How Can Shops Better Handle Demographic Changes in the Workforce?

with Mike Anderson

This month, we “ASK MIKE” to share his thoughts on how shops can better deal with changing demographics in the workforce. We at Hammer & Dolly hope you find the following exchange useful, and we encourage you to reach out to us if you have a question for Mike on this or any industry-related matter that he can answer in a future issue.

Hammer & Dolly: If a shop intends to stay in business in the next five to 10 years, it’s likely that owners will need to deal with a drastically different workforce from the one they’ve been used to. Obviously, many of the employees they currently have will be leaving the industry fairly soon due to their age. What are you seeing right now as far as some of the major demographic or philosophical changes in the collision repair workforce, and how are the more successful shops acknowledging those changes and adapting to them?

Mike Anderson: That’s a great question. In the old days, there were three basic ways to get employees. Getting involved in SkillsUSA and other school events was the first way, and the second way was to tap into post-secondary schools. The third way was to take somebody on at your shop through an apprenticeship. That last option was often difficult, because it was sometimes hard to get a tech who earned a flat rate to work with an apprentice because it could affect their pay. 

Today, we have different mechanisms for recruitment, including LinkedIn, Indeed and Facebook. The days of finding people through the newspaper are gone. Obviously, things like SkillsUSA are dwindling, too, because vocational schools are shutting down their automotive programs. 

These days, we really need to start with the onboarding process. In the old days, we’d just hire someone and fill out paperwork with them. Now, we need to modernize that process. There’s software called BambooHR that shops can use to run an ad automatically on LinkedIn, Indeed and other sites. People can apply through those ads and send in their résumé that way, which modernizes the ‘interview’ process.

Years ago, we’d interview a person who just wanted to work. These days, it’s more like the potential candidates are interviewing us. You really need to ‘sell’ your company to them – and you do that through your culture and your benefits package.

Benefits packages are very important today. If you look at what the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) has done for its members, a shop can now offer health insurance and a 401(k) to employees. Shops also need to look at offering additional benefits. I know some shops that have gone to a four-day workweek or offer flexible hours. There are different things that can be offered to help recruit people. 

Today’s generation wants a career path. You need to be able to tell someone, for example, that they can start as a CSR [customer service representative] and later become an estimator. We also need to debunk the myths of this industry, especially if there are parents involved. When I had my collision repair business, we’d invite vocational schools to participate in contests at the shop. Schools would send their students, and it was like an NFL tryout. We could see the students’ attitudes and aptitudes. 

The military is another place to look. Every military branch has a website that shows you résumés of people who are getting out. One of them is called the Army Career Alumni Program (ACAP). 

It’s also important to recognize that today’s employees really want feedback – they want to know how they’re doing. Shops should do employee reviews a minimum of twice a year. Quarterly is even better. When I did my employee reviews, I used to give everybody else on the team a questionnaire (FREE download available at, so they could offer feedback of their own. 

H&D: It’s critical that shop owners and managers be open to feedback. The days of employees simply getting their marching orders are long gone. They need to be encouraged to offer thoughts on how the shop is run. Are you seeing more shops being open to listening to what their employees have to say?

MA: Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of shops soliciting and receiving feedback from their employees. When Collision Advice was just Tiffany Driggers and me, I would make decisions and didn’t have to solicit anyone’s opinion. As Collision Advice has grown and I’ve brought in other people, I’ve solicited feedback from my team. But when I first started doing that and I’d introduce an idea that my team didn’t like, I’d get defensive, like, ‘What do you mean you don’t like it?’ It is hard for any human being to open themselves up to take criticism or suggestions. That’s probably my biggest area of growth right now. I’m still a work in progress, but I think it’s critical that we all work toward welcoming feedback without getting defensive and that we encourage employees to have their say. It’s part of developing the best culture for your business. Culture is everything – it’s the golden commodity today.

Everybody can market themselves and get work, whether they’re DRP or non-DRP. It’s more important to get the right people and show your appreciation to them. 

Want more? Check out the June 2024 issue of Hammer & Dolly!