Elevate 2021 wrapped last week. Throughout the event, we heard from a variety of industry professionals and experts about how to continue to adjust your dealership practices as we navigate the uncertain road ahead.
We were joined by Adam Robinson, Hireology’s CEO and co-founder, John Malishenko, Chief Operating Officer of Germain Motor Company, Jamie Butters, Chief Content Officer of Automotive News, Joe Fleming, Sr. Specialist Data Analytics & HR 20 Groups at NADA, and Napoleon Rumteen, SVP of Commercial Operations at Tekion. 
Here are some of the takeaways from the conference.

People are the center of your business operations

Those in your organization are even more critical than they were prior to the pandemic, and you should be treating them as such. According to a recent Hireology survey, 71% of dealers say they will not backfill all of the roles they eliminated during the pandemic because those that remained played critical roles and helped dealerships realize that they don’t have to operate with a higher headcount to receive better results. 
“My goal is that everybody that we hire stays with us for their entire career,” said John (See John’s presentation here). This mentality allows him to prioritize each person’s goals and career paths, and help create a great culture. 
When you have the right people in every seat, you’re able to think more critically and be more agile, so your hiring process is critical in scoping out the best talent and moving them through the process as quickly as possible. And you have to think bigger picture about how to attract the best people to your dealership. You need to differentiate yourself as a best place to work. 
“Just assume you’re competing with ten other employers for top talent. What are you doing that’s different?” said Adam (See Adam’s presentation here). 
It’s important to remain competitive in benefits and compensation offerings as well as flexibility in where and how people work. And you have to make sure you’re getting that message out to the masses through your career sites and social media channels. 

You can do more with less

John Malishenko shared how Germain Motor Company was able to make it through the pandemic. While they made some tough decisions, like cutting 60% of their workforce in March 2020, they saw some positive results when they brought back fewer positions. With a lower headcount and a heavier reliance on online processes and technology, they had a 20% improvement in overall quality of work, lower stress and less time wasted, less turnover and higher average tenure, and more revenue per person. 
“We brought back our best folks, and the folks that we thought were best suited for this new environment, and even as our volumes returned to historic norms, we were able to see a huge shift in productivity,” said John.
They modified their hiring process to ensure that they were hiring the right people, and reevaluated the characteristics that their employees needed to have.  
“In order to do more with less, you need to have different types of people on board with diverse and broad professional backgrounds and histories,” said Adam. “That is really the key to operating effectively in a way that the consumer wants to see today.”

Flexibility is key

Let’s face it — not much has not gone according to plan over the last year and a half. For instance, we were fully planning to host Elevate in person up until about a month before the event. Flexibility allowed us to pivot quickly. You have to take a similar approach with your people operations from here on out because applicant sentiments and expectations will continue to evolve. 
You should also be flexible in the type of workers you’re looking to hire — the automotive employees of today likely have different skills and you should make adjustments to adapt. In fact, 38% of dealers say they’ve redefined the skills required for their roles in response to changing roles, as well as changing expectations from applicants. In order to build a modern workforce, you have to listen to employee and applicant needs and adapt where necessary.

Tech reliance is a non-negotiable 

If there’s one thing we’re certain of, it’s that tech reliance is here to stay. Those that depended on technology prior to the pandemic had an easier time pivoting operations, and that’s not going to change. From your hiring process to your service experience, technology needs to be a part of your yearly planning. Napoleon Rumteen and Joe Castelino, the Service Director at Stevens Creek Volkswagen, talked about how they were able to not only satisfy their customers’ needs, but delight them using technology. 
“You exceeded customer expectations when they don’t know you, but you know them and you’re able to greet them and know about their needs,” said Napoleon about dealers using Tekion’s DMS to interact with customers (see Napoleon’s presentation here).

Learn from others in the industry 

Having the ability to bounce ideas off your peers and learn from industry leaders is an incredibly helpful resource. Whether that’s through connecting over coffee with others in the retail automotive space, or joining an NADA 20 Group (see the presentation here), you’re putting your dealership at an advantage when you connect, share experiences, and learn from others. 

Keep pressing forward

It’s important to keep your eyes on the road ahead and remember that there are great opportunities in front of you. By maintaining a people-first approach to all aspects of your business, continuing to invest in great technology, remaining flexible, and learning from others, you will continue to see success at your dealership. We’re so thankful for those that joined us at this year’s Elevate, and we’re already counting down the days to Elevate 2022.