We continue to hear from dealers about the growing problem regarding the shortage of tire technicians. This issue isn’t going away anytime in the near future and we’re not alone.
Our colleague across the pond, Peter Gardner, with Tyres & Accessories magazine, wondered aloud recently if being a tyre fitter was "a job nobody wants?"
The U.K. has a come into a major recruitment crisis and skills shortage, and Gardner related these concerns in one of his recent editorials.
Nice to see someone else has the same problem. Well, not exactly. Theirs is far worse.
At least in the U.K., and much of Europe, tyre fitters are well trained and generally well respected. Pay-wise, tyre fitters are still at the low-end of the dealership spectrum, but they do better than their Yank counterparts. For the salesman who doubles as the tyre fitter, the pay is far superior.
In the good old U.S. of A., we call them "tire technicians", which makes them sound more technically proficient. Like the other faux signs of respect in today’s world where janitors are "custodial engineers" and meter maids are "traffic control officers." Whichever way you choose ®“ tyre fitters or tire technicians ®“ changing tires is what they really do.
But here’s where the problem lies. In a country where tyre fitters are well trained, respected and reasonably well paid, the U.K. is having fits keeping its fitters. Over here, "tire technicians" are at the bottom of pay scale, get little respect, and hardly get even minimal training because they’re not around long enough to train.
"It seems there is a growing aversion to pursuing a career that involves getting your hands dirty," Gardner wrote. With the British government pushing more of its citizens into higher education, he explained, the dilemma grows worse. "If you had a degree, would you choose to fit tyres?"
A co-conspirator in the problem is the "lack of any clear career path," he suggests. "OK, you have a job as a tyre fitter, but what then?" With larger dealers, there is the chance to progress to store manager, and we have all heard the legendary stories of the tire changer who became company president. But smaller dealers often see frustrated ambition move across the street. "Not only have you lost a good employee, but you have trained up a new competitor," Gardner says.
The reality of the plight, as Gardner points out, is: "The importance of the fitter to a tyre dealership should not be underestimated. The customer literally places his or her life in the tyre fitter’s hands when they have a wheel removed and replaced."
Now, I want you to read that last paragraph again.
Elsewhere in this issue you’ve read about TIA’s extensive tire technician training programs. TIA placed an insert in this issue reviewing its training programs, reiterating its goal to add value to your business by bringing a new level of positive perception and respect to the industry.
Never in the history of this industry has one group delivered so much in the way of multi-level education. Thanks to TIA, every tire technician, salesman and store manager now has access to the untold riches of knowledge ®“ all of which directly benefits you, Mr. or Ms. Tire Dealer.
No one can argue the value of improved consumer perception. But the real effort to improve "respect" has to start between your four walls. If you want to deliver real value to customers ®“ and make them lifetime buyers ®“ you need long-term employees.
And the only way to keep good employees, especially prospects like tire techs, is to meet their needs. This "respect" sometimes is a financial or scheduling issue. Maybe it’s that career path issue. Or it’s some other "little thing" you may not think about.
Most of all, it’s about knowledge. Notice I didn’t say training.
Feed them with knowledge that not only improves their contribution to your business, but improves their chances at future success. In some form or fashion, the knowledge they gain ®“ and that others don’t have ®“ gives the tire technician "ownership." That’s right, ownership ®“ as a part of a team that makes it happen every day.
Yes, training is important. But along with training must come knowledge that leads to direction. Keeping good employees involves far more than just dollars and sense. Investing in their careers allows them to recognize how you see them, how important you feel they are to the team’s success.
And, let’s face it, a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T in the workplace is a great place to start.