Molle Toyota Partnerships Tap Into Talent Pool for Service Department Hires
Molle Toyota is working to get in front of the hiring challenge by partnering with a local community college and even hiring a full-time recruiter.
“The days of a technician or even an express maintenance technician and, for that matter, a porter or a driver coming through the door is slim to none these days,” said Justin Ayers, Fixed Operations director at the Kansas City, Missouri, dealership. “If you want to get more people through the door you’ve got to set that time aside to invest in relationship building. The opportunities that could happen by getting your dealership’s name out there, that’s the biggest part of it.”
Molle Toyota is partnering with Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Overland Park, Kansas, local high schools, and vocation centers to help find potential employees.
“A few years ago, it was hard trying to recruit. We got an opportunity to go speak at a couple of local high schools and votech programs and that’s kind of when it first started,” Ayers said. “It was a way to get in the door and see what was out there.”
Ayers says there are two key parts to recruiting younger employees and retaining them to grow within the company: being flexible and cultivating a positive work environment.
“The main thing is really putting yourself in their shoes,” he said. “You definitely have to make it fun and enjoyable for them. Get them to understand the ability of the return that they have on the investment they’re making, not only with you but with the tool shops of the world.”
Many younger workers are looking for hours that fit well in their busy lives. Some are still in school. Others have family commitments or part-time jobs.
“We could always use more full time, but as far as the part time goes, the flexibility that we provide is huge for the kids,” he said. “As long as they get their foot in the door and we give them a place to grow, I feel like we’re going to retain them until they’re ready to become full time.”
Since the Technician Education College Support (TECS) program started, Molle has hired the majority of the 15 to 20 applicants and more than 70% have been retained in various areas of the dealership.
“The vehicles are evolving, technicians are getting harder and harder to come by and what more would you want from a position than to grow from within?” he said.
Ayers himself is a good example of growing from within. He followed his dad to the dealership as a toddler and began working in the business at age 16. That was two decades ago and he’s still going strong.
“My dad was a service director/fixed operations director, so I followed in his footsteps a little bit,” he said. “It wasn’t intentional, but I love what I do.
“The biggest thing for the younger generation to understand is that we do care and do want to build them up,” Ayers said. “A lot of them want to know that ‘Hey, I have a career.’ It’s all about our dedication and our tutelage. If they stick with us, we will get them to the level they need to be.”
High school graduate Brian Ramos was hired through the program and has worked at Molle Toyota for six months.
“I like working at Toyota because it’s fast paced and the people seem to care about my learning,” Ramos said. “My goals are to continue to grow my skills and become a certified tech eventually.”
The dealership’s main partnership for recruiting new young hires is with JCCC, but Ayers is looking at partnerships with other colleges in the area as well.
The Toyota Kansas City Region supports these efforts and attends all meetings with JCCC, while also providing support in the form of tools, engines and other equipment.
Another big part of the program’s success is a full-time recruiter that Molle Toyota hired to help with the hiring process. Ayers said the position takes a lot of weight off his shoulders and is crucial for posting openings and on-boarding new employees.
While it hasn’t happened overnight, Ayers is proud of the program and hopes it continues to grow.
“It’s brought in quite a few candidates, and it’s brought in a lot of learning experiences for us as well as far as hiring part time versus full time,” he said. “We will do whatever it takes to get somebody in the door for an opportunity at a great career.”