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5 Takeaways from Cox Automotive’s 2019 Dealership Staffing Study

By Beth Kempton

Cox Automotive recently released its 2019 Dealership Staffing Study, which surveyed 1,200 individuals about their work-related challenges, priorities and expectations. Survey respondents included a mix of employees already working in dealerships, others working in different industries and job seekers.

As a strategic hiring partner in automotive – powering hiring for one in five new car dealerships across the country – we’re always eager to learn about the latest industry hiring and applicant experience trends. We read through the 2019 Dealership Staffing Study and have highlighted several of the key takeaways below. 

1. Millennials and Generation Z are Interested in Dealership Roles 

Overall, interest in dealership careers has seen a measurable decline in recent years. The study found that as of 2016, 33 percent of non-dealership employees indicated they would be interested in dealership roles and this number has dropped to 25 percent. However, the good news for dealers is that younger employees job seekers are expressing interest in dealership careers. 

Based on the survey results, 33 percent of Generation Z non-dealership employees are interested in dealership jobs, as well as 36 percent of young millennials. Strong interest from Generation Z is a positive sign for dealers, as this generation will make up 20 percent of the workforce by 2020. However, interest in dealership careers drops significantly for older millennials (21 percent) and Generation X (19 percent).

Given that only one-quarter of employees outside the industry are interested in dealership careers, your team needs to sell prospective job seekers on the opportunity joining your team presents. At a time of record-low unemployment, competition for top talent is at an all-time high. To excite quality applicants, you need to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question for job seekers by developing a strong employer brand. Your employer brand should include strong, SEO-friendly job descriptions, a compelling career site, defined career paths across departments, employee testimonials, a comprehensive list of benefits and continuous job openings.

2. Dealership Staff Are Open to Leaving the Industry 

Not only are few job seekers interested in dealership careers, but those already working for dealerships are open to career moves. The Cox study found that 20 percent of dealership staff are likely to look for a new job in the next six months. The top three reasons dealership staff consider leaving include: better pay (57 percent), work-life balance (43 percent) and lack of opportunity for advancement (39 percent).

The 2019 Dealership Staffing study also found that one-third of dealership employees are not engaged or excited by their jobs. To address the employee engagement challenge and the perception that there are limited opportunities for advancement, you dealership should develop defined career paths across departments – and outline measurable steps your staff can take to grow in their careers. 

Your team can also outline success stories about employees who have grown in their careers with your dealership. For example, Mike Jackson, the former CEO of AutoNation, the largest new vehicle retailer in the U.S., started his career as a technician for a Mercedes-Benz Dealership. He then rose through the ranks, serving as president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, overseeing U.S. sales operation and 311 franchised dealerships before joining AutoNation. 

While Mike Jackson’s story is a top example of a dealership employee who grew from an entry-level service role to the CEO of a large new vehicle retailer, your dealership likely has your own success stories to share. By maintaining defined career paths and sharing employee success stories, you can keep employees engaged and motivated to keep contributing positively to your team, and less likely to search for job opportunities elsewhere. 

3. Many Dealerships Lack Effective Training

Once your dealership has defined career paths in place, you also need to provide employees with the right training opportunities to set them up for success when it comes to long-term career growth. But according to the dealership staffing study, many dealers are falling short with employee training.

The study found that one in three dealership leaders:

  • Aren’t investing in training opportunities beyond what the OEM supplies
  • Agree that training their employees is a top business challenge 
  • Don’t think their employees understand potential career path options

On the individual employee side, only 50 percent of dealership staff say their managers meet with them regularly to set goals and objectives. 

Your dealership isn’t tied to only offering training opportunities supplied by the OEM. And by empowering employees with additional training opportunities, you can set them up for success and boost engagement. Beyond initial onboarding, your dealership should offer all employees opportunities for ongoing training. Training options can include attending recurring lunch-and-learn sessions, completing skills assessments, watching structured training videos, and completing online certification courses, to name a few.

4. Employees Want More Flexibility and Improved Pay Structures

To attract top talent and keep the employees you already have on staff, the Dealership Staffing Study found that key factors to do so include work-life balance and improved pay structures. According to the study, 40 percent of former dealership employees left due to work-life balance challenges. And 41 percent of job seekers would not consider a role that was paid on commission, while 32 percent of current dealership sales consultants have already considered leaving due to the commission-based pay structure. 

Many of today’s employees want to balance the demands of home and work, but dealership schedules often aren’t conducive to doing this. Your employees likely want to pick their kids up for school and have dinner with the family, among other priorities. Given these preferences of modern-day employees, your dealership should offer more flexibility with scheduling.

Once you figure out a flexible scheduling solution that works for both your dealership and your employees, make it clear on your career site and in your job descriptions that you don’t require employees to work every night per week and on the weekends. While these can be the busiest times at dealerships, offer scheduling flexibility – such as working one Saturday per month. And include options to let employees leave early on occasion for family and other personal priorities.

When it comes to pay structures, many of today’s dealership employees and job seekers from outside the industry have indicated that they are not interested in commission-based roles. To address this, many dealerships – including AutoNation – have implemented base salary plus bonus pay plans, rather than having employees rely exclusively on commission. 

With traditional commission-based pay plans, sales roles tend to be too risky financially for younger candidates coming into the workforce with significant student loan debt, rising housing costs and other financial obligations. But with a base salary plus bonus plan, your employees can feel more financially secure in their roles. If you have a base salary plus bonus plan or similar structure in place that isn’t exclusively commission-based, make sure to advertise this in your job descriptions and on your careers page to excite qualified job seekers about applying to your open roles. 

5. Women are Underrepresented as Dealership Employees 

The study found that many dealerships face challenges with diversity. In particular, dealerships tend to be lacking in gender diversity. Only 34 percent of all dealership employees are women. Additionally, women only hold 23 percent of leadership roles and 29 percent of management roles. Conversely, women hold 90 percent of administrative roles at dealerships. 

To engage female job seekers and create a more diverse workforce overall, your dealership needs to create a more inclusive employer brand. The first step can be reviewing your job descriptions – particularly the tone and word choice. You might unknowingly have job descriptions that target aggressive, lone wolf salespeople by using masculine adjectives. Or you might even use masculine pronouns such as, “The right candidate will be able to demonstrate his negotiation skills.” If this sounds like your dealership, it’s time to update your job descriptions to appeal to a broader job seeker pool. 

Beyond job descriptions, you should make sure your careers page is diverse. If your careers page only includes photos or employee testimonials from male sales employees, switch the content up and include some of your female employees, as well as employees across roles and levels at your dealership. By taking these steps, you can be more likely to attract female job applicants and diversify your workforce. 

Read the full 2019 Dealership Staffing Study here.

In today’s competitive, applicant-driven economy, it’s critical to understand the latest job seeker trends and expectations. And once you engage top talent, your team needs to support an engaging candidate experience – or risk losing top talent to other job opportunities. For additional tips on engaging quality job seekers, read our resource, “The Hireology Candidate Engagement Playbook.”

About the Author

Beth is the content strategist on Hireology’s marketing team, responsible for creating compelling blog posts, eBooks, marketing materials and other content. Her background includes five years of experience at a B2B digital marketing agency, where she crafted content for a variety of clients, including several in the HR technology space. Before beginning her career, Beth attended Loyola University Chicago, where she studied advertising and public relations.

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