Tackling the Automotive Technician Shortage

At A Glance

Given the context of the technician shortage crisis, Carlisle developed a standardized technician recruiting and retention best practices playbook / implementation guide to help a group of North American Automotive OEMs better address the technician shortage. U.S. franchise dealers now have a more robust and formalized process for improving the retention of current technicians, as well as attracting more qualified talent to the profession.

The Context

The technician shortage is a systemic issue throughout the motor vehicle space, and one the auto industry increasingly faces as many perceive the technician profession as too “down and dirty.” High automotive technician turnover (~20% annually) and lackluster recruiting has resulted in dealer capacity constraints, repair quality issues, and depressed shop productivity – adversely impacting the customer experience.

From various Carlisle Insights surveys, North American dealers across all brands signaled the technician crisis as an immediate area for improvement. To address the root cause, Carlisle needed to identify the various challenges that the automotive profession faces – interest, commitment, and retention.

Interest: It’s not the priority – other paths, namely four-year STEM tracks, are capturing the bulk of educational focus. As a result, early interest quickly fizzles

Commitment: Students that have a natural inclination do not see continued engagement and do not see a clear path forward to pursue a career at a dealership

Retention: We all know what job satisfaction looks like – it’s concerning

OEMs and dealers equally play a role in the technician shortage – from recruiting to retention, both dealers and OEMs struggle to re-brand the profession, attract new talent, and keep the talent they already have. Tackling these technician headwinds requires a joint effort between the OEM and dealer network, one that can be difficult to organize due to conflicting philosophies and motives.

Consequently, seven OEMs approached Carlisle to address the technician shortage and understand how they can support their dealers in recruiting and retaining talent. Leaving traditional methods at the door…the OEMs wanted to identify new and innovative techniques to tackle the technician shortage.

The Approach

Carlisle segmented the approach for near-term solutions (retention) and long-term solutions (recruiting). For technician retention, Carlisle conducted extensive interviews with OEM stakeholders, dealers, and third-party organizations (NADA, ASE, etc.) and leveraged proprietary benchmarking and survey insights to illuminate the underlying causes paired with innovative solutions for technician retention. For recruiting, the interviews, focus groups, and research fielded insights into the interest “funnel” of students and how educational systems are promoting / demoting the technician career.

All of these insights were translated into innovative techniques and processes to better attract and retain technician talent across the automotive brands – the output: a best practices playbook / implementation guide.

The Result

The detailed best practices playbook / implementation guide and recruiting materials helped OEMs understand and better educate the dealer network at scale to actionably improve both technician recruiting and retention. The 7-OEM project committee can see the expected benefits of:

  • Strengthened dealer relationships: OEMs further partnering with dealers during the technician crisis reinforces the notion that OEMs support what is in the dealer’s best interest, especially amidst tensions surrounding the direct-to-consumer channel
  • Reduced technician turnover: The industry playbook / implementation guide sources actionable best practices from a variety of luxury / non-luxury and large / small dealers that are based on real performance improvements and shop ROIs, driven by increased capacity and productivity

A Phase II Technician Digital Marketing Project with 2 additional OEMs, totaling a 9-OEM project committee, ensued. The goal of Phase II was to focus entirely on technician recruiting – improving the technician career perception and educating the younger generation of its career path legitimacy