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How AutoNation Attracts and Engages Employees: Elevate 2019 Keynote Recap

By Beth Kempton

Hireology and Automotive News recently co-hosted Elevate 2019, the only people strategy summit for retail automotive. The daylong event brought together retail automotive leaders from across the country to prepare their dealerships for future hiring success. Elevate 2019 also featured a diverse lineup of expert speakers from both inside and outside the retail automotive industry. 

One of the keynote speakers at Elevate 2019 was newly-appointed AutoNation CEO and President, Cheryl Miller. During her session, “How AutoNation Puts People at the Center of its Business Operations,” Miller discussed the evolving talent landscape and what successful dealers need to do to attract and hire top talent in today’s competitive hiring market. Below, we’ve outlined some key takeaways you can apply at your dealership to stand out from other employers and secure qualified candidates. 

Never Stop Recruiting 

In today’s fast-paced hiring market, it’s no longer enough to simply post jobs on job boards or your careers page and wait for applicants to flow in. AutoNation General Managers and other employees always have hiring top-of-mind – thinking of ways to recruit while filling up on gas, dining at a restaurant, and more. If they cross paths with impressive individuals outside the dealership, AutoNation leaders encourage these individuals to consider joining the team.

AutoNation also thinks outside the box when it comes to recruiting employees from different backgrounds. Rather than requiring employees to have direct dealership experience, AutoNation recruits technicians from the military, for example. Your team can do the same to staff up with qualified talent – especially at a time when hiring technicians is a challenge across the retail automotive industry. 

Maintain a Social Presence 

During the keynote session, Miller said, “If you’re doing nothing on social, do something.” With today’s workforce spanning across five generations, dealers – and employers across industries – need to approach recruiting differently, including being proactive with reaching younger generations on social media. 

The AutoNation careers page features videos on benefits of working as a service technician and benefits of working as a sales associate, both of which engaging and easily shareable on social media. Beyond a general employer brand videos, Miller stressed the importance of sharing snackable videos and photos on social media. These might include glimpses into a day in the life at the dealership, team outings or community involvement, among other content. 

Focus on Talent Development 

According to Miller, AutoNation sees talent development as lead generation into the business. Most of today’s top job seekers are looking to develop long-term careers with their employers, rather than simply looking for a paycheck. By being intentional about talent development – and making this clear during the hiring process – this is a strong selling point to get qualified job seekers to join your team. 

AutoNation has a variety of training opportunities in place for its employees. For example, it has a Controller University and 25 percent of the Western Region controllers at the dealership group started in this program. AutoNation also has a management fast track program, in which the group brings in recent college graduates and rotates them throughout positions to get a feel for the dealership and the departments they’re passionate about. For these programs, a key focus of the training is short, snackable videos that keep employees engaged – rather than risking losing employees’ attention in long training sessions. 

When it comes to career pathing, AutoNation offers its employees many different options. These include a straight path – such as moving up the career ladder on a sales track – training to move to another store, and plenty of chances to switch departments. For example, Miller shared an example of an employee who started as a porter/lube technician, transitioned to the mail room and is now a developer. By taking a similar approach and empowering employees to follow paths they’re passionate about, you can boost productivity and employee engagement at your dealership. 

Get Involved with the Local Community 

During the session, Miller outlined the importance of authentic community involvement, saying dealers can’t invest enough in being local and authentic – it’s important to have a commitment to social responsibility. 

Ten AutoNation dealerships were recently recognized on the Automotive News Best Dealerships to Work For 2019 list and one of the reasons for this is AutoNation’s commitment to authenticity philanthropy. 

One of the top philanthropic efforts AutoNation has in place is its Drive Pink initiative, which has raised more than $20 million for cancer research. And every car AutoNation sells or services raises awareness for breast cancer with a pink plate. 

Every small step your dealership can take to contribute to the local community will help you stand out as an authentic, socially responsible employer to job seekers. This can be as simple as sponsoring a local sports team or having a few employees participate in a charity walk – or a larger effort similar to AutoNation’s Drive Pink initiative if your team has the resources. 

The hiring market is more competitive than ever before and few job seekers are interested in dealership careers, meaning your team needs to put in extra effort to attract top talent. By applying some of these best practices from AutoNation, you can get qualified job seekers excited about joining your team.

For additional tips on selling prospective applicants on the opportunity joining your team presents, read our resource, “The Hireology Employment Brand 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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