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Redefining Today’s Retail Automotive Employee

In partnership with Dealertrack DMS

Redefining Today's Retail Auto Employee

What to look for in top retail auto talent — and what they expect from your dealership.

Foreword

The retail automotive landscape has changed — in many ways, for the better.

When the pandemic began, dealerships quickly pivoted operations and made tough but necessary staffing decisions. You were forced to lay off workers and find a way to sell cars with little to no face-to-face interaction. This meant you had to embrace remote work, adopt new technology, and change your rules for recruiting, hiring, and training your staff.

While these changes were expedited by the pandemic, we knew they were coming. We just had no idea how quickly it would happen.

With great change comes the opportunity for an industry-wide mind shift to take place — both for those seeking employment and those actively searching for top talent. Here’s what the latest research indicates for dealerships looking to overcome the employment, skills gap, and hiring challenges facing the industry.

In partnership with Dealertrack DMS, we’ve put together this eBook to outline what the retail auto employee of today looks like. We’ll start by introducing why it’s important to think differently about who you’re looking to attract to your open roles — like the fact that competition is getting more stiff, your dealership is more tech-savvy, and we’re overcoming the employment brand problem auto has seen for decades. And we’ll end by offering actionable steps for how you can find the right people to fill your open roles. 

What’s remained constant in recruitment

Though the pandemic has transformed who and how we hire, there are still constants in what you want from your staff, and what they expect from your dealership. Here are a few.

Auto employees are still in demand

Like most industries today, you’re looking to hire top talent fast. The war on talent remains, and even in a pandemic, turnover has run rampant at dealerships. The need for good people is at an all-time high, and you shouldn’t limit your applicant pool to only those within the retail automotive sector. Continue to market your roles to industry professionals with automotive-specific job boards, but understand that experience, customer service skills, and other important qualities of a great automotive employee can be found outside of the industry, as well. 

Your team is your most essential asset

Your team will always be extremely critical to your bottom line. This will never change — no matter how reliant we become on technology in the future or the market conditions, your employees will always remain your biggest revenue generator. Every hire you make is critical, no matter how well-staffed you are. Each employee has the opportunity to affect your company in big ways, including your culture, your customer experience, and your revenue, so continue to make careful hiring decisions. Not to mention, hiring new employees is the biggest cost as a business owner, so it’s important to do everything you can to see the ROI on your hiring investments. 

You need to take care of your staff

This has of course always been the reality, but it’s becoming increasingly more clear: you will not be able to attract talent without offering a good job and company to match. Things like benefits, compensation, work-life balance, career growth opportunities, and job security continue to drive job seekers’ application patterns, and your dealership’s reputation matters a lot more than you’d think. 

You still have difficult roles to fill

And lastly, you’ve still got roles that are more difficult to fill than others, but no less important to your bottom line. Technical training requirements and gaps in vocational education make it perpetually difficult to find talent for certain roles. 

Pre-pandemic, the estimated technician shortage based on technical school enrollment and projected graduations was 76,000. With Covid-19 preventing a lot of those practical schools from providing that education, the gap has grown. It’s predicted that the industry will be short by approximately 642,000 technicians between now and 2024. So getting these roles more visibility is paramount, as is offering internal training and certification reimbursement. You’ll attract new talent by showing that your dealership provides a promising career path.

What’s changed

There have been many knock-on effects of the pandemic, aside from the addition of a mask to our daily wardrobe. For example, individuals around the country have become more dependent on technology. In order to avoid spreading or contracting COVID-19, and in line with state social distancing mandates, technology has allowed us to continue functioning as normally as possible over the past year and a half. We’ve picked up new hobbies like bread baking and investing in bitcoin, and we’ve established a newfound appreciation for mental health and wellness. 

The hiring space has changed too. Here are a few ways that the pandemic has altered recruitment. 

Heavier reliance on tech

Job postings and applications moved to online only, video calls became the primary means for interviewing candidates, and recruiters used digital tools to communicate with both team members and applicants. And as hiring continues to rebound, more and more companies are opting for a completely digital recruitment process to ensure their landing top talent, because the landscape has become increasingly competitive (see #2). 

This increased reliance on technology has allowed companies to be more efficient, especially when they opt for all-in-one systems that offer integrations with industry-trusted technology. Time-consuming tasks like sifting through applications or running payroll can be managed from one intuitive system, and can connect directly with your DMS, keeping processes moving and administrative workloads light.

