Garber Rochester — which represents Honda, Acura, Audi and Porsche brands at three side-by-side dealerships and has a collision center and a pre-owned vehicle store — is attacking attrition from multiple angles: Employees get cash bonuses, tickets to sporting events, parties and recognition programs, for example.
But dealership managers say one of the biggest ways to limit turnover is their focus on leadership development and career growth through an emerging leaders program, which identifies and trains high-potential employees.
Whelehan was part of the program almost immediately after managers noted in her initial interview that she would be interested in higher-level positions.
That kind of initiative fits in at Garber Rochester.
"We want people that want to make a career out of this and not just [wait] until the next bigger, better thing comes," Garber Rochester Managing Partner Kevin Parker told Automotive News.
The emerging leaders initiative, for which meetings happen quarterly, aims to select and train people to move up within the organization. The efforts also can unfold informally and have become part of the group's culture, Parker and others said. Candidates to move up sit in on job interviews and company meetings to learn more about the business.
Parker could not provide Garber Rochester's annual turnover rate but said it was better than the industry average. The National Automobile Dealers Association's annual work force study put store-level turnover at 46 percent last year. Garber Honda, one of the three Garber Rochester stores, reported a 15 percent turnover rate for last year as part of its participation in Automotive News' 2020 Best Dealerships To Work For program, in which it ranked No. 78.
A backbone of Garber Rochester's approach is the "Gung Ho philosophy," based on the book Gung Ho! by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. The crux of the philosophy is to make sure employees feel their work is worthwhile and that they are encouraged and in control of achieving their goals — not micromanaged. "If you're going to run your business, you need to unleash the brainpower of your staff and include them whenever you can," Parker said. "And it starts with knowing that everyone's job is worthwhile."
That extends all the way to car washers, Parker said.
Dave Hudson, service manager at the Acura store, recently hired a car washer who made it clear he had long-term goals beyond that role. "He was willing to do [the car-washing job] to get into the door to go to the next level," Hudson said.
That employee has his sights on becoming a service adviser, so Hudson meets with him and trains him on service writing. He also is learning to build and estimate invoices and likely will begin practice sales presentations. "So when there is a position ready, we can plug and play," Hudson said.
Hudson, too, was identified as an emerging leader. About a month ago, he was promoted to his current role; he had been a service adviser at the nearby Audi location.
Hudson said his role at Garber Rochester differs from a management role he held at a national aftermarket retailer, where manager positions were "sort of like a dictatorship."
"The biggest difference about Garber's leaders and what they're looking for in a leader is that our structure is considered [to be one] where we work for our associates," Hudson said. That means an open-door policy and empathy for employees' needs, he said.