In sales, new hires begin as delivery specialists, earning $15 an hour as they learn on the job without putting a car deal on the line. Employees, who are in the specialist role for six months to a year, do small tasks such as delivering vehicles, programming garage door openers for customers and following up on customer satisfaction surveys.
Three out of eight salespeople at the dealership began as homegrown talent, according to Burley. The store, which sold 641 new vehicles and 358 used vehicles in 2018, has one employee in the feeder system.
Cultivating talent at a controllable pace ensures employees are at ease with the job, and each other, before taking on customers, Burley said.
"When you bring somebody [into] a performance-based environment ... and it's new to you, stress and the nerves could get to you and that could be seen. When you have this little bit of padding and a foundation, it makes the transition process much more comfortable," Burley said. "Not only do employees and staff sense that, but customers sense that, too."
Turnover at the dealership is about 20 percent in all departments, largely outperforming the industry. The average turnover rate at U.S. new-vehicle dealerships was 45 percent in 2018, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association's 2019 Dealership Workforce Study.
Despite industrywide retention struggles, many members of Audi Warwick's 52-person staff have been with the company for more than five years. Burley said the average tenure at the store is about nine years. Every new hire goes through the process, he said, "unless they're super veterans."
In the service department, new hires concurrently attending technical school work to support service technicians, advisers and managers as service porters. Duties include moving and washing cars and performing alignment tests. Typically, they stay in the $15-per-hour position for a year, but it also depends on how much technical training they have left.
After graduating technical school, employees get a slight raise in hourly pay and begin working under the shop foreman as a C-level tech, doing tire rotations and basic maintenance service including oil changes.
After about six months at that level, the shop foreman meets with the service manager and Burley to determine the technician's next steps.
"We come to a conclusion: Are they ready to become a flat-rate technician at that point? Do they need more hourly training? Is this job just not for them, even though they're in technical school?" Burley said. Managers monitor the technician's hours for efficiency for the following six months to evaluate their earning potential. From there, most move on to flat-rate compensation positions.
Four out of Audi Warwick's 16 service technicians began as porters. Three of them are now flat-rate technicians.