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October Interview: Hiring with Kent

How to Find, Hire and Train with Kent Bullard

Check out the video above for our recent interview with Kent Bullard, a rising name in the industry who is in charge of hiring for the Institute itself. October is all about hiring and training the best auto shop team, so we sat down with Kent to see what he thought about the subject. Watch the video for the full answers or read below for a summary of the interview:

Why do you think the automotive industry is seeing such a decline in hiring rates with a raise in turnover rates?

I think those are kind of the same problem and I would equate that to three things:

So, one, they aren’t onboarding properly. A lot of time shop owners are hiring out of desperation, so they don’t have a clear process as to what it’s going take for the new employee to get to hiring to them being a full employee and helping the company.

Second, they aren’t providing the right incentives or reasons to be or stay at the company. A lot of the time shop owners answer with giving them a paycheck, but people want something more. They have to have meaning.

And third, they aren’t providing that journey for them. They aren’t providing a means to gain further opportunity or to grow as a person… And that can feel like trap – like they don’t have anywhere else to go or grow as a person which can be scary.

Additionally, I don’t think they’re being clear enough with that for new hires and employees. People need to know that they matter, that what they’re doing has an impact, and understand what’s expected of them and where to go.

A lot of time new hires can have a lot of ambiguity. There needs to be an outline of what needs to be expected, although things will change, and other issues will likely arise. Having that outline is a guide and reduces that ambiguity to help keep employees around.

What type of hiring process do you recommend for shop owners?

Something strict, something decisive, and something that is intensive. What I mean by strict is that you need a clear process as to how you onboard new employees; from the moment you post the ad for the position to the moment they’re fully integrated into the team. And that process can be as long as you want, anywhere from a week to an entire year. Things that I think you need to have a great hiring process include:

Skill and competencies: Do they have the skills needed and are they competent enough to learn?

Social skills and communications: Are they able to talk and communicate well enough with my team and the customers for everyone to understand each other?

Strengths and drives: What are they good at and what keeps them determined?

Attitude and temperament: Is this somebody who is looking for just a job or are they willing to learn more and create a career/home?

Vision buy-in: Make sure to express the type of culture, the vision of the company, and what you’re doing to help people. Does any of it align with their own determination and vision?

Expectations and standards: One of the more serious requirements, are the expectations and standards clearly outlined and understood? This includes expectations and standards for the employee as well as expectations and standards for the shop.

Team fit: Do they fit with the team outside of the interview and testing process? Will they be able to work with your team and make it better?

Your process should include these things and adequately test the employee on how they fit within your shop.

Who should a shop owner have involved with the hiring and onboarding process?

For small businesses, the owner should be involved since they are guiding the mission and vision the most. Direct managers and their peers should also be involved, especially when they are going to be working with these coworkers on a day-to-day basis. As much as it is a hierarchy, it is a community, and everyone should be invested in the decision and process. It helps mitigate ambiguity and creates ownership in welcoming the new employee to the business and culture.

What other things can shops do besides having an effective onboarding process to reduce their turnover rates?

Something I think is really important for the longevity and the endgame. Because really, it’s a simple process; we want to find the right people, we want to hire the right people, we want to get them up to speed, and we want to keep them there. And that’s the biggest thing, keeping these people on our team. A lot of the time people fail to think about the endgame, right? Does this person really want to spend 10, 20 years doing the exact same thing with no real growth?

These people are investing a good majority of their lives - 40 hours a week in most cases, more time with you than their family and loved ones – so finding a company that can be a home for them is crucial. I think most people want to feel like what they’re doing matters, that they mean something, and the time is well spent. That they’re not just existing because that’s boring.

As an owner, it’s your responsibility to invest in their personal and professional growth. You need to invest in training, you need to invest in opportunities for them to grow in their career. You need to show them down the line maybe they can own their own shop, maybe they can even own your shop and that’s a part of your transition into retirement. That’s even more so of an investment than only getting a paycheck, because a lot of times people are willing to say oh, I don’t need to make as much money as long as I’m getting the training, the education, the tools, and the opportunities necessary for me to grow as an individual. A lot of the times, that in itself can get people invested because it shows that you care.

Often what I hear is these owners saying they’re afraid to invest, afraid to train, because they think it’s a waste if their employees go to “greener pastures”. To that, I say make your own pasture green. By training your employees and giving them opportunities and giving them the education, you can make your own pasture greener. Which is why I think it’s funny to hear that hesitation, because it’s the answer to that problem.

If you could only give a shop owner one piece of advice about hiring and training, what would it be?

Given everything we’ve talked about before, the way you’ve built your process of hiring, onboarding, and training – all of that stuff – the most important thing is to be consistent. Be very, very consistent because the consistency will show where you may have an issue in your process. You can go back and identify exactly where or what part of your process is failing. Maybe it’s the second interview because you’re seeing a lot of people kick off or maybe within the first four months you see people leaving. Well, what’s happening within that fourth month or right before it that is leading to these issues? You can go back and find out exactly why that’s happening.

Along with that, the consistency shows that you are determined. It shows the determination you’re looking for to get the outcome and performance that you’re looking for, while holding the standards and vision. It shows that you’re very, very intent on getting that goals that you want, getting the profit, etc. It shows that you are being consistent and investing in them.

Thanks to Kent for joining us and helping us understand how to better find, hire, and train employees. We’ll see you in November to talk about the future complications coming to the automotive industry, as well how you can begin to prepare for them. Sign up here and give us a call for a free consultation!

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