Lithia Motors, in Medford, Ore., added 8,500 people in 2016 between new hires and dealership acquisitions. It expects to hire about 7,000 employees this year, said Christine Collinet, Lithia's director of talent strategy and acquisition.
Lithia leaders restructured the recruiting process two years ago. Collinet and her team created "talent acquisition teams" to support each of Lithia's 153 dealerships. The teams help to advertise jobs and move candidates through screening and hiring at dealerships more efficiently. There is an appointed team leader to serve every five to eight Lithia stores in each market, Collinet said.
The teams also help store leaders select better candidates using resources such as standardized assessments and stronger interview questions, Collinet said. But the teams do not make the hiring decision, she said.
"We tee it up and try to be good partners," Collinet said. The process "relies heavily on the stores in those markets to create their own culture. It's all up to the people in those stores to take personal ownership and drive the culture in those stores, and the word gets out there in the auto community."
Since Lithia started the recruiting revisions, the 90-day employee retention rate has improved, said Geoff Gill, Lithia's director of human development. But Gill did not have measurement data to share.
Dave Wright Nissan-Subaru in Hiawatha, Iowa, has been named to the Best Dealerships To Work For list annually for five years. Yet owner Dave Wright is "constantly" seeking "better talent."
Typically, Wright's employees stay with him for 15 years or more. He said it's because he lays out a career path when he interviews and hires them. He also trains them for three months before they interact with customers.
"A lot of stores, they're lucky if they do two weeks of training," said Wright. "I invest personally in the training; my son invests personally in the training -- we actually do it."
He created a stringent hiring process in 1998. He pre-screens candidates on the phone and does a "behavior study," drug test and three interviews, one with all department managers.
"If one manager and I feel that person will be successful, but another manager has a reason to believe they won't, we'll probably pass on hiring that person," Wright said.
He said they pass on about half of the job candidates they interview. But he would rather lose them in the hiring process than later, after he's invested in training. He estimates it costs him $30,000 to train a salesperson, not including his personal hours. His training investment in a service adviser is $10,000 to $15,000.
To keep talent, he relies on a noncompetitive culture that promotes a work-life balance.
"We don't split car deals here," Wright said. "You always help your buddy, and your buddy helps you on your day off. You might spend three hours selling a car and not get paid, but that's what we do. Otherwise, you have a situation where people are coming in on their days off or fighting over what is a half-deal and what's not."