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People skills can augment employees' technical skills, HR experts say.

Helping Dealerships Recruit, Retain Quality Employees

Dealerships don’t screen for personality traits, attitudes and other qualities during recruiting. Research boosts the chances of finding the best fit for specific jobs.

Dealerships could attract and retain more, and more talented, employees if they were to study their own recruits and employees in a systematic, even scientific fashion, in the same spirit dealerships study and react to customer tastes and motivations, experts say.

“What keeps us up at night is dealerships’ readiness to actually attract talent,” says Kevin Hull, director-Sales & Talent Services, JM&A Group.

Based in Deerfield Beach, FL, JM&A is a leading F&I products provider. The company also offers in-store and online training and consulting in F&I and other dealership departments. JM&A serves about 3,800 dealerships, Hull (pictured, below left) says.

Kevin Hull JM&A.jpgFor example, in the Talent Services area, JM&A earlier this year launched an alliance with Hireology, a technology platform many dealers use to track applicants and to help manage personnel who are already onboard.

Hull says one outcome of the alliance is an interview guide for dealerships with questions designed to match up recruits with the right position.

The questions are based on an analysis of survey data from successful dealership employees in various specialties, such as sales consultant, sales management, service adviser, service management, technicians, F&I manager and general manager, Hull says.

“We did job-fit studies, looking at the common traits of high performers in a dealership,” Hull says in a phone interview. The idea is “to improve the odds of hiring the right person for the right job,” he says.

Considering how important recruiting is, most dealerships – especially small operations – don’t make much of an effort to identify the personality traits or attitudes of would-be hires, or take an approach backed up by research, to find the best fit for specific jobs.

It’s “the understatement of the year” to say most dealerships don’t take a scientific approach to interviewing and hiring, says Sandy Zannino, founder and CEO of an independent consulting firm, Innovative Auto HR, Sarasota, FL.

“What we have in general is, hiring managers are not trained in how to identify top talent. It’s so easy to go with your affinity bias – that is, if someone is like you. Hiring managers tend to hire people that are just like them,” Zannino (pictured, below left) tells Wards. “Without diversity of culture, diversity of personalities, it’s hard to have innovation.”

Sandy Zannino.jpgShe recommends that dealerships regularly “flip the lens” and look inward at their own organizations and how they recruit, hire and train both newcomers and employees, instead of focusing all their attention on customers.

“We need to look at our internal customer, our internal employees. We need to build a value proposition…we need to research what those internal customers want and need,” Zannino says.

JM&A’s Hull cites a client, Chris Vester, chief operating officer-Hubert Vester Auto Group, Wilson, NC, as an example of a dealership executive who puts into practice a more thoughtful approach to hiring and retaining employees, backed up by behavioral research and professional coaching.

“I’m trying to be a leadership development company that also happens to sell cars and trucks,” Vester says in a phone interview. The group has three dealerships – Chevrolet, Honda and Toyota stores – all in Wilson, which is east of the state capital, Raleigh.

Vester says the dealership uses the discussion guides from JM&A and Hireology to craft interview questions. Via another JM&A alliance, Vester also employs the Predictive Index, a tool that measures what motivates different individuals.

With those insights, “coaching conversations go a lot better,” Vester says. That goes for finding appropriate job placements and for managing veteran employees as well as newcomers, he says.

Without naming a specific dealership, Hull says a recent example of how the system works is a service adviser whose customer-pay results are below average for the dealership. In the example, the dealership service manager initially responds with assertive language meant to overcome customer objections.

However, if management is aware that this individual is more comfortable with a more “collaborative” approach, JM&A can furnish more appropriate language, Hull says.

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