Do you have an MVP sitting on the bench?

Super Bowl XLVII (that’s 47 for you non-Romans) is right around the corner. The buildup to the “SuperBaugh” – as it’s being called since brothers John and Jim Harbaugh are head coaches for the respective teams – is worthy of the hype, but the matchup likely wouldn’t have been possible if not for the San Francisco 49ers’ decision to give a backup a chance.

Midway through the season, second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick took the reins filling in for an injured Alex Smith, but Jim Harbaugh’s controversial decision to stick with Kaepernick even as the veteran Smith returned to full strength may be the best and boldest move of the entire 2012 NFL season.

The dual-threat Kaepernick didn’t disappoint, going 7-2 in his first nine starts, including two playoff wins – one of which was a 17-point comeback in the NFC Championship – to lead his franchise to its first Super Bowl appearance since Steve Young in 1995. Regardless of the outcome of this year’s Super Bowl, Kaepernick will be regarded the clear-cut Most Valuable Player for the 49ers this season.

Where am I going with all this? We all have Kaepernicks in our business, no matter what business we’re in. They are waiting in the wings and just need a chance to prove themselves. In a fleet operation, this probably is most true in the shop, where younger technicians often are relegated to menial tasks and low-skilled repair jobs, while all the high-tech maintenance services fall to the veterans. Only after an experienced technician leaves or is promoted does a younger technician get his chance to show his potential.

Of course, job experience is a consideration when choosing which technician gets a specific job. But as many fleet managers are learning, the shop is no place for seniority to be the ultimate factor in deciding who gets what task. In other words, a technician’s longevity is not necessarily indicative of productivity and performance.

A comprehensive skills assessment program with regular testing is a great way for technicians to show off the skills they’ve picked up over the years. You just might find that the guy who’s been assigned to oil and lube jobs is actually better at brake repair than your current brake technician.

Technician cross-training is another way of uncovering technicians’ hidden talents. Furthermore, it helps boost morale as it prevents people from performing the same tasks day after day. It also boosts productivity because specific repairs continue to be made even should the specialist assigned to such tasks call in sick or quit work unexpectedly.

However, just because you cross-train your technicians doesn’t mean you have your bases covered. If techs don’t use the skills they’ve learned, they’re likely to forget them. 

Besides skills assessment and training, you should establish clearly defined career paths for technicians to let them know they don’t have to be stuck underneath the truck their entire career. With all the technology on today’s trucks, there are plenty of opportunities for advanced maintenance skills.

By paying close attention to your technician development program, you’ll uncover technicians’ hidden talents and give them a chance to prove themselves. Who knows? You may just uncover your next MVP.