How to deal with employee turnover in a bodyshop?

I rubbed my shoulders with many collision repair professionals all around the world. Most of them are the employees in workshops of different size and profile. Nevertheless, no matter the place, there is always a challenge to keep employees loyal and motivated. Let’s face it, working in the bodyshop is not the easiest job on Earth. Compressor noise, sanding machines’ buzz, clouds of dust and a great variety of organic smells make the working place less appealing, especially for the young generation. On the other hand, those already in business are not loyal to its employers. As an outcome, many collision garages struggle with ever-growing costs associated with employees’ turnover. So, what should you do about it? The fastest way is to learn what the employees in the bodyshop look for in a potential employer. I took an advantage of my position and constant traveling and conducted a yearlong research. Below you can see the main findings in the order of importance.


  1. Financial benefits.

Well, there it comes as no surprise here. Almost everyone I ever interviewed told me that the level of salary is the first thing he or she would evaluate before accepting a job offer. Many people mentioned that performance related bonuses are also very good tools for the motivation. Nothing new here, you could say. But, is the higher than average salary is enough to attract and keep the best of the best. Definitely, not. Bodyshop workers have many more parameters for consideration.


  1. Internal climate and company culture.

Surprisingly (or not really), the second most important parameter for someone to choose the place of work is not a tangible or easy to measure thing. Internal climate in a closed business environment like a bodyshop is of utmost importance for the employees’ loyalty. It is tough to describe a good or a bad climate in any particular company, but mostly employees have referred to a company with good culture, as the one, which treats its employees with respect, listens to their comments (especially negative ones), where the boss is approachable and bias-free, and the management style is based on mutual trust, rather than on imposing authority. In a business with great corporate culture all the employees have the voice. Believe me, a lot of problems become visible to the lower level employees much faster than to the higher management. Therefore, the owner of the business must encourage informal and direct communication on all levels. By providing the possibility to speak out, you will not only be able to be proactive, but also you will strengthen the bond between employees inside the company.

Additionally, I would recommend reserving a budget for team bonding events. It could be a fishing trip, a paintball game or a barbecue party. You will be surprised how many work problems readily revealed and resolved over flipping stakes and having a beer or two.


  1. Recognition of the effort.

For those of you who is familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is not a well-established fact that every person needs appreciation of their work. Simple “thank you” or “good job” can boost person’s self-esteem and skyrocket the productivity. And no money will ever replace the importance of gratefulness in the long run.


  1. Working conditions.

This one needs a bit of explanation. All of the people I interviewed ranked good working conditions high; however, the term is very broad. I will try to present to your attention the most frequently mentioned characteristics of a good working environment.

– Well-organized and carefully planned workshop

It is very rare when employees have a say in the bodyshop layout, because, most frequently, they find the shop ready and operating just as it is. However, poorly crafted shop will create a lot of confusion and bottlenecks. Inevitably, this will cause unnecessary tensions and delays. Additionally, if tools of work are misplaced, then your team will spend hours of productive time seeking a sanding machine, abrasives or an air-blowing gun. So, if your shop layout is far from ideal, invest time and money to fix this. Alternatively, your best employees will leave to competitors with easier to navigate working spaces.


– Personal protection equipment

I have already mentioned previously that the work in a bodyshop is not an easy one, leaving impact on the workers’ health. It is actually imperative in many countries that employers provide the workers with all the necessary personal protection materials like respirators, dust masks, gloves and protective cloths. However, irrespective of the occupational laws, if you own a bodyshop, you better give to your painters and prep guys everything required to keep them healthy and safe. It is good for their health and for your peace of mind.


–  Availability and cleanliness of bathrooms and showers

It is hard to underestimate the importance of the showers in any workshop requiring manual labour. If you provide your employees with the possibility to take a shower after the work, you automatically improve their quality of life and save their leisure time. Without the possibility to take a shower at work, a painter has to go home first and only after he or she can do anything else. Frequently this simple convenience plays the decisive role for the employees choosing the place of work. It comes without saying that clean and tidy bathrooms are the must. And don’t forget dedicated cleaning soaps for hard to clean dirt like paints and oils.


– Tools and equipment in top-notch conditions

There is a famous saying by Emmett Wolf: “A man is only good as his tools.” Hiring the best professional and not providing him with best equipment and tools is a waste of money and time. Unfortunately, in the bodyshops around the world I have seen plenty of cases when very capable employees are restricted and demotivated by the lack of tools in decent condition, and by management’s shortsighted attitude to cut cost by not buying newer equipment. A spray booth with filthy filters, broken dust extractors and sanding machines, rusty spray guns, you name it. If a bodyshop owner fails to provide his team with last technology tools, then he should not be surprised why the team is falling apart.


– Dedicated place and time for lunch and dinner

I was always wondering why so many collision repair shops lack even basic facilities for its employees’ lunch breaks. While the investment is minimal, namely a table with a few chairs, fridge and microwave oven, caring about your workers proper dining is not only right thing to do, but also it is also a good place for friendly chat and well deserved rest.


The last, but not the least is my own suggestion. Invest in a decent cooler for drinking water and good quality coffee machine. This little expanse will not affect your bottom line, but well-hydrated and awake employees will definitely appreciate it and boost the productivity.


  1. Continuous training.

Many of the employees I spoke with mentioned that it matters a lot for them to receive regular training and seminars on the new products and technology. Our industry is developing at a very fast pace, and, without an ongoing training it is impossible to repair modern vehicles in the proper way. The possibility to advance in one’s career is a strong motivator too. It is a good practice to create an internal hierarchy, like working titles, for example, preparation worker, chief of prep department, junior, senior and master painter, etc. While those titles are not such a big deal, but advancing on the corporate ladder within the company is a very effective instrument in keeping people loyal.


To sum up, every employer in our trade must understand that people are the main asset, and not the expense on a corporate balance sheet. If you invest in people and treat them as the most precious inseparable part of the business, then they will stay loyal. There is no other way.


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