Director, Talent Engagement Center, Hoffman Auto Group
With a background in human resources and organizational effectiveness, Gloria Purdy is director of what Hoffman Auto Group calls its Talent Engagement Center.
The position and the center were newly created when she joined the company in East Hartford, Conn., almost five years ago, to use innovative approaches to recruit, train, develop and retain talent.
“The Talent Engagement Center came to fruition because the Hoffman group wanted to elevate the traditional HR department,” Purdy said.
“Like the traditional HR department, we are tasked with benefit administration, employee relations, payroll processing, etc., but also expanding, to take into account training and employee development, and bringing it in-house, and also to elevate the way we bring talent in from the marketplace,” she said.
Instead of formally training technicians themselves, most dealerships hire experienced technicians when they can. They sign up for service technician training from their respective manufacturers. They recruit entry-level techs from vocational high schools and junior colleges. They also have veteran technicians teach rookies on the job.
Hoffman Auto Group does all those things, plus it offers formal, in-house training from a dedicated technician training manager.
“A lot of dealer groups or one-rooftop dealerships rely on master techs working at the location, to be a mentor and a coach for the entry-level technicians,” Purdy said. “I’m not aware of any other dealer group that has an internal technician training program.”
Hoffman has nine franchised dealerships across central Connecticut, plus two collision centers. When the group hired Purdy in December 2017, she was a newcomer to auto retailing.
Previously, she was director of organizational effectiveness for Olin Brass, a Louisville, Ky., manufacturer and distributor of copper and copper-alloy components in North America for various industries, including automotive, housing, electronics, coinage and health care. She also had been a human resource and continuous improvement manager in Waterbury, Conn.
Through exit interviews, Purdy said Hoffman learned that some salespeople — the group calls them “brand specialists” — and junior-level technicians left because they didn’t earn as much as they expected.
The newbies were unsure how to earn more in commission, or for technicians, how to earn flat-rate status. Flat rate is shorthand for experienced technicians making extra money because they can perform tasks in fewer hours than the manufacturer pays for a given task.
“We found that people were fearful about the transition from base salary to commission-based: ‘How do I get there?’ And flat rate is great for a technician who understands and who has the skills, to do a task in one and a half hours and get paid for three. But they also need the skills to be able to do that and fix it right the first time,” Purdy said.
Now the group has made it a priority to help employees understand earning potential, especially educating individuals outside of the automotive industry who aren’t aware of what they could be earning or how to get there.
“By implementing training and development strategies there has been a reduction in turnover throughout our company,” Purdy said. “The turnover year over year was 46 percent. It was 18 percent on 2021, and it’s now about 12 percent.”
— Jim Henry