RV PRO

February '19

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42 • RV PRO • February 2019 rv-pro.com D E A L E R S more likely to become a "parts hanger" than a technician. Wilkins says, too, that although it is important to have technicians who can handle a variety of tasks, he tries to take a broader look at the shops in his locations to make sure there are skilled techs that can handle any type of job that comes in. "Through your shop, it's about finding a balance," he says. "I want to have a couple guys who are good chassis guys. I want a couple good carpenters. Depending on where I think my holes are in the shop, that might be where I'm focusing. At our main store, we have 16 technicians and overall we're close to 40. There aren't too many that are all-around – that know it all and they've got it all." Hands-on Learning Just as the perfect candidate likes to work with his hands, prospective techni- cians also seem to learn best by actually performing the tasks and skills they will need in the job. Cooper says his best training program is broken up into five segments, with the first segment focusing on the basics of electrical, propane and appliances. "The thing I find over and over again – technicians are hands-on learners," he says. "You can watch them and give them exams and have them read and try to absorb that information in written form or PowerPoint, but until they take that equipment apart, put their meter on it, put it back together and then step back and watch it work, they don't really own the information. They have head knowledge, but not the hand knowledge they need." At the Wilkins dealerships, a men- toring program helps get new hires up to speed. Wilkins says a senior technician who has been with the dealership for 12 years and has well-rounded skills takes the new hires under his wings with an introduc- tion to prep work and PDIs. The process goes through four phases over the first 18 months of a technician's employment. They start out watching the senior tech and being coached. Phase two involves the new tech doing some of the basic work while the senior tech oversees the process. This proceeds to where both techs are doing separate tasks within the same coach and finally the new tech works in a bay near the senior tech, where questions can still be asked. "We pay (the senior tech) a portion of that new tech's productivity for 18 months," Wilkins says. "The sooner he gets them up to speed and being pro- ductive, the more his mentor bonus is." Wilkins says the dealerships conduct a three-week certification prep course each January, where techs do online work toward earning their certification. The dealerships also host a variety of factory and vendor training each year. With those sessions already in place, Wilkins says he is excited about the potential for his dealerships to host some of RVTI's training courses. "We've always done whatever we could to support industry training," he says. "It's needed. The direction they are going with technician training is spot on. Having a source where you need a technician and you can make a call and they've got technicians that want to do internships or however they want to do it, that's huge." Cooper cautions against information overload, however. "You can over-teach and dump too much information on them," he says. "What I've found is if I can give them a little piece of the components it gets them stirred up. Then, you send them back to the shop and let them work a little while." Set Techs Up to Succeed Of course, there is risk for any dealer who puts forth the kind of money and effort to get that perfect candidate in place – he or she could always take that training and head for greener pastures. However, in a time when consumers are increasingly demanding and putting pressure on dealers to handle warranty claims "yesterday", the value of a quality technician can't be overestimated. "You have to treat them well," Wilkins says. "You provide them a good work environment. You pay them fairly. You put them in a position to succeed." Still, the industry needs to find a way to make its technician positions attractive to the type of person who could succeed in the job. Wilkins says he recently lost a couple of technicians who were looking for more glamorous ways to use their skills. "One we lost to a fire department who had a lifelong dream to be a fire- fighter. How do you compete against that?" he says. "Another guy left to go to work for a utility company where ben- efits were better and he didn't have to work as hard." Cooper says part of the problem is that technicians often don't feel like they are part of the dealership. Because many owners are not technical types, but come from business or sales backgrounds, they may struggle to understand the concerns of technicians. "Their skills tell them that if someone above them will listen to them and val- idate what they are saying, go to bat for them with management, those guys aren't going anywhere," he says. "Every- body wants to be appreciated. What I've begun to notice is these guys who come to us that the dealers are making an investment in will tell me, 'My dealer, my manager sat down with me and said, 'I've got a plan for you. I'm going to send you to this school and ask that when you come back you really apply yourself.'" Cooper says the technicians he has worked with appreciate that someone has showed them that they are valuable and wants to invest in them. "Those people – they bought in. They're not going anywhere," he says.

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