NEW ORLEANS -- In the quest to recruit and retain talent, dealers must create a hiring process and a desirable culture that includes stable pay, good hours and career growth opportunities, experts said at the Automotive News Retail Forum here.
Those are the things dealer Paul Walser started years ago. At the time, his peers called him crazy, he said. That's because Walser switched to one-price selling, changed from a commission-based pay plan to an hourly/salary plan and instituted a 40-hour workweek. He said he also tweaked his hiring process to create a culture that fostered career growth and lowered employee turnover.
"You've got to be open-minded about it because if you only do one part, you won't succeed. All this stuff has to work together," said Walser, CEO of Walser Automotive Group in Edina, Minn.
Walser was one of three experts on a panel about talent development and recruitment.
Panelists said the auto retail industry does a poor job promoting itself to potential talent. For example, dealers spend millions to market cars, but put little time and effort into marketing themselves as employers, said Adam Robinson, CEO of Hireology.
"You think you have a job applicant problem," Robinson said. "You have a marketing and talent funneling problem."
Many dealers also fail to stick to a uniform hiring process, opting instead to make impulsive hires based on gut instinct, said Suzanne Malo, director of executive search at DHG Search. "Don't change your entrepreneurial spirit, but in recruiting, slow down. You need to follow the process, no short cuts."
That's because hiring out of desperation or taking a short cut inevitably results in a bad hire, she said.
Her suggested recruitment process is:
- Take your time and run multiple ads in various venues.
- Narrow the candidate pool to four or five top people.
- Have multiple dealership managers interview the top candidates and rank them.
- Select two finalists.
- Thoroughly vet those finalists with drug testing and references.
- Then, repeat the first three steps, selling the dealership without overselling it.
Malo and Robinson said such a process is essential because making a bad hire is expensive. Robinson said employee turnover costs a dealership with 55 employees about $400,000 a year due to search and training expenses and potential lost sales and service business.
To reduce his turnover rate, Walser said he has a grow-them-yourself approach. He works with technical schools to recruit service technicians and promotes auto retail careers at local colleges and high schools. He gives his sales staff 13 weeks of training and regularly rewards top achievers with trips and dinners.
Today, about 70 percent of his salespeople have college degrees and they sell an average of 15 cars each per month, his finance and insurance profits are higher than his competitors' and customer satisfaction scores are up, he said.
When dealers are disciplined about hiring it changes their culture, Walser said. "You'll have something special going on and you'll beat your competition. And, they'll probably think you're crazy," he said.