A hiring crisis ensues

The rebound of consumer demand also changed the recruitment landscape. As vaccines were administered and restrictions lifted, folks flocked to spend their quarantine savings. There was a dramatic increase in dining out, traveling, purchasing houses, cars, and other goods. And in response to this exponential increase in consumer spending, employers across every industry increased hiring. But while the number of open roles increased, the workforce participation rate remained stagnant, which contributed to a hiring crisis. 

Remote working options

The pandemic brought about a realization that remote work was effective among industries previously pegged as in-person only. So many individuals are looking for remote or hybrid work. Hireology recently interviewed nearly 5,000 applicants about their job search experiences and expectations. We found that 79% of retail automotive respondents said that they’d be interested in remote work if it was an option. 

Retention challenges

And on top of all of this, retention has become more challenging throughout the pandemic. An NADA workforce study reports dealers have an 80% turnover rate for sales people, ND Hireology’s 2021 State of Hiring report revealed that 87% of respondents in the retail automotive sector said that they’d be open to working in a different industry. In April of this year, more Americans quit their jobs than in any single month in nearly a century — for every 100 workers across hotels, restaurants, bars, and retailers, about five of them quit. This movement has been coined the “Great Resignation,” and it’s hitting employers hard. 

Talent expectations 

What’s expected of employers has become vastly different since the onset of the pandemic. 51% of automotive applicants said they looked for roles at companies that outlined their COVID-19 precautions and practices, for example. The pandemic has also caused many more individuals to look for roles in other industries, and explore career options that provide flexibility. These should be huge considerations in your recruitment process in order to hire great employees. 

These changes have altered the qualities you should be looking for in your retail auto employees. Next, we’ll break down what you ought to look for in your future hires. 

The anatomy of today’s retail auto employee

A good dealership employee should have the following characteristics: 

  • A good grasp of technology: as mentioned above, there’s a greater reliance on tech in the automotive industry, so your employees need to have an understanding of technology. They don’t necessarily need to have worked with the same software you have, but you can test their technical knowledge through skills tests before they’re hired on.

     

  • Adds to your culture: Companies often look for culture fits, but that can be exclusionary and biased. Instead, you should be focused on hiring employees who add to your culture. This type of person will bring new and different ideas to the table, instead of preserving “comfort”. These types of people value your dealership’s standards, but also positively contribute to your organization.

     

  • Communicates well: Good communication is an important and valuable facet of a great retail auto employee, especially if you plan to offer remote or hybrid work. Communication helps keep deliverables on track, improve productivity and performance, and overall morale.

     

  • Experienced, but not necessarily an industry professional: It’s important that your employee has the right experience for the role, but they don’t have to have a background in retail auto to be a good fit for the role. Over the past year and a half, the restaurant and hospitality industry has had to lay off a huge number of workers. Roughly 9.6 million people lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and 4 million of those came from the restaurant and hotel industries. These individuals are service-oriented, customer facing, and are used to working retail hours. Choosing to recruit and hire these individuals could be a huge game changer for your dealership.

     

  • Desire to grow: You want people on your team that are forward-thinking and excited about new opportunities and frontiers. You want your new employees to remain with you long-term, not someone who’s looking for a means to an end.

     

  • Ability to handle shifting responsibilities: Many dealerships are still operating at staffing levels below their pre-pandemic headcount. This means that there’s more lifting and shifting that has to be done among current and future employees to be able to continue to maximize efficiency. 

How to attract today’s retail auto worker

We’ve broken down what today’s auto worker looks like, so how do you attract this kind of individual to your dealership? It’s likely that some of your processes and standards will have to change to usher in the future of retail auto professionals. Here are some adjustments you can make and things to prioritize to get more traction on your open roles. 

Turn your staff into recruiters

While channels like job boards and search tend to drive a larger volume of candidates, employee referral programs bring in more qualified candidates, along with generating the best return on investment and reducing cost per hire. You’ll save your company money through setting up an employee referral program by incentivizing your employees to refer talent from their networks. 

Hireology’s recent acquisition of EmployUs allows Hireology customers to easily design a referral program, invite employees to participate, gather referrals and manage rewards — all in one place. This will streamline the complicated processes and tracking that often go hand-in-hand with an employee incentive program, while helping you get top talent in the door even faster.

Your dealership’s image matters

Your employer brand is a huge driver of applicants and customers alike. Many applicants start their job search with a Google submission of “top companies to work for’.’ Why? Because people want to work at companies that treat their employees well, have a good reputation among their customers, and offer a product or service that they can be proud of. 

