The Depth Chart Looks Pretty ShallowBy Ron Slee
Article Date: 02-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Where are we going to find all of the talented people we will need in the future?
In the midst of the turmoil of the past several years there is a looming problem for all of us. As I look around the market and into dealerships and manufacturers I am amazed at what I see in the personnel employed. There are a lot of people between the ages of 50 and older on the one hand and then there are many companies who are operating with a younger, less experienced workforce as a result of people taking the buyouts or early retirement packages that have been offered. These workforce demographics are going to get us – and sooner rather than later.
What is worrisome is that there will not be enough talented people available to adequately staff an equipment dealership.
That’s right, you read that properly. I said we were going to have trouble finding and retaining the talented people we will need in the not-too-distant future.
Let’s start with a depth chart, a succession plan for each and every position within the company. Have you got the right numbers with the right skills? No, I don’t mean the skills to support what you have always done; I mean the skills that will take you where you need and want to be.
Look at the parts department. Is it a retail machine or an order processing factory? I know that is unfair but that is the correct question isn’t it? How much do you “sell” versus process? Do you have any in-store merchandising? Do you have an Internet site that allows customers to find the parts they need, get prices, and place orders? Are you managing your expediting function to source parts wherever they may be on the day that the customer placed the order? Do you have planned transportation logistics to effectively receive every part the next day from wherever the part is available in the world? This is the new parts department. This is the future too. Look back at the past 10 years and see what has changed with technology. What about smart phones? How about sites like “Facebook” and “YouTube”? Do you use Twitter to communicate with your customers? Do you use CRM – customer relationship management software – to control market coverage? This is a different world for many parts departments.
What about the operations within the service department? Is it a repair and maintenance center that controls the market or do you get what others can’t get to or emergency work only? We need to use better technology and tooling in the future. We really need to set ourselves apart. The limited number of people graduating from technical schools will not accept work in a business that does not utilize leading edge technology and tooling. There will be too many companies competing to hire them. We will need to have incentives based on standard times and quality. High performers should get high pay packages. We will need to invest more on training for each individual. If they don’t feel their skills are being kept current they will not stay. This will be a tough challenge and it will be expensive in both cases.
It will be much too late to be planning for your employee development and depth chart when the market starts to pick up. You should have a plan in place already.
I suggest, as I normally do, that you get involved with your local high schools, technical schools, junior colleges and universities and start a program of hiring trainees for the operating departments and develop the personnel you need to have in the future under your guidance. Use training programs provided by your manufacturers and your associations to hone and grow their skills.
The AED Foundation has been asking that 40 hours annually of training be provided for each employee in the company for some time now. I would like to suggest that in parts we need closer to 60 hours for each employee today, and in service it requires 80 hours to keep up with the machinery for the mechanics.
Let me give you a short personal example of a depth chart in action. In 1978, I moved from a dealership in Montreal, Quebec, to another dealership in Vancouver, British Columbia, that had a shortage of management in the 30- to 40-year-old age group. I found it intriguing that they were planning management and supervision in age blocks like that. That company was Finning Tractor and Equipment (at the time), which today is one of the largest equipment dealerships in the world. That is what I would call personnel planning wouldn’t you?
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