Hiring and Employee Retention Practices for the Modern Dealership
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Hiring & Employee Retention Practices for Modern Dealerships

As we look to grow the next generation of leaders, it’s clear the practices of the past will not attract the leadership of tomorrow.

Laura Rowland is an account executive for iA American Warranty Group.

Working as an F&I trainer and account manager, it is a critical part of my role to stay involved in the daily hiring practices of stores I partner with. It allows me to better understand what each store needs and how I can help support the new hires on the team.

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As many of us have found, this process has become substantially more difficult in the post-COVID landscape. Many stores are struggling to hire at all levels. One of my stores found themselves so desperate to employ entry-level personnel that the sales team was required to take shifts at the front desk until the role was filled. 

As we look to staff our stores for the coming holiday season and to grow the next generation of automotive leaders, it is clear the practices of the past will not attract the leadership of tomorrow. Historically, when recruiting for sales positions, the car business relied on commission potential to attract new members to their sales teams. Promising six-figure salaries to those working even more difficult hours in the service industry helped recruiters build a larger sales force.

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But as the service industry itself struggles to find its post-COVID staffing and hiring structure, we cannot rely on hiring only from retail and service positions to keep our stores afloat. Retail automotive needs a renaissance to attract a new generation of employees. And while competitive income is, of course, a consideration, it is not what is driving young people to their future careers. Time is the commodity we are ignoring; by doing so, we are not building teams for future automotive management. 

The automotive industry struggles with a longstanding reputation for unsustainable hours and working conditions. However, this is rarely the case in stores focused on employee satisfaction. More often, stores are setting schedules and expecting (or even demanding) that their employees stick to their pre-set hours. Stores are closing earlier more consistently. I even work in a store that closes one day a week and has only seen its sales rise since making the change.

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The question now is, what can modern dealers do to attract qualified candidates into a business they fear will not accommodate the family balance they need? We must lead with future-focused benefits that highlight the flexibility of a position in automotive retail. Below are a handful of practices that can help in enticing sales talent beyond competitive compensation:
• Offering bonuses based on production, such as rewarding each team member with a monthly Saturday off if they beat their personal goals — Offering rewards only to top producers can have an adverse effect. It is vital to reward personal goals as well.
• Offering a four-day, 12-hour work schedule instead of the traditional five-day, eight-hour schedule to allow for two consecutive days off.
• Closing earlier, allowing for more consistent scheduling.
• Closing for major holidays, including Labor Day and Christmas Eve. A birthday off is also a low-cost way to set yourself apart.
• When possible, more flexible PTO.

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For many years, F&I was one of the more sought-after roles in the dealership. As of late, it has been increasingly challenging to hire externally, as we saw in the mass exodus of 2020. Therefore, we have fewer quality candidates looking for their new dealership-forever home.

It is mission critical that your dealership has a “bench” of trained sales professionals next in line for the opportunity in finance. It creates an internal incentive on the sales floor to be the next in line for management. It allows your store to grow that manager to fit your culture and expectations. It also builds a training community within the store that will build more effective leaders for future roles. 

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As the automotive landscape continues to change in unforeseen ways, we need to focus our attention on the areas of our store that need additional attention, including keeping the required inventory and letting our managers grow the talent. They must have the quality talent to grow, and by updating how we think of hiring, we set our stores up for success today and for quality staffing in the future.

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