Three Steps for Better People Management in an Uncertain Market

When most people think of the automotive industry, they picture shiny car lots and flashy showrooms. But dealerships are more than just chrome and metal. In the U.S. alone, car dealerships employ more than a million workers from coast to coast. And it’s this “people-side” of the automotive business that truly keeps the industry running. Managing your staff requires full time Human Resources, a well-managed onboarding strategy, and a long term investment in culture.

This past year, many dealers experienced layoffs and changes to their organization due to the pandemic, forcing restructuring and changes to their business operations. And, according to industry forecasts, uncertainty looms in the market in Q4 and into Q1 2021. When it comes to the people-side of the business, one thing’s for certain: you need a solid plan to build and retain a team of engaged employees. Here are some steps you can take to improve your people management today.

1: Focus on your core values, not your headcount

According to Tom Stocco, the Chief Financial Officer of Van Horn Auto Group, dealers often make the mistake of focusing too much on strategy and not enough on culture. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” he explained in an interview with Dealertrack DMS. And when dealers forget to pay attention to their core values and culture, they tend to lose headcount. Instead, he recommends dealers start at the beginning: the hiring process. When meeting with current and potential employees, dealers should tell the story of their dealership. What are you passionate about? Why are you in business? What are your goals and aspirations? 

2. Invest in onboarding for long term success

Has your dealership struggled to keep employees from jumping ship? As recently as 2016, turnover in the automotive industry was as high as 43%, according to an NADA workforce study. Just a few years ago, record low unemployment made retention a key issue for dealers.

Yet, today, with unemployment at nearly 8%, dealers are still struggling to backfill positions from recent furloughs, hire new digital retail positions, and train existing team members on new technologies and operations. Investing in your employees comes at a high cost when you factor in low retention and large gaps in your employment structure.

The key to success? According to Adam Robinson, CEO at Hireology, dealers need to pay more attention to their onboarding process. In research conducted by Hireology, 66% of new hires who take part in a structured onboarding program are more likely to remain with your dealership for longer than three years. And three years at any company is impressive when you consider that 91% of millennials expect to remain in a job for less than that.  

3. Leverage technology to improve workflows

It’s time to let your dealership’s technology do some of the work. When it comes to filling roles, training, and managing your operations, the technology solutions running behind the scenes — backed by your vendor partnerships — should make life for your employees easier, not harder. Your Dealer Management System (DMS), for example, is literally the technology at the center of your entire dealership operation. If your DMS doesn’t seamlessly connect to your other departments, systems, and technologies, it might be time to make a switch.

According to surveys conducted by Cox Automotive, nearly 75% of all franchise dealers adopted digital retailing operations this year alone. With so much riding on your technology, ensuring that your team has support from your partners is essential. Time is one of your most valuable assets. So, ask yourself, “Is this system making it more difficult for employees to do their jobs? Are there unnecessary logins? How much time does my team spend on duplicate data entry?”

By reducing the friction points in the day-to-day workload, your vendors should free up more time for your employees to build a better customer experience. That is, after all, what you hired them for.

The decisions involving people working at your dealership are too important to be ignored by management. When it comes to investing in your team, understanding the impacts of retention, onboarding, and the impact that technology has on your team’s workflows cannot be understated.

Want to learn how to leverage your dealership’s technology for better operational efficiency? Join us at Cox Automotive Experience. You might be surprised what the right DMS technology can do for your business. Reserve your spot today!



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