For three years, Miller says, she and her husband, Jeff, have made a concerted effort to recruit young, college-educated employees without automotive experience to staff their two Subaru dealerships and finance company. That effort includes not just making the most of chance encounters, but staying connected with local colleges to develop a pipeline of interns and prospective hires.
These millennials work in sales, marketing, service and other departments. And the Millers say the young workers' presence has changed the businesses in many ways: Turnover in entry-level jobs is down, health care costs are lower and the youthful mindset of the dealerships helps cater to Subaru's shopper base.
"Subaru customers are intelligent," Tatiana Miller says. "They tend to have a college degree or higher. They've already done their research. They want somebody to listen to them and not to push them in one direction or another."
For many dealerships, it's hard to attract such workers, let alone keep them motivated to stay. So the Millers, who both hold master's degrees from the University of Utah, maintain relationships within the university's business school to keep tabs on potential hires. The dealerships also offer internship programs for undergraduate students at the University of Utah and other local colleges.
Josh Goldsmith, a 20-year-old marketing student and an intern at the dealerships, works 20 to 30 hours per week for the stores while going to school full time. He runs the dealerships' social media presence, shoots photos of new and used vehicles in inventory for Mark Miller Subaru Midtown's website and organizes community-outreach events sponsored by the dealership.
"Rather than being the errand boy, I really got to do my own projects and see my projects through," he said, citing a critical touchstone of job satisfaction among millennials, who generally are ages 18 to early 30s.
Tatiana Miller says interns are hired with the intention of making them full time after graduation if positions are open, and paid accordingly.
"The average employee makes about $50,000 at the company, so we really push for all staff to make $12 per hour or more, so we don't see a lot of drop-off in the lower levels," she said.