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Preventing the dealership tech shortage from getting worse

We know there’s a tech shortage in many dealerships. A recent announcement by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association is likely to increase the problem for many boat dealers.

While we are enjoying consistent annual growth in boat sales, the RV industry took off at an even faster pace and is currently seeing record numbers of recreational vehicles produced and sold. Bingo­— there’s a shortage of RV techs, too. What the RV industry plans to do will put many of our boat dealers in a head-to-head competition to fill marine tech spots.

The RVIA Board of Directors recently approved a comprehensive plan backed by a reported $10 million to establish the RV Technical Institute. A major component of the plan will be an aggressive recruitment campaign to attract new technicians into the RV industry. To that end, the institute will enroll newly recruited techs for a “tech boot camp,” where they will get hands-on training by industry experts and instructors from RV component suppliers.

The institute will also offer advanced RV technician training including up-to-the-minute digital textbooks, PowerPoint decks, video and other modern teaching tools, according to RVIA announcements. The institute will also establish a network of regional training partners to conveniently deliver the “gold standard” of its training to existing techs.

The overriding vision of the RVIA investment is to meet the expectations of RV owners that there are skilled technicians available to keep their recreational vehicles safe and operational within satisfactory time frames.

Our boat dealerships are no different in striving for that same goal. It will be more important than ever to make certain these techs are satisfied with the dealerships that they have chosen to join.

Connect techs with storytelling

Every dealership owner can do a lot to help keep techs and all employees, while also getting them to feel a deeper sense of motivation and satisfaction in their work. And it all begins with connection.

So says Joseph Grenny, bestselling author and cofounder of VitalSmarts, which focuses on corporate training and leadership development. “People’s feelings about their work are only partly about the work itself. They are equally, if not more so, about how they frame their work,” writes Grenny. “Do they see what they’re doing as a mindless ritual? Do they see it as empty compliance? Or do they see it as sacred duty? Change the frame, you change the feeling. And nothing changes frames faster than a story.”

Research shows that once a task becomes familiar, our brains devote far less cognitive resources to it. It’s easy to go on autopilot. One of the downsides of our human evolutionary design is that we then disconnect. We stop seeing how our work affects other people. Our sense of motivation and the resultant satisfaction in our work is then diminished.

It’s time to connect.

Connection happens when we see past the details of a task to its human consequences. When employees feel connected to the moral purpose of their work they behave differently. “Now ‘moral purpose’ might sound lofty but it needn’t mean saving a puppy or curing cancer,” says Grenny. “It can involve any kind of human service. And at the end of the day, all business is about service.”

That’s where the leadership of any dealership comes in. The leaders need to provide employees with a visceral connection to the human purpose that they’re serving. How? Storytelling. For example, every dealership should strive to learn how every job completed by a tech impacted the boating family afterwards. Did they do something special with the just-serviced boat? Did they take the kids fishing or do a special cruise? Did the boat owners indicate a genuine appreciation for the job? Take time to ask the customers. Then find time to do some storytelling to the tech, or the whole staff at companywide meetings.

Bottom Line: People who feel a human connection to their work are happy team members, more productive and don’t think about leaving. As Grenny points out: “In every organization we’ve ever studied where there was a strong sense of motivation, the leaders were always storytellers. They understood and acted on their responsibility to overcome the inevitable alienation of routine work life by connecting employees with those they serve.” 

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