There's something to be said for paying your dues.
Start at the bottom, push the broom, wash the cars and learn the business the hard way -- from the ground up. Eventually, opportunity finds you, and you grab the next rung. Great careers have been made that way.
But in auto retailing, that's becoming a quaint notion. The National Automobile Dealers Association's 2016 Dealership Workforce Study paints a dim picture of the industry's ability to retain workers, especially women, long enough for them to realize the promised benefits of a career at a dealership.
Recruiting and retention are long-standing challenges, but no dealership can afford to be satisfied with this profit-sapping, morale-wrecking cycle of turnover and training. Today's churn rates, and the gender imbalance in particular call for all dealerships to commit themselves to creating more flexible, dynamic and integrated workplaces, where any hints of a boys-club atmosphere are erased and even entry-level employees are treated as potential leaders.
That does not mean turning over the keys to the newbies but acknowledging that in today's fairly robust job market, young people and women have choices about where and how they will work. And given the choice, they will gravitate to employers that offer workers flexibility with their schedules; reliable compensation; the trust to experiment and brainstorm solutions; and opportunities to network, learn new skills and to teach the veterans about new technology or shifts in consumer preferences.
So every dealership must stand ready to question some of the fundamentals of how it does business.
Such efforts will pay double: A dealership that molds itself into a rewarding place for millennials and women to work is likely to be a welcoming place for them to shop as well.
So where to start? Next week, Automotive News publishes its annual list of the Best Dealerships To Work For and showcases the things they do to attract, retain and inspire workers. Those that made the list ought to be proud. And those that didn't ought to study it hard.