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4 Strategic Staffing Best Practices for Dealerships in 2021

Hiring and staffing can be one of the most frustrating and tedious components of life at auto dealerships. And now more than ever, making the right hiring decisions and developing a strategic staffing plan is crucial to keeping up with an ever-changing market. 

Industry research finds employee turnover at dealerships (46%) is more than double the average U.S. employee turnover rate (19.3%). These numbers are even higher when you look at just dealership sales staff, averaging about 80% annual turnover, according to that same report. 

This kind of revolving door can make developing and implementing any kind of business plan next to impossible, much less support the nimble approach that today’s dealership leaders must embrace to strategize for future success. 

Forward-thinking dealership leaders have taken a proactive approach to strategic staffing by raising the bar regarding who they hire, determining the skills and mentality each future team member will need to possess and spending more time vetting candidates to ensure they fit the bill perfectly. 

While every dealership will face unique challenges, in this blog post we outline four strategic staffing best practices for dealerships, including:  

  • Determining the right size staff to create the ideal customer experience
  • Focusing on the future and new opportunities
  • Redefining what it means to be a good fit for your dealership
  • Developing a robust – and authentic – dealership onboarding process for new hires

Determining the Right Size Staff for Your Dealership

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many dealerships were forced to reduce their staff to cut costs and reduce the spread of the virus. However, as we settle into a full year of “the new normal,” dealership leaders are now asking how they can sustainably restructure their operations to both support long-term success and their team – while still providing an excellent buying experience for customers.

Increasingly thin margins and uncertainties ahead underscore the need for auto dealers to question how many employees are truly needed to deliver an optimal sales experience. 

Studies regularly highlight the potential consequences of understaffing, creating negative morale and impacting a dealership’s ability to deliver effective and speedy customer service. Striking a balance with your dealership staffing strategy is key.

By hiring the correct number of qualified, keyed-in employees, dealers can mitigate the risk of bad reviews and lower NPS and CSI scores. Make well-researched decisions based on your store’s exact needs starting by interviewing your managers and team members to see where they feel spread the thinnest. Ensure you’re taking a comprehensive look at your dealership’s reporting dashboards to look at both individual employee and team performance to uncover opportunities to promote efficiency or identify areas of needed improvement. 

For example, Market EyeQ includes salesperson evaluations that enable data-driven, user-by-user analysis to determine how each of your salespeople is performing, whether on their own or compared to the rest of your sales team. 

Focusing on the Future – Right Now 

This is also the time to begin analyzing which dealership tools and technology empower your team to work more efficiently or automate tasks previously done manually. Look for solutions that help your existing staff do more, such as predictive marketing tools that reduce the time your dealership’s Business Development Center spends chasing down weak leads.  

Ensure every member of your team can confidently use employee-facing technology. Evolving consumer tastes and buying experience demands, in addition to rapidly changing technologies, have made way for new buyer expectations. It’s critical to assess whether your current employees possess the necessary skills to fully adapt to a digital-first retail world alongside your dealership – as well as inspire your team to participate in continued learning to further refine their skills. 

Broaden Your Hiring Horizons

While some of your dealership’s best sales consultants won’t be as effective as digital retailing concierges, they may still possess the soft skills like empathy, attentiveness and emotional intelligence that are key to a successful team moving forward.

With the automotive industry hurdling at lightspeed toward digital retailing, it is crucial to identify the skills – and the types of team members – that will scale with your dealership well into the future.  

Redefining how your dealership identifies and retains talent is more important than ever. 

Ensure your dealership’s hiring managers are exploring recruits with various skill sets and backgrounds. Given this shift to digital retailing, dealers have the opportunity to connect with an entirely new pool of talent they possibly hadn’t considered working for a car dealership in the past. 

The modern dealership can lure great talent from other industries impacted by the pandemic, including tourism, entertainment and hospitality. By taking a competency-based approach to strategic dealership staffing, your team can search for candidates who possess the specific skills your dealership needs, even if they lack formal dealership experience. Outside of being digitally savvy, look for recruits who possess creative problem-solving abilities and those eager to take on a new challenge.

Develop an