In fact, 57% of retail auto respondents from our 2021 State of Hiring report said that it was important that dealerships shared details on their community involvement, 69% said that disclosing company Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts are important, and 53% said they want to see videos that highlight your dealership’s culture. 

And while it’s good to advertise these things, also make sure you’re proactively working to improve your company culture through employee feedback. If your current employees aren’t happy with how your dealership operates, word will spread quickly to applicants through avenues like Glassdoor reviews or even word of mouth, and then you’ll have a tougher time course correcting. 

Revamp Your Career Site 

According to Hireology data, 80% of individuals who apply to open roles from an organization’s career site are quality applicants. That means this is one of the most important channels to your recruiting and hiring process, and you should prioritize it as such. 

Add things that matter to today’s auto workers like:

  • Testimonials from your current employees about why your organization is a great place to work
  • A comprehensive list of your most enticing benefits 
  • Images of your employees at company outings
  • Your dealership’s values and culture
  • A spotlight on community involvement and events 
  • Your dealership’s DEI initiatives
  • Awards your dealership has won
  • Career growth opportunities
  • Any other compelling content that makes your dealership stand out

And it’s not just about making your career site appealing, you need to optimize it and your job postings for mobile and SEO so that as many people as possible can access your site. Hireology can help you create SEO-friendly job postings and all Hireology-powered career sites are mobile-friendly, so you don’t have to sweat figuring this out on your own. 

Change Your Job Descriptions

Take a red pen to your old job descriptions and remove anything that sounds like it would only appeal to someone already in the automotive industry. Look for terminology that feels exclusionary to those outside the sector, and while you’re at it, make these as inclusive and exciting as possible so as to not limit your talent pool, and make sure you have an equal opportunity statement.

As far as what applicants want to see on your descriptions, here’s what was top-rated by our 2021 State of Hiring survey respondents:

  1. Clear descriptions of what the job entails
  2. Salary and compensation details
  3. Explanation of the experience required for the role 
  4. List of benefits
  5. Mention of career possibilities at the company

Keep the Process Moving

In a tough hiring market, speed matters. In fact, 63% of our auto respondents had said their most recent job search lasted less than a month, and 41% said they received offers from two or more employers. This means your hiring process needs to be quick in order to compete with other dealerships — and other industries. 

Additionally, you need to ensure that you’re in constant communication with your candidates so they know you’re interested and they remain engaged. A lack of communication sends a message to candidates that you don’t value them or their time, motivating them to look elsewhere for work. 

Investing in an all-in-one hiring platform will give you the ability to streamline the manual processes involved in hiring, onboarding, payroll, and employee management. With Hireology, you’ll be able to attract qualified job seekers, communicate with candidates, move top talent along quickly — and from anywhere with the Hireology mobile app — onboard digitally, and manage their HR and payroll needs without the typical friction and disorganization you’d see with disjointed systems. 

You can also set goals for your team to hire in a certain time, and view valuable insights about your process with Hireology’s insights and analytics. That way, you can see where your process is thriving and where you can improve to hire even faster.

Be Open to Change

The benefits of being open and willing to change processes and adjust to the times will always outweigh the cons. For example, opening your mind to the opportunities that hybrid or remote roles can bring — like attracting more team members, finding talent from all over the country, and increasing your dealership’s productivity — will give your dealership a huge leg up on those that aren’t willing to offer work-from-home options. 

Keep an open mind when it comes to embracing new technologies, as well. Cox Automotive’s How to Thrive survey of more than 450 franchise dealerships found that dealers who embraced new business solutions and focused on staffing solutions became more efficient and profitable. These so-called “thrivers” also saw consumer satisfaction scores soar to record highs. While their peers remained static, 34% of thrivers reported a focus on staffing and benefits, and 86% made customer data a top priority.  

Ask your staff where processes are the most inconsistent and manual, and look into technology that can improve it. This will help attract that tech-savvy talent we mentioned earlier, and keep your team members around longer.

Post-staffing success: how to thrive

Once you’ve hired your new team member, your job isn’t over. You’ve got to do everything in your power to keep your new employee around.

The statement, “people impact profit” can’t be overstated in an uncertain economy. And with the onset of “The Great Resignation”, you’ll definitely have to put in effort to keep your team around. Here are some ways you can do that. 

