Training could help solve tech shortage

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Our industry’s tech shortage is well documented. And several marine trade associations and others are attempting to address it in different ways. But I recently ran across a piece that asks this interesting question: “Is the problem incompetence or lack of training?” It offers another point of view worth considering.

Writing in SmartBrief's leadership newsletter, James daSilva, its longtime editor and blogger, notes a common complaint today is there’s not enough talent out there — not enough people with the right skills — and not enough willing to learn. Moreover, they say young people are often too eager to jump ship. So what are companies to do when there’s not enough talent and what talent there is will just leave?

Certainly some jobs are harder to fill than others, daSilva acknowledges. Less glamorous jobs that require technical skills can be especially vexing to employers, like trucking companies that can’t find candidates capable of passing federal drug-testing or firms located in rural areas facing obstacles cities don’t in attracting people.

“But another side of this” says DaSilva, “is that employers often expect fully trained, expert employees to show up at their doors. It’s one thing to have an uneducated workforce; it’s another to look at job candidates with potential who need on-the-job training and say, ‘They aren’t skilled in what we need,’”

So, here’s a question: Is your dealership taking responsibility for training any people, placing them in a position to succeed and following up by holding everyone to account? How your organization goes about training is a personal (and personnel) decision. Every firm has its own methods, or should. But it’s safe to assume every dealer expects a few basic things out of every hire. These include: a) They are able to learn and retain. b) They are productive and efficient. c) They understand how to do their jobs (maybe even innovate). d) They understand their expectations and incentives.

On the other side, there are some employer obligations, too. These include: a) Be clear about the job from the outset. b) Be clear about how the job is done and what is required to do the job well. c) Be very clear about what the worker must do to meet expectations. d) Provide the support, tools and resources necessary. e) Make sure the employee understands all the above and is actually getting proper information and training.

A good friend of mine who has a large dealership in Ohio once told me: “These days, if I find any employee slacking off on the job I just pat him on the head and tell him to get back to work, because you can’t find a replacement!” But deSilva raises another perspective.

If you have a worker who is not doing the job, that’s bad for that person. It’s also bad for the employer. If you find yourself with an employee who’s not performing, first ask yourself: a) Have you really provided adequate training for this person? b) Have you clearly explained what needs to be done, and why? c) Do you have confirmation that the employee understands? d) Have you provided all the resources they need to succeed?

Being thorough from the hiring process through this exercise calls for time and diligence. But there are benefits: You can gain a trained, skilled employee. He or she may also be more loyal because of your investment of attention, time and resources. Conversely, if there is no progress at least you know for sure rather than through a hunch, and further accommodations aren’t in order. Indeed, unlike my friend who just keeps the failing employee, you must move on or you’ll create a two-tiered culture: people who do their jobs having to work with people who don’t but aren’t held to account.

In the end, today’s dealers are faced with the dilemma of a tech shortage but may want to avoid the time and costs of training the next generation of techs in their service departments. Is it time for a serious discussion of what dealers might consider doing to help themselves? 


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