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Event Recap: Elevate 2019 Attendees Prepare for Hiring Success in 2020

By Beth Kempton

Elevate 2019, the only people strategy summit for retail automotive, took place on September 18 in Chicago. The event brought together retail automotive HR leaders, general managers and dealer principals, and provided the opportunity for attendees to connect, collaborate and champion the people side of their dealerships. 

Leveraging a provided people strategy playbook developed exclusively for the event, attendees worked together to discuss key trends and challenges in retail automotive hiring, and opportunities for improvement in 2020 and beyond. 

Whether you were in attendance at Elevate 2019 or missed out, we’ve highlighted several takeaways from the event below. 

Approach Your Employer Brand as You Would Your Consumer Brand 

The most successful organizations today understand that their employer brand and consumer-facing brand are essentially the same thing. During his keynote speech, “The Human Capital Advantage,” Hireology Co-Founder and CEO, Adam Robinson, touched on an organization in the automotive space that is doing a great job with promoting both its consumer brand and employer brand – CarMax. 

Over the past year, CarMax has aired a recruitment ad on national television. The ad highlights what it takes to work at CarMax and ends with the tagline “Helping people is what our people are all about.” Not only will the ad get job seekers excited about working at CarMax, but it will also help consumers recognize that CarMax invests in hiring the best employees, making consumers more likely to want to buy from the brand. 

In another session, “Lessons from the Tech Industry,” featured speaker Denise Bindelglass, Chief Human Resources Officer at ActiveCampaign, shared that to be a great HR leader, you need to be a great storyteller, marketer and local PR person. It’s also critical to perfect an employer brand elevator pitch. In today’s competitive hiring market, your dealership needs to prioritize your employer brand strategy just as you would your consumer marketing strategy. Doing so will help you stand out to job seekers and secure top talent before the competition. 

Change the Perception of Working in Retail Automotive 

As dealers continue to face challenges with attracting and hiring top talent, one of the key hurdles is the negative perception of working in retail automotive. For example, many job seekers and others outside the industry have the misconception that dealership roles have limited room for career growth or that technician roles are simply “grease monkey” jobs. 

During her session, “Build a High Performance Culture at Your Dealership,” Tamara Darvish, President, U.S. Operations at AutoCanada, said that retail automotive is the best kept secret for job candidates. Dealership roles have countless opportunities for career advancement, and in many cases, don’t require a four-year degree, helping young job seekers jump start their careers and earning potential. 

There are many ways your dealership can change the perception of working in retail automotive – and attract job seekers who might not have otherwise considered working at a dealership. Tamara Darvish highlighted that Toyota has a program in place to help veterans and members of the military convert their skills into the auto industry. During a panel discussion on recruitment marketing, participants shared the benefits of partnering with local technical schools to attract technicians and help students understand how the role has evolved into more of a computer engineering role. 

Other steps you can take might include outlining career paths and training opportunities on your career site and during the hiring process, so job seekers can have a better understanding of the true opportunity working for a dealership presents. 

Follow a Hiring Process and Hold Managers Accountable

During his keynote, Hireology Co-Founder and CEO, Adam Robinson, said the retail automotive industry doesn’t have a recruiting issue, it has a process issue. To be successful with attracting and hiring for dealership roles, you need a set process in place – and need to hold managers accountable to following this process. 

In many cases, dealership employees might expect the HR or recruiting team to handle the entire hiring process. But during her session, Tamara Darvish compared this to the admissions office recruiting for a college football team – it wouldn’t work. To be successful with hiring, your dealership needs to have GMs, sales managers and other department managers bought in to the hiring process and actively participating. 

Once you have a set hiring process in place, it’s also important to communicate this to candidates. During the recruitment marketing panel, participants discussed the importance of setting realistic expectations for candidates throughout the hiring process – just as you would for customers during the sales process. Another key piece is continuously communicating with candidates – candidates should never reach out to you, but rather it should be the other way around. Your team should let each candidate know what will happen each step of the way and hold managers accountable to following these steps in a timely manner – or you’ll risk losing top talent. 

Focus on Your Employee Experience 

Cheryl Miller, newly-appointed CEO and President at AutoNation, kicked off Elevate with a keynote on “How AutoNation Puts People at the Center of its Business Operations.” During this session, Cheryl stressed the importance of tying the employee experience to the customer experience. If your employees aren’t feeling their best, neither will your customers. On the other hand, if your employees are engaged and motivated, this will translate into a great customer experience and contribute positively to your bottom line.  

As part of the overall employee experience, Cheryl discussed how AutoNation has placed an emphasis on talent development. Not only has doing so helped AutoNation attract new employees, but it helps the team set employees up for success and long-term career growth. For example, AutoNation launched “Controller University” and 25 percent of the Western region’s controllers started there, among others. AutoNation also has a variety of career pathing opportunities available to employees through their training programs – including straight career paths, options to move to another store or switch departments, and more. 

Similar to Cheryl, Tamara Darvish also emphasized the importance of creating a great employee experience. She said onboarding should be treated like a Net Promoter Score (NPS), but in this case, an Employee Promoter Score. Throughout the onboarding process, it’s critical to create moments that matter, identify pain points and close the loop with each onboarding step. With effective onboarding in place, employees will be more engaged and drive productivity and profitability at your dealership sooner. 

Coming Soon: Exclusive Research from Hireology and NADA 

Hireology and NADA launched new research at Elevate 2019. As the only dealership partners with access to this level of detail on dealership hiring trends and activities, Hireology and NADA were excited to bring this first-ever research on the state of retail automotive recruiting and hiring trends to Elevate attendees. 

The research features insights based on the hiring activities across 4,000+ retail automotive dealerships representing all major brands and markets. Attendees received an exclusive sneak peek at the data and full report, which will be released more broadly in the coming weeks. 

Additional content and key takeaways from Elevate 2019 will be published soon. Next week, we’ll share an overview of a keynote presentation from Cheryl Miller, newly-appointed CEO and President at AutoNation. Stay tuned!

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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