It's healthy, every now and then, to step outside your box and look at your industry from a different perspective. You'll find that two things are likely to happen. First, you realize that other people are dealing with the very same issues that affect your world. And, second, you may find that those other people have come up with some pretty smart ideas to address those issues.
Normally, Fleet Maintenance sticks to the world of in-house corporate fleet maintenance operations. In other words, we talk to people who maintain their own vehicles.
Sometimes, though, we get to meet people who work the other side of the aisle. A case in point is this issue's cover story, dealing with the HealthEast Health System's maintenance operations in St. Paul, Minnesota. This in-house, corporate fleet maintenance operation started marketing their services to other fleets and retail customers in the St. Paul area a few years ago, and today they're thriving.
Another case in point arrived in the mail the other day. I had heard about a new technician recruiting campaign being launched by the folks at Mack Trucks, and I asked to have the recruiting kit sent to me. Now that it's here on my desk, I have to say, it's a pretty impressive piece of work!
Now, Mack's product is specifically designed to recruit technicians to Mack dealerships, so it's not something that most Fleet Maintenance readers would be able to use in their businesses. Nonetheless, I think the fleet industry as a whole could learn a few tricks from Mack's new product.
The first thing you notice when you open the kit is that Mack has included virtually every media in its campaign. The kit comes with posters, countertop signs, take-home brochures, print-ready advertisements, a VHS videotape presentation, and a PowerPoint presentation on CD-ROM. With all these media resources at hand, there's no reason why an ambitious recruiter can't blanket his or her community with a positive message about truck technician careers. Posters could be put up at community job centers; brochures could be placed at school advisors' offices; ads could be placed in community and school newspapers; PowerPoint presentations could be given at local job fairs.
There's also a very thorough recruiting guide that tells the dealer how to make the best use of the "toolkit." My favorite tip deals with placing ads in the local paper: "The classified ad is a good start," the guide points out, "but the sports page is better."
When you start to read the recruiting materials that Mack is delivering, you begin to see what a strong message the company has.
Some of the posters and ads signal that there are multiple choices in the technical truck maintenance field: Electronics; Truck Technician; and Parts Associate. "There's really no wrong decision," the headline reads, and it's true!
The materials also appeal to peoples' desire for self-improvement, advancement, and, yes, more money. Although not everyone is focused on job advancement and making more money, many are, and it makes good sense to appeal to their ambitions.
Mack does that by highlighting advancement potential in the truck repair field. "No matter which path you pick, the opportunities for growth are, well, huge," the materials state. "Some truck technicians have become service managers. Others have even gone on to own their own dealerships."
That's a pretty positive message to be sending: the possibilities for personal growth and advancement are truly unlimited.
The materials also emphasize the training element. New Mack technicians will receive training at Mack's North American Institute in Greensboro, NC, or one of the company's many other North American training facilities.
It doesn't hurt that the materials offer a variety of images of technicians working at computers, in bright, clean work environments. All in all, this recruiting kit presents an image of the truck maintenance industry that would make anyone in the field proud and anyone outside the field impressed.
The next time you're thinking of looking for new technician recruits, think hard about the message you want to send, and the way you want to send it. You don't have to have the corporate resources that Mack does to create some real excitement!
Frankly, it seems some excitement is needed. Another item in my mail came from a reader who is looking for new strategies to recruit technicians to what he bluntly described as "lower-paying government jobs." The reader, a shop foreman for a county road department garage in Kentucky, doesn't have the kind of multi-media materials that the local Mack dealer now has, but his need is just as great. What can he do to bring in talented new recruits?
One possible answer came our way recently from our editorial advisor Bill Vanden Brook, motor equipment superintendent for the City of Madison, WI.
Bill has recently put in place a "Career Ladder" that was negotiated with the union representing his technicians.
The Career Ladder simplifies the department's job classifications, substituting the word "technician" for "mechanic," and provides a clear line of advancement for technicians who are interested in those "huge" opportunities for growth mentioned in the Mack recruiting kit.
Essentially, the technicians commit to maintaining EVT (Emergency Vehicle Technician) Certifications, as well as ASE Certifications (including a mix of both Automotive and Medium/Heavy Truck categories), and meeting standards of continuing training. In return, the City covers the costs of the Certifications and Re-certifications, provides opportunities for training, and provides paid work time for training and testing. There is a timeline for the technician to complete the requirements, and if the requirements aren't met, the technician reverts to the previous pay scale.
Are there other ways to add some excitement to "lower-paying government jobs?" Are advancement opportunities and better pay scales enough? We'll be following along as both Mack trucks and the City of Madison search for the key to technician recruiting, and we'll let you know what they find.