The auto industry has dealt with several changes in recent years, largely in response to new spending habits and expectations of millennials both as consumers and employees. While dealerships have made great strides in connecting with this new generation of consumers, many businesses are still in need of significant improvement to retain their employees. In fact, the employee turnover rate within the industry is currently at an average of 67 percent according to the NADA Dealership Workforce Study, correlating to an industry loss of billions of dollars annually with the average dealership suffering an average of half a million dollars lost each year.
An issue half a decade in the making
This decline in employee retention has been steady since 2011, with the average sales position lasting a little over two years, according to the NADA, compared to nearly four years ago when the study began. Furthermore, data showed that while only 45 percent of dealerships had an average retention rate of three or more years; that number fell to about 33 percent when looking exclusively at those in sales positions. The private sector, by comparison, reported an average of 67 percent retention for the same amount of time.
Not surprisingly, the best-in-class dealerships with the highest revenue and profitability also suffer the lowest turnover rates. What’s more, dealerships across the board seem to be notably lacking at hiring and retaining women, with less than 20 percent of the workforce made up of women in 2018.
Another factor accounting for the loss in dealership employee retention is the changing landscape for consumers. Instead of going into a dealership and meeting with a salesperson when looking for a new car, customers are now spending up to 11 hours researching online and less than four hours inside a dealership speaking with a representative. With significantly fewer trips to a dealership, the salesperson has less of an opportunity to interact with, and push product on, customers. This new lack of negotiation skills, however, provides dealerships with the opportunity to hire a more diverse, and perhaps qualified, pool of candidates.
Retention issues impact sales
The employee retention rates not only cost dealerships a monetary loss in the form of search and training expenses but ultimately result in lost vehicle sales due to inexperienced sales staff and a lack of continuity with customers.
According to AlignMark Corporation, there are four main categories to help employers quantify the expense associated with employee turnover:
- Separation – unemployment compensation, exit interview costs, etc.
- Replacement – advertising, pre-employment testing, time, and materials
- Training – time and effort required to bring new hires up to speed
- Productivity – lapse in morale and production, as well as low-quality output
How to find the right employees
By mid 2020, millennials are expected to make up 40 percent of all new-vehicle buyers. Millennials also now form the majority of the workforce and currently account for 60 percent of new dealership hires, making it critical to maintain a focus on retaining this demographic to keep dealership floors stocked with quality salespeople. Millennials, however, dislike the conventional dealership commission-based compensation and instead prefer salaried positions with more steady income and advancement opportunities. This makes it difficult for many dealerships to retain their new hires, requiring those in hiring positions to reevaluate the interview process and hiring strategies altogether.
According to ESI Trends, common mistakes dealerships should avoid during the hiring process include:
- Hiring quickly out of desperation
- Hiring someone after just one interview with one person at the dealership
- Overselling the position’s earning potential
- Not trying to impress the recruit
Some additional best practices dealerships should consider to boost retention include:
- Keeping job descriptions updated with the most relevant, accurate information
- Implementing a business development center to funnel sales leads to salespeople
- Offering creative compensation in addition to stable base wages
- Providing a career growth and professional development plan
By switching to more base-waged positions with bonuses, dealerships make room for employees to meet customer needs versus negotiating the best price for the dealership. Dealerships that take things a step further and create a career path for their employees will significantly increase employee retention rates, especially for today’s millennial who places priority on career advancement.
The auto industry has recognized there is a problem in its employee retention and has taken steps to improve retention rates. However, there is still a long way to go in creating the industry culture and offerings to not only attract today’s top talent but to keep them there for the long haul. Until then, employee retention will continue to wage a significant toll on your dealership and the industry as a whole