The automotive industry is no longer competing with itself for talent.
Hireology co-founder and chief executive officer Adam Robinson says that in looking for new hires, auto dealers now compete with Amazon and that company’s $15-per-hour minimum wage. The auto industry competes with Jiffy Lube and the hospitality industry. And you might be surprised to hear that the automotive industry even competes with the banking industry for talent.
Robinson recently asked representatives of a Pittsburgh dealership which company was its top competition in acquiring talent.
“They told me it was PNC Bank,” said Robinson.
“Now when would you have ever thought that as a dealer your biggest problem is going to be convincing people not to work for PNC for sales or service and come work for you at your store?” Robinson asked. “We’ve entered a world of near-full employment, historic low unemployment and dealers just have to do this differently.”
Partnership aims to address hiring challenges
Hireology describes its focus in part as equipping human resources and business leaders with the skills and technology “to manage the full employee lifecycle — from hire to retire — in one seamless platform.”
And to help address auto dealerships’ challenges of attracting talent in today’s competitive hiring market, Hireology and automotive marketing services provider Maritz in April announced a partnership to help dealers identify top job candidates, speed the hiring process and manage onboarding through performance improvement tools such as training, communications, incentives and recognition.
Robinson said technology is now available to help dealers do all that. They can compete for talent and “transition into a new way of operating that’s going to ensure our viability as an industry over the long run,” he said.
Dealers, he said, must focus on the business model of their people, how they pay their people, how to motivate them, how to teach and train them, and how to keep them.
“And of course, how all of that comes together to deliver a great customer experience,” Robinson said.
Robinson is passionate about the topic of dealerships and their quest to attract top talent. He even mentioned a slogan that he likes to focus on: “Jobs are products that, like cars, must be retailed.”
Elaborating on that slogan, he believes dealerships must retail their jobs online just like they retail vehicles. Customers are searching for vehicles on their mobile devices or using Google, and dealerships are looking to respond to people who visit their vehicle display pages.
“All of those concepts are quickly becoming table stakes to winning the war for talent,” Robinson said.
He believes dealers must have a career site that looks great on a mobile device, and the job detail page must address career paths and work-life balance.
The career site should have videos and pictures, the application process should be easy and the dealership should be responsive and “deliver a great applicant experience,” Robinson said.
Dealerships don’t know if a website visitor is there to buy a car or look for a job. A vehicle shopper might switch roles in the middle of learning about the dealership.
“So, our employment brand as a dealership touches far more people in our market than our consumer brand does,” Robinson said. “And dealers need to treat it as strategic to their future success.”
Hireology and Maritz hope their partnership helps dealers find candidates to help them reach that success.
Maritz Automotive vice president Terry Erwin said the partnership will help dealerships with a “three-pillared” strategy that includes attracting, engaging and retaining employees. Maritz, he said, is strong in the engaging and retaining areas, while Hireology brings strength in the area of attracting candidates.
That was one area that sold Erwin on the partnership.
“I really felt like if you could start with a data-driven decision around hiring the best candidate and follow that up with the right onboarding and sustainment processes, it would be a great way to impact retention,” Erwin said. “So that was kind of the premise of the whole thing.
“And then for us at Maritz, it’s really about giving the employees at the dealership the right tools to make them more successful at their jobs,” Erwin said. “What we really wanted to do is create a higher-level engagement with the things that we’re really good at, and that we’ve been doing for decades in the auto industry, which include things like communications, training, incentives and recognition.
“And then be able to provide that in an environment that shows people how they’re doing and gives them the resources to learn and improve.”
Retention: A top dealership employment issue
Asked what the top issue was for dealers in the areas of employment, Erwin mentioned retention. Going through the recruiting process, identifying a good candidate, hiring the candidate, training the candidate and then getting him or her up to speed to the point of being productive is an expensive process, Erwin said.
Every day that passes in which a dealer has not filled a role, or has not filled it with somebody who is being productive in that role, costs substantial money for the dealership, Erwin said.
“So the misfires that happen along the way, certainly on the sales side, if it takes a while to fill a sales position, and after a couple weeks that person hasn’t really worked out, (and) you have to start over again, there’s a major void in terms of efficiency there. So that’s a big one, and I think a lot of dealers struggle with that,” Erwin said.
Robinson of Hireology cited various statistics to illustrate that struggle. He heard about one statistic showing dealers averaging 42% annual turnover, and in sales roles, that number jumps to 70%. The number leaps higher for female sales people, with a 93% annual turnover.
“Hireology’s part in that is making sure dealers have talent operations that allow them to predictably hire the right people, and to do that consistently,” Robinson said. “Maritz’s part in that is to teach the leadership skills and management process and to provide the training and learning programs that inspire these new hires to stay and develop in this industry.”
Dealers on the service side of the business have told Erwin of Maritz that the technician shortage remains an issue. Hireology has worked with the National Automobile Dealers Association on measures to provide human capital management education and training for NADA members.
NADA also recently launched an initiative to develop the next generation of automobile dealership and diesel service technicians. The NADA Foundation is working toward a strong workforce of automotive and truck retail professionals, with roles such as connecting people to on-the-job training.
Hireology entered into a strategic relationship with NADA in October of 2018 to provide education and training for NADA members in human capital management, or HCM. Hireology says it is now the exclusive recruiting and hiring technology collaborator for NADA and is a “human capital contributing member” to the NADA Academy and ongoing professional series programs.
Hireology and NADA will work together on human capital management programs, including the launch of “HCM-20” groups. The two entities will jointly create, craft content and market HCM-20 groups, which work to identify trends and best practices in human capital management in the retail automotive industry.
“HCM-1” has 18 members and meets a few times a year to discuss human capital challenges in the automotive industry.
Hireology is collaborating with NADA to develop human capital health metrics. A report on that topic will debut at Automotive News and Hireology’s annual Elevate event, which is a part of Automotive News’ Best Dealership to Work For program. The event will take place on Sept. 18 at the Hotel Intercontinental in Chicago.
Maritz has also gained an ally in its workforce development focus, partnering with Northwood University to help develop the next generation of automotive industry leaders. Northwood offers a dedicated automotive marketing and management major, and Maritz will offer internship positions to Northwood students.
A Maritz scholarship program will assist Northwood University students who have chosen to study automotive marketing and management.
Focusing on employees is important in an industry that faces recruitment challenges. Erwin noted that dealerships are open six to seven days per week. Many dealership employees work long hours, and many are paid on commission. Some of those factors are reasons why the automotive industry continues to face competition for employees, even from industries such as banks.
“What we’d like to do is understand what motivates employees from a more holistic view, so what’s important in terms of things like work-life balance, wellness, culture and some of the things that would not only attract an employee to a dealership but create longevity there, and give them a career path,” Erwin said. “We think that’s something that’s very important that has traditionally not been something that has been real strong in retail automotive.”