Data Empowers Employee Performance 

With a growing focus on analytics throughout the automotive sales process, access to data is a serious sticking point for today’s tech-savvy employee. That’s because data — and the ability to seamlessly access and transfer important information — can speed up or slow down the sales process when a customer is ready to make a purchase. As one Dealertrack partner and Franchise auto group General Manager remarks, “(Data) impacts every decision I make every day. Do I take a deal? Trade a vehicle? For what amount? How did the customer come in? What are we closing that comes through the door?”  Without data, your employees are operating in the dark. Ensuring your team has access to fast, cloud-based data within your dealership’s CRM and DMS empowers entire operations to function, and will keep your team in place longer. 

Leverage your Technology Partners for Enhanced Success

As your dealership works to adopt more digital technology tools, the added stress to your staff is often overshadowed by the potential benefit to the bigger picture. Sure, new technologies promise better customer satisfaction in the long run. But, if your team members struggle to learn how to use them — or outright refuse to adapt to new processes — you’re headed for failure. 

The bottom line? You can’t throw new processes and technology at the wall and hope something brilliant sticks. Your best bet is to leverage the expertise of a partner you can trust to help your sales professionals, service team, and operational staff embrace change and even thrive in the face of new technology. Fortunately, modern Dealer Management Systems are much easier to use and much more intuitive than their former predecessors. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter dissenters along the way. That’s why it is critical you partner with a vendor invested in your long-term success. Find a partner willing and able to go beyond traditional tech support; someone who brings real, personalized experience to your dealership team. 

And the best systems will offer seamless integrations between industry-trusted softwares. For example, Hireology automatically transfers your new hire information to Netchex and Dealertrack DMS, so you’re not rekeying important information, and can get started managing your staff right away. This will remove the manual processes that burden your staff — like running payroll and managing time & attendance — so they can focus on driving profitability.

Connect top talent to top technology

You’ve done the hard work of sourcing for next-gen talent for your dealership. But, businesses who offer slow, difficult to master technology are driving away career-hungry team members looking to advance their skill sets in today’s competitive market. 

As Jeanne Brewer, General Manager of Acura Auto Group explains, “If we don’t invest in technology, the market passes us by. It’s critical that our staff has the tools they need to help answer client questions.” It’s clear that the wrong technology can make it difficult for your staff to do their jobs. Which is more unfortunate than previously realized. In fact, it eventually trickles down to your customers’ experience as well. In one study, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers a personalized experience. If your staff is unable to do their jobs more efficiently, workplace satisfaction will begin to suffer. And so, too, will your customer. 

Training, learning, and support

People generally leave employment opportunities feeling unheard or frustrated in their roles. Change can be difficult and scary for any industry. And the automotive industry isn’t immune. In the past 18 months, automotive dealers have dealt with lockdowns, new safety measures, furloughs, and layoffs. And the future economic landscape is shaky. 

Yet, throughout all of this, customer satisfaction levels actually improved in 2020, according to a Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey Study. Both new- and used-vehicle buyers reported that the process took less time and was more efficient than before. The inverse correlation is due to the overwhelming ability of your staff adapting to new technology, new roles and processes, and a desire to to learn and grow. 

While these findings are encouraging, it can’t be understated that having a dedicated platform where your staff can freely express their needs and learn together with their DMS partner about what works—and what doesn’t—opens a door to a whole new level of transparency, community, and access to technology and progress. By networking with other dealers, your staff has the ability to share their learnings and overcome obstacles that may otherwise serve as a breeding ground for frustration. Instead of working alone to solve complex issues, make it a goal for the sake of your people to bring everyone up-to-speed with unlimited access to training opportunities, learning forums, and support services.  

The expectations of retail automotive employees have changed, but making these adjustments to your dealership can help you attract and retain great employees. Hireology and Dealertrack DMS can help you ensure that you’re able to hire and manage your best team. 

And if you’re looking for more resources around maximizing your dealership’s profitability and understanding job seekers’ desires, we’ve got you covered. 

About Hireology

Hireology is an all-in-one recruiting, hiring, and employee management platform that empowers decentralized businesses to build their best teams. The company equips HR and business leaders with the support and tools needed to manage the full employee lifecycle — from pre- to post-hire — in one seamless platform.


With focused expertise across several industries — including retail automotive, healthcare and professional and consumer services — more than 7,500 businesses rely on Hireology for their hiring, HR, and payroll needs, putting people at the center of their organizations. For more information, visit www.hireology.com.

About Dealertrack DMS

Dealertrack DMS is the only DMS solution backed by the power of Cox Automotive. With easy-to-learn software, open integrations, connected processes, and intelligent, cloud-based technology, Dealertrack DMS allows dealers to improve efficiency and profitability throughout their dealership, and thrive in an ever changing automotive market. For more information, visit dealertrack.com/dms.

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