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Overcoming the Auto Industry Branding Problem

Like most businesses today, auto dealerships are facing a hiring crisis. You want to staff up to keep pace with increased consumer demand for new and used cars, but you just can’t find people to fill those open roles. Of course factors like lack of childcare and health concerns play a big role in this. But one contributing element that is unique to the auto space is a negative perception of the industry as a whole.

Hireology’s State of Hiring research found that only 27% of job seekers across all industries have a higher than average perception of working in the auto space. And that number drops to 19% among women. Compare this to the 50% of respondents who have a positive perception of working in corporate offices like law firms. At a time when job seekers have more options for work than ever before, a negative perception of your industry can make or break your ability to hire quality talent.

There are a number of factors contributing to the auto industry’s less-than-ideal perception. The industry has long been defined by long shifts, unstable commission-based pay and pushy sales strategies. Job seekers today have reprioritized what they want in a career and for most, steady pay, manageable working hours and a better culture are top of the list. And in their eyes, the traditional auto industry just doesn’t fit that bill.

While many aspects of the current hiring crisis are out of your control, the auto branding problem is something you can address and overcome. There are things you can do to improve your reputation as a business (and the industry as a whole) and ultimately attract high quality talent. Follow these steps to give your dealership an employer brand overhaul today:

Talk to your employees

There’s no better way to figure out what people really think about working for you than by asking your employees directly. Send an anonymous survey, talk to folks one on one or host focus groups. Ask questions about culture, working conditions, wants and needs and what would get them to stick around long-term. Make it clear that the feedback is welcome and people should feel safe being honest.

Once you figure out the perception among your employees — and exactly what they’d like to see changed — make sure you take it seriously. Don’t dismiss people’s feedback. Write down the most common responses and create a priority list of issues to address.

Develop an employee value proposition

In addition to making any immediate changes based on your research, document the overall value you’re going to commit to providing your employees in an employee value proposition (EVP). Getting this down on paper will help you stick to your word. And you can point to your EVP in your job descriptions, on your career site or during interviews to showcase your value as an employer to job seekers. A great EVP includes:

  • Compensation: What salary range will you commit to offering? Is your range consistent with or higher than the average in the auto space?
  • Benefits: In addition to compensation, document the benefits you offer. This includes health insurance packages as well as perks like gym memberships or transportation options.
  • Work environment: Define your efforts to promote a positive work environment — that might include the physical space where employees are working as well as other policies like work-life balance and lines of communication with leadership.
  • Career growth: Map out opportunities for training, development and growth across all departments within your dealership to show potential employees that you’ve put thought into their career paths.
  • Company culture: Finally, document what you’re doing to create a positive company culture. Efforts like recognizing and rewarding folks for their contributions or defining a set of core values that you stick to can go a long way.

Embrace recruitment marketing 

Of course the changes you’re making to your culture and value proposition are only useful to recruiting if you make them known. That’s where recruitment marketing comes in — or the use of traditional marketing strategies to get the word out about what you offer your employees that your competitors don’t. Here are a few recruitment marketing tactics to explore:

  • Career site: Your career site is a dedicated page on your company website dedicated to showcasing who you are as an employer. It’s a great way to advertise all the unique perks you offer employees: pay, benefits, culture, flexibility, diversity and more.
  • Social media: Most adults today use at least one social media site. So use your social media profiles as another channel for getting the word out about your company’s unique offerings — anything on your career site can also be shared here.
  • Employee testimonials: Explain what it’s like to work for you through the words of your existing employees. These testimonials can live on your career site or company social media pages.
  • Content marketing: Write blog posts or case studies about your efforts to make your company a great place to work. Link to them on social media and encourage your employees to share them in their networks.
  • Media relations: Work to secure coverage about your company in the media outlets your target talent pool consumes — whether that’s the local news or industry-specific publications.

Enhance Your Hiring Process

Lastly, build a team of employees who reflect the perception you hope to portray. Ultimately, your company’s reputation is defined by the people who work for you — from your leadership team to your individual contributors. But to attract and hire high quality talent, you might need to make some changes to the hiring processes and tactics you’ve used in the past. Diversifying your applicant sourcing and adding steps like phone screens, skills tests and reference checks to your hiring process can go a long way in helping you select the right folks for your team.

The negative perception of the auto space is another hurdle you have to clear as a dealership in an already challenging hiring market. Make it easier on yourself by committing to improving your reputation. And the more dealerships that work to make these changes now, the better the industry as a whole will be perceived. Don’t wait — start transforming your dealership’s employer brand today.

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