Joel Furno aims low as an employment adviser and trainer whose company puts people to work at car dealerships.
While the job recruitment field often centers on management-level prospects, Furno’s firm, Citrin, focuses on filling entry-level dealership positions, such as porters, valets, car washers and vehicle pick-up/delivery drivers.
“These jobs are important” to a well-run, sufficiently staffed dealership, he says during a webinar entitled “The War for Talent,” put on by the American International Automobile Dealers Association.
Calling it a war may seem a stretch to some, but dealers continually struggle – and often compete against each other – for solid entry-level staff.
The revolving door for salespeople approaches 70%, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. Other dealership department turnover rates aren’t that drastic.
Failing to attract and retain entry-level workers, in particular, can stress out higher-level, revenue-producing employees, such as service advisers and auto technicians.
“It cuts into their time with customers and takes them away from their jobs,” says Furno, Citrin’s president and CEO. Consequently, “not having a great team of valets, porters and employees like that puts pressure on management.”
Short staffing in the lower echelons also can claw into customer satisfaction scores, stretch customer wait times and create disorganized car sales lots.
Citrin helps dealerships hire and get entry-level people up to speed.
Dealerships offer career opportunities that can blossom. “Many general managers started as porters,” Furno (pictured, left) notes.
But in today’s labor climate – in which job openings outpace applicants – dealers often are hard-pressed to fill lower-tier positions.
“For the first time in history, it is easier (for auto dealers) to generate revenue than it is to hire and retain employees,” Furno says.
Citrin employs 750 team members who partner with 81 dealerships in 10 cities. Clients range from small stores to big dealer groups, he says. “To compete in this labor market, dealers must place the same emphasis on employee acquisition as they do on customer acquisition.”
That means posting creative help-wanted ads that highlight why someone would want to work for a particular dealership.
He recommends that dealers maintain branded career web pages, with content that includes testimonial videos of current employees talking about how they like their jobs.
Additional advice from him: Respond quickly to applicants. “Job applications are like sales leads; they don’t age well.” Wait days to respond, and by then the job seeker may have landed a spot elsewhere.
“Some dealerships take three weeks to hire someone,” Furno says. “That time needs to be shrunk.”
His other tips for hiring and keeping the rank-and-file:
- Ensure wages are competitive. “Monitor them to avoid being priced out of the market. We’ve seen some wages go from $13 to $16 an hour in one year in this job market.”
- Develop an onboarding process that quickly connects rookies to their new workplace. “Make sure they have a positive job experience in the first week. And give them time to learn their jobs, rather than hire them and immediately throw them to the wolves.”
Generational issues can kick in. The up-and-coming Generation Z set that is entering the workforce “will not tolerate a toxic work environment,” he says.
That doesn’t mean a dealership should coddle young workers. But if they are yelled at, mistreated or otherwise abused, they’ll likely walk. (Not that others won’t.)
Steve Finlay is a retired Wards senior editor. He can be reached at [email protected],