they not only are given the tools they need to provide outstanding customer experience, but are also rewarded for doing so.


Importantly, rewarding employees does not have to be about cash. Millennials show a strong value for spending time with friends and family. This down time is equally---if not more---important than cash. It ultimately comes down to understanding what motivates the employee, and right-sizing bonus plans and incentives accordingly.


By 2025, 75 percent of the workforce will be millennials. As millennials enter---and many more consider entering---the collision repair industry, we need to be doing what we can to ensure our industry is a rewarding career path for the best talent. That begins with understanding the employee.