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CATA seminar addresses keys to attracting, keeping workers

May 20, 2016
The nation’s dealerships spent considerable sums in 2015 on maintaining inventories and on other variable and fixed and costs. But 85 percent of their outlays were on the people they employed.
And the people they put on their payrolls, said Adam Robinson, is the only expenditure over which dealers have full control. Robinson, the co-founder and chief executive of CATA allied member Hireology, spoke about how to hire and retain the right people at a CATA seminar on May 17.
The presentation thus came in a month that sees millions of collegians flipping their tassels from right to left and looking for work.
Seventy-five percent of dealers report having trouble with their hiring processes, Robinson said, especially with millennials. Those problems will become more acute if they are not addressed, he said, as Generation Y workers represented half of all hires last year and now account for 32 percent of dealership staffs.
Part of the problem is the disconnect between what younger workers value and what dealerships tend to offer. People born since 1980 mostly want stable pay, career growth and a workweek that allows them to lead a balanced life. Dealerships, by contrast, tend to offer sales positions based heavily on commissions, no career path, and long hours.
"We’re not making this industry attractive as their choice," Robinson said.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a leader in hiring recent collegiate athletes, and Robinson said the company attracts crowds at job fairs. But what is the attraction to a company when responsibilities for the lowest rung on the ladder amount to parking and washing rental cars at facilities in the shadow of an airport?
What Enterprise offers are clearly delineated career paths and teachable skills that can be applied to future management positions with Enterprise or any number of other companies.
Robinson cited Schomp Automotive, in Colorado and Utah, as a dealership group that is poised to land Gen Y’s top tier workers. From the company’s website:
"Schomp Automotive has been owned and operated by the same family for almost 75 years. We thrive on inspiring pride among our team members and envy among our competitors. Our culture rests on providing opportunity and challenge for our team members while encouraging healthy work-life balance."
Robinson said the best millennials, who probably are mired in tuition debt and struggling to take flight from their parents’ homes, are unlikely to be drawn to a position based almost entirely on commissions. 
He suggested that younger workers might be more attracted to a position with a weekly ceiling of 45 work hours and a guaranteed base pay plus a month-end bonus to that worker’s "team" of $200 to $500 each, if goals are met. In the long run, such a structure might even save the dealership money.
Millennials tend to use their smartphones to do just about anything, including looking for employment. "Get on a mobile device and try to apply for a job at your dealership," Robinson suggested. With an effective website, "you’ll get better workers and less turnover."
Now consider technicians, where it’s a seller’s market. But since the service department tends to be the dealership’s most profitable department, finding the best workers is perhaps even more worthy of exploration.
The finite — and lessening — number of available technicians suggests dealers might have to embark on growing their own, with tuition reimbursements and more. 
"If I was in your shoes," Robinson told his audience of dealership principals and managers, "I would be making that investment."
Notably, he said the No. 1 reason technicians leave a dealership has nothing to do with money. Said Robinson, "They hate their boss."