The ever-present dealer technician shortage had us thinking it might be a good time to revisit some of the best construction equipment tech recruiting tips we’ve received from dealers and rental companies.
1. Go to where the gearheads hang out. This can include truck mud-runs and local motorsports events. Sponsor an involved employee or a car and invite current employees to attend — think of them as your ambassadors. While you might not find a trained diesel tech in the audience, many of the attendees will have a mechanical interest. Your sponsorship may give you access to this community plus build retention among the techs you already have.
2. Think beyond just out of high school. Those fresh-faced 18-year-olds may not be your only hope. Some argue that those with more years and more life experiences may be also be prime targets, especially if they’re only making $16 an hour in an Amazon warehouse. Those who have started families may be receptive if you lay out a career path — and a smart diesel tech these days most assuredly has a career path.
3. Get good at social media. Yes, this is obvious, but do you really practice it? Consistent posting is the name of the game. Create a social media plan and execute it. Put up regular posts of your employee’s jobs, milestones and success stories, and encourage them to do the same. If a technician completes a rebuild on a big engine, for instance, the selfie they take might detail how they overcame the challenge. His or her share — full of the pride of accomplishment about work done at your company — could in turn gain an audience. And it will remind people that you’re a great employer.
4. But don’t dismiss the tried and true. Traditional methods can still hold sway, including help-wanted signs on company property or trucks, word of mouth and employee referrals. Many employers swear by the referrals they get from current employees because employees know a bad referral will reflect poorly on them. And always ask job candidates how they heard about your company and keep track of which methods work.
5. Be aware of the digital tools available to you. Find out how you can target an online audience. Look into geotargeting and targeted data sets and know what works in terms of setting up your online ads and landing page(s). You can target people on Facebook, job boards and through search-engine marketing. And be transparent in your messaging. This includes being direct about base pay, hiring and relocation bonuses as well as highlighting company culture. Have a timely lead followup in place; ideally respond within 5 minutes by phone after a lead comes through.
6. Make sure you’re inviting to women and minorities. Realize that diversity inclusion and workforce development are closely intertwined. When you do a bad job at tapping into diverse groups, you are more likely to have a workforce problem. Explore local groups that can help you reach out to specific communities.
7. Grow your own. It’s difficult to hire off the street and there are not enough tech school grads to fill the need. One neglected area may be right in your back yard. Make sure your own techs know about the opportunities you are bragging about to the outside world and encourage them to advance.
8. Up the ante. Sometimes it is a money/benefits game. Assess what you’re offering compared with all local employers, not just the ones who are your direct competitors. One rental company offers to match a certain percentage of an employee’s student loan payments up to $30,000 — and they don’t require a period of employment before the reimbursements begin.
9. Have a recruiting plan. If you’re proactive with your recruiting strategy you won’t have to hire out of desperation. And don’t stop. Actively recruit even if your shop is currently at capacity. Set a goal of tech interviews to be accomplished in a certain time period. Consistently evaluate what works and what doesn’t.
10. Celebrate incoming tech interns. Several tech schools and dealerships have set up “signing day” events such as those conducted for celebrated college athletes. It helps solidify the intern’s commitment and gives them the vision and knowledge they have an official spot.
11. Emphasize the career runway. Candidates have to earn the next rung on the ladder and there are going to be long hours, hard work, grease and dirt involved. New hires are not going to get a $70,000 job right out of tech school. But let them know there is a career runway and there are many paths up from the shop floor. These include the emerging technical expert who guides customers on the best way to employ today’s machine control solutions.
12. Hire a hero. The Reserves and National Guard are sweet spots for recruiting because their units are all locally based. These “weekend warriors” pull one weekend of active duty service a month and one two-week mission a year. The rest of the time they are civilians. While not all Reserve or Guard units have mechanics or technicians a high percentage have motor pools. In addition to a scholarship, one rental company pays the gap between discharge and when the G.I. Bill benefits take effect, providing around $1,200 to help cover living expenses. And be sure to spend time at any recruiting and career fairs at military bases in your area.
13. Take back the high schools. Don’t assume that local guidance counselors know that there are high-paying jobs that go unfilled in their local area. One company wrote to 3,500 guidance counselors and educators in its state, and received several “we didn’t know” responses. One dealer goes on more than 80 high school visits a years to connect with students in three states. Another dealer makes presentations on how to research and choose a career that’s only tangentially about diesel tech careers. Educate the people who are at your back door.
14. Don’t forget the parents. Take a cue from the recent U.S. Army ad campaign — you’re looking for a few good parents, ones that see the open technician field as a great opportunity. Host an event at your shop and invite the parents along with the students. Have your techs show what it’s like to work on heavy equipment. Recruiting talent is no different than a college football coach coming into someone’s living room and telling the parents that when they come to you, you’ll make sure they do well.
15. Never stop recruiting. Adopt some tactics floating in automotive circles. Have a business card with your elevator pitch on it, outlining the top three reasons why people should work for you. Or make it simple: show a piece of construction equipment with text that reads, “Your next job here” with your contact info. Hand them out with a comment such as, “I’m Joe and I hire diesel technicians.”