Employee exodus usually can be traced to poor management.
That is the experience of John Phelan, dealer at Jack Phelan Chevrolet in Lyons, Ill.
In business for 33 years, the Chicago-area dealership founded by Phelan's father sells only Chevrolet products in a market that has up to 70 other Chevrolet dealers.
Could his staff go somewhere else to work? You bet.
But good management should keep them close to this family-run operation, according to Phelan.
"If there seems to be a turnover problem, I look at the management staff first," he says. "They generally are responsible for it."
Phelan says there have been times when he thought a person would make an ace manager only to discover that the individual was driving people from a department.
Even with training, not everyone knows how to deal with people, and that's what employee retention is about, he says.
Compensation plays an important role, he adds. Jack Phelan Chevrolet offers a 401(k) plan and has been using a year-end matching gift program that encourages a salesperson to set aside a small portion of the profit from each delivery, which the dealer matches.
"It's voluntary," Phelan says.
Members of the sales staff, the department most likely to experience turnover, can choose between 9 a.m-to-3 p.m. and 3 p.m.-to-9 p.m. shifts, plus an eight-hour, 1 p.m-to 9 p.m.-day each week.
"We started this flex schedule about a year ago," Phelan says. "The sales managers set it up, and so far it has been working very well."
Sales of new and used cars are up 25 percent, he says.
Higher turnover is noticed by staff and customers alike. Though Chicago is a huge and often impersonal city, customers still want to do business where they recognize and know the employees.
A high number of resignations throws the rest of the staff off balance. "They are kind of waiting for the next shoe to drop," Phelan says. "Productivity slides. People don't focus as well when they are on the job, or they may call in sick."
Phelan says he has hired a number of people who moved from automotive superstores into a smaller setting. Phelan Chevrolet has a staff of 65.
Employees want to work for a business in which the dealer is hands-on; a place they perceive is run in a manner that is fair to staff and customers, Phelan says.
He says that in a mega-store administered by a corporation, there likely isn't any one individual with whom an unhappy employee can talk.
Phelan's bonus contribution and flex-schedule plans have been successful. He says he cannot think of any hiring or retention programs that have been a disappointment.