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KPA advises how to find, hire, retain the best workforces

May 22, 2015
When the economic bubbles starting bursting eight years ago, businesses responded to the weakened markets by tightening their belts — and their employee rosters. Now they are ready to hire again, and with plenty of qualified candidates, the hiring process should be easy, right?
"We all got a little rusty during the downturn," said Kathryn Carlson, vice president of HR Management Products for KPA. Carlson led a May 13 seminar at the CATA, "Finding, Hiring, Retaining the Best Workforce."
With employee compensation and benefits accounting for 35 percent of a dealership’s operating expenses, Carlson noted the costs of hiring and keeping the wrong candidates:
• It costs an average $10,000 to replace an employee.
• The typical worker wastes about two hours’ a day at work, leading to an annual nationwide productivity deficit of $759 billion.
That makes the HR Department’s role much more than payroll and party-planning. Carlson distilled the KPA method of hiring into five habits to follow:
1. Effective application. Post it on the dealership’s website in a prominent place; don’t hide it, Carlson said. "Many customers look at your website. There will be customers who say, ‘Wow, I had a great buying experience. I want to work there.’" This also is a good way to reach passive applicants who are currently employed.
Craft an application to generate the information the dealership wants to gather, then look closely at the responses. "For those (applicants) who write ‘See résumé,’ I’d say, well, if I wanted to see your résumé, I would have asked for your résumé. Doesn’t follow instructions. Rejected."
2. Behavioral interview. Carlson said many employers talk too much during an interview. "Don’t bother telling them that this is a really good place to work. They already know that; they applied."
More information can be gleaned, she said, by posing hypothetical scenarios: You are a service advisor with an angry customer in front of you, you can’t find the technician who worked on the car, and three more customers are backing up the service bay. Describe what would you do.
Poor interview questions, said Carlson, include the infamous "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?" or "Where do you see yourself in three years?" or "Tell me your greatest strengths," because they don’t uncover the candidate’s traits.
3. Reference checking. Carlson discounted the importance of identifying references. "Are you going to give me the name of someone who wouldn’t recommend you?" she asked. "And if you give me a bad reference, you’re just dumb."
4. Background check. The $25 to $30 cost to conduct a check is a great investment, Carlson said, adding that the extension of any job offer before the check is complete should be a conditional job offer based on passing the check.
5. Candidate scorecard. Have three managers separately ask the candidate the same several questions, then compare the managers’ reactions to the answers.
Carlson said employers also must weigh the cost of retention against the costs of turnover. "It might be that an extra $1 an hour, which comes to about $2,000 a year, will keep the worker and save you from training someone new," she said.
Also at the seminar, Nick Hardesty, KPA’s North Central district manager, spoke briefly on OSHA changes and employee safety. Hardesty said it can be easy to get caught up in the fear that OSHA or the EPA is going to come knocking, and completely forget about the need to focus on employee safety. 
That lack of attention can have a real effect on the company’s bottom line when a dealership finds itself with a sharp increase in accidents and injuries in its workplace.