Unless you have been hiding out in another country oblivious to your business you already know there is a serious shortage of individuals looking to change jobs that have both prior automotive experience and a proven track record which aligns with what you want to accomplish in your store.
Unemployment has stayed at unprecedented low rates for an extended period and with that comes several challenges to your dealership, but the biggest by far is attracting the right candidates. The most important question you can ask yourself right now is, “Are you attractive”? Technically, the question is, “Is your dealership attractive to the candidates that you wish to hire?”
If you want to have a shot at the best candidates for today’s dealership, you need to make your dealership, and your roles in the store are attractive to the job seekers. Since we interview so many candidates every week, we hear a lot of reasons why people leave their employers as well as what they are looking in their next position.
So, what is attractive to a job seeker that you want to hire?
Income is regularly in the top three, but not necessarily the top one. The days of attracting top talent at $40-$50,000 are gone for many positions in many industries. Income needs to be above average, attainable and clearly defined to be attractive to top talent. I’ve read more poorly written compensation plans that I care to count. If someone is going to work for you, they want to know how much they can/will earn and be able to budget based on a minimum expectation. With the number of people in the workforce with large student loan debt, this is a big deal in attracting talent. Do you have a clearly defined compensation plan that the candidate can understand when you make an offer?
The culture of the store is of paramount importance. We often hear people say, “I really loved working for XYZ”. When we dig for what made an employer special, it often boils down to the ownership/leadership of the store who genuinely care about their employees. They were made to feel like a family member or an integral part of the team. They felt appreciated. This type of culture is difficult to develop when you have a serious turnover problem in your store. If you have had a significant problem in your store over several years, it can take several years to work yourself out of that in the minds of candidates in your market. We often have candidates completely withdraw themselves from the hiring process when they know who the employer is, when they have lived in the market for a very long time. Are the best candidates avoiding you because of your store’s history?
Opportunity means a variety of things to candidates. For one it might be that they can earn more as they learn more and improve their skills. To another, it is about being able to take on more responsibility or being able to grow into a leadership role. For some, it is about a clear career path. For others, it’s about an opportunity to use their experience and knowledge to train others. When you interview, do you highlight realistic opportunities in your store?
Most candidates recognize the need for additional training and want training to do their jobs better. Do you offer training to everyone in your store? If you want to hire young, energetic, college educated individuals, you need to have an ongoing training plan. Most colleges don’t teach the jobs done in automotive, so those graduates come with an education that has never been applied in your business model. Someone has to teach them how to use those skills in the workplace. Do you have a training budget that is spent on productive training that impacts performance? Look at your training budget and see how much is spent on you the dealer or GM vs. how much is spent on your team. I know dealers who appear to spend money on training from their financial statement, but when you look at the details in the account, it’s all spent on the dealers 20 group, and a couple of conventions a year. Dealers need that training and engagement to lead their stores, but your people need training too. Can you talk about the training opportunities in your employment ads or interviews?
It is tough to interest the mid-section of the candidate pool in automotive because we forget that they have a life outside the store. I’m talking about the 25-40-year-olds. They typically have better computer skills because of the time frame in which they were raised, and they are often educated, however, they are also often in young family life too. They are often dual-income households with young children that they want to spend time with. How many hours does each position in your store really work? If you hire team members telling them, they will work a 5-day work week and average 50 hours per week, yet they often work 6 days and 60 hours that’s not going to help you stabilize a turnover issue or attract quality candidates. Do you have managers in your store that make your people feel guilty when they take their day off, sometimes to the point of penalizing them on deals? If you have managed to make this piece of your store more balanced for your staff, promote it!
We ask clients if they have benefits for the position they wish for us to help them recruit for. Oftentimes, I hear the basics. “We have a health, dental, life policy and 401K.” That’s not much more than the minimum expectation of some candidates. To the candidate, the details are more important. Do you contribute to any of these? Do you offer discounts on service work, details, or vehicle purchases? Do you provide demos or access to other items? Do you provide clothing or clothing allowances? My son recently took a new job, and part of his offer was an allowance to decorate his workspace and an annual allowance for training. The training allowance was very important to him, and the company didn’t overly restrict it. He could use it for online courses, local college courses, or he could use it for a conference. If you have these things are you promoting them to attract the best candidates?
We have a client that I have worked with for some time making several placements in his store. After we send someone there for an interview, we often have a follow-up conversation with the candidate. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive from the candidate when they leave that store. I believe the candidates are so positive after the interview because of the story that is told during the process. When we notify the candidate that they have been chosen for an in-person interview, we are able to speak to the positive attributes of the store. Then, the dealer interviews everyone so there is a strong impression left there. But the biggest impact seems to be the story the dealer tells during the interview process. I don’t mean story as in make-believe or unrealistic. I mean the dealer weaves a story of history, hard work, and the vision of the future of the store and the opportunities that exist for those that want to join his amazing team. It’s not boring historical recounting of the store. When candidates leave your interviews what story do they know?
The next time you get ready to place that ad to recruit top talent, stop and ask yourself, “Is my dealership (or this position) attractive to top talent?” If not what can you do to make it so.