Recruiting and Retaining Talent

May 10, 2021 11:00 am

The Intro

In our third episode of From the Frame Up we went in-depth about one of the most important topics in the automotive industry: how to recruit and retain talent. To help us explore this concept we tapped a talent acquisition expert, the Lead Recruiter from Insight Global – the 3rd largest IT staffing firm in North America – Dahlin Brooks, about how to recruit talent and more importantly how to keep them. Dahlin works for a global organization that focuses on finding talented individuals and connecting them with their prospective employers. When it comes to the automotive service industry and specifically collision repair this is constant area of focus. Identifying quality technicians, managers, and customer service representatives in our industry is hard, and getting them to stay can be challenging too.

For us there’s two parts to the equation. The corporate side is self-explanatory, we have marketing, finance, operations, and human resources departments just like any other major organization. In automotive you have the automakers who are massive, vendor suppliers like 3M or AkzoNobel, they’re huge too. We have insurers who service a wide swath of stakeholders and all these players that have annual revenues in the billions have staff specifically assigned to the mandate of managing Human Resources.

The other side of the equation is the actual locations whether that’s a dealer or a repair centre. They’re small-medium sized business owners and entrepreneurs. Many of the owners in the collision repair or automotive aftermarket sector, got to the position they’re in from years of work on the actual production floor. They were technicians, painters, or journeymen but what they’re not, is HRBP’s. These sales and service locations are staples of their respective communities, but most don’t have an HR or talent acquisition department. Our discussion takes some of Dahlin’s expertise and draws some similarities between the industry he primarily serves. We also extract some best practices and distinctive approaches to apply to the competitive landscape of talent acquisition and retention in the automotive sector.

The Connection Between IT and Automotive Repair

Initial reaction is to dismiss these industries as being nothing alike. One is filled with programmers, developers, and people who aced every math test they ever took. The other is primarily occupied by folks who like to get their hands dirty and are used to being able to fix any problem with a heavy toolbox and good old fashioned hard work. These stereotypes are just that – the reality is that technology has made the vehicle repair industry more like Silicon Valley than any other sector on the planet. The knowledge and technical expertise required to reprogram a Toyota, pull a dent on a Tesla, or replace a windshield on a BMW is far beyond what the average driver can comprehend. The more that vehicle manufacturer’s aim to meet the demand of an ever-advancing standard of connectivity and innovation on their customer’s new car wish lists, the higher the technical acumen and sheer brilliance that is required at the repair level. As we moved through our conversation and pushed past the stereotypical surface, we showed that there are a ton of similarities between these industries. The desire to own projects and showcase your competencies, realizing the reward of applying your craft to something for both IT project managers and collision repairers is akin to the mindset of an artist. The prideful nature of their work drives them their desire to continue to hone their skills and for some that sharpening may mean a change of venue which is common. We tried to peel back some of the reasons why this desire to move may occur and how to keep staff that are key to your success, in place. Continuing to develop by not being pinned down to a repetitious set of tasks is a preventable factor in an employee’s inclination to leave. Combatting this by offering interesting and unique projects and learning opportunities is one way to keep an eager and challenge-oriented staff member happy with their role on the team. Keeping their eyes off the lanes on either side of them may be impossible though, as competition is always danger close.

Competition is Everywhere

One of the many challenges that team builders face when trying to compile a roster that can move the needle, is competition. In a highly competitive landscape like IT, this is something that Dahlin knows well. He offered us some great perspective on how to view your approach to evaluating someone during the hiring process and beyond. Leave it on the field. The person you are interviewing is taking just as much of a chance on you as you are on them, so it is important to be transparent about what your organization is about so there are no surprises. Dahlin emphasized how critical this was by pushing back on the idea I posed about not showing too much to someone who could end up working for your competition. I posited the theory that a candidate who is sought after likely has options and as a result, employers may be hesitant to share too much about the inner machinations of their company for fear of the information going to a competitor who will use it to their advantage. Dahlin cautioned that this mindset can actually prevent that person from joining your team and to be transparent as much as possible because establishing that trust early on is integral to developing rapport and ultimately landing that candidate.

The Perfect Interview Question

Of course we’ve all been in an interview setting – for better or worse. No matter which side of the table you were on in that interview there was something that you said that was the make-or-break moment for the person sitting across from you. I threw this idea at Dahlin in hopes that he would have some perspective on the kind of question that gives you an indicator about whether this is the right person to hire, and he didn’t disappoint.


“If I gave you the entire day, could you paint my whole barn?”

Overconfident as ever I dismissed the question and said, “of course I can”. The question is designed to identify flaws like mine because I didn’t stop to think critically about all that the project would entail and pose my own follow-up questions to gather more information about what was required. Politely, Dahlin said he loved my confidence and if that is what he was looking for then I’d be a perfect candidate. But what I missed was the factors that would likely make the job impossible to complete in 24-hours. How big is the barn? How many coats of paint? Do you have paint already? How far is the hardware store? Depending on the response to these follow-ups, not my physical abilities, would more than likely determine whether or not my snap-reaction to say yes, this project will be done by EOD, would come to be true. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a right or wrong answer but the way that the candidate responds gives an employer valuable perspective on how a potential employee will fit into their current team dynamic. Maybe you need an analytical, think first, inquisitively minded project manager who will lead an already talented team of individuals with thoughtful and careful measure. Perhaps you need a person with confidence who knows that no matter the obstacle, the work will get done. This is a fantastic question to pose during an interview to gather the knowledge that you need to make an informed decision.

Invest in Your People

The culture of a workplace is becoming more prioritized on the ranking list for candidates and to attract talent or keep them from leaving means an ongoing commitment to elevating the culture of your workplace. Gone are the days of putting up with poor conditions, unfair expectations, or overbearing management just because the money is good. Your most talented and dedicated staff will leave in a moment’s notice if your culture doesn’t align with their values. Take this a step further and invest in your people. Opening a window into a side of the business that a staff member may normally not be interested in is a good way to establish a modicum of trust if there isn’t one already. That employee sees that you value their presence and taking the time to offer them a learning experience, shadowing other employees, or external training are all simple yet impactful measures to show your commitment to their long-term development with your organization.

A CFO asks a CEO:

What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”

The CEO responds:

“What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

About Insight Global
Insight Global is the 3rd largest IT staffing firm in North America specializing in single sourcing and managed services within IT, government, accounting, finance, and engineering professionals all while delivering service-based solutions to our Fortune 1000 clients. Not only that but we have a strong focus on building a successful culture within our offices and those we staff, all while growing our people personally professionally and financially.

About Dahlin Brooks
Dahlin Brooks works as the Lead Recruiter for the 3rd largest IT staffing firm in North America. His role is to help develop the skills of their new hires and promoted Professional Recruiters and to help strategize Insight Global’s daily business operations that mostly focus on filling skillsets for their customers. Dahlin also has a very unique opportunity to be a part of IGX which is Insight’s new office region, allowing him to impact multiple offices including Milwaukee, Omaha, OKC, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and Vancouver.