Hiring in retail automotive has been really tricky over the past two years. In response to the pandemic, dealerships across the country reduced their headcount and pivoted operations. In response to the chip shortage and used car pricing surges, hiring priorities have been all over the map.
One thing that doesn’t change as the hiring landscape does is that a people-focused approach to operating your dealership will set you up for success.
During our annual Elevate Conference, Jamie Butters, Chief Content Officer at Automotive News, moderated a discussion between Adam Robinson, Hireology’s CEO and co-founder, and John Malishenko, Chief Operating Officer at Germain Motor Company, on hiring trends and the importance of being intentional about who and how you hire. Here’s what they had to say.
How do you really secure the best employees?
“It goes without saying, but I don’t think in our industry often times we’re intentional enough about the retention of associates,” said John. “So I think that’s the starting point.”
He said being intentional around career growth, responding to feedback, and open communication really matter when it comes to keeping your team around long-term.
“It’s a fact that dealerships are operating with a lower headcount today than they did two years ago,” said Adam. “Now if that’s by design and with intention, you can turn that into some pretty special operating outcomes. If it’s by default, it’s likely that you feel busier than you did two years ago, because you’re understaffed relative to the inefficient retailing processes that you had in your store.”
He said a way to combat this is to reevaluate your processes and ensure that your current team has what they need to be successful, whether that’s technology, work-life balance, or more headcount.
When you find somebody who you think is going to be a fit who seems to have the right skills, take us into how you do the onboarding.
“We’ve got pretty good at attracting with Adam and Hireology’s help,” said John. “So we got pretty efficient at the hiring part, but still had turnover — most of it in the first year. And I was frustrated [but we figured out] we weren’t spending enough time training and developing.”
John said once he prioritized talent development, he saw a dramatic increase in operations and retention, which made the investment in continual training and development well worth it.
How do you identify the person who might have the right skills, but doesn’t have experience in a dealership?
“I think that’s a plug for employee referrals,” said John. He was referring to those in your organization being able to advertise what makes working in retail automotive great.
But John also says it’s important to use your career site to spread the word about the benefits of the industry and your dealership specifically.
“We try to educate people about who we are and how we think and how innovative and digital we are. Basically trying to change perceptions and talk about the opportunities and the possibilities that exist,” said John.
He went on to say why nontraditional talent are your best recruits.
“I believe traditional experience is a liability in today’s marketplace,” said John. “So by the very nature of trying to hire talent and skill and not experience, you better be a learning organization. You better have training and be committed to it because otherwise, I don’t know that you can be successful.”
Adam also shared how to aim your focus on this type of talent.
“You want people who can hustle and get it done and are wired for consumer experience, but looking for something better — we are something better,” said Adam. “And I think we have to market to those individuals very specifically and intentionally.”
Adam recommends putting a section on your career site that details the benefits of retail automotive for those that are looking from outside the industry.
Do you think retention bonuses have any value or is it really around things like flexibility and a future opportunity?
“I think if you’re doing it right, you don’t need incentives and spiffs,” said John. “Money is important, but if you’re truly committed to trying to retain people, it starts with culture, it starts with your leadership.”
John said it’s important that your dealership stands for something and is committed to your company’s core values. If you can establish a great company culture and make your dealership a great place to work, you’ll keep talent around.
What do you see as the biggest threat to the retail industry?
“There’s a lot of speculation in the marketplace about everything,” said John. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen for sure, and I don’t need to know, but I need to be able to move, change, and align with it.”
John said he can do that by hiring people that help create an organization that is adaptable.
“Run through the checklist of the things you can control,” said Adam. “You can control who you put on your payroll and how you conduct business — that’s about it.”
How do you push cultural change down through your organization?
“I think it requires an intentional effort by someone at the top of the organization that defines who we are,” said John. “It’s my job to help everybody understand who and what we are and why we do what we do.”
John says he tries to give everyone a seat at the table and ensure that all voices are heard.
“A continuous candid communication is foundational,” said John.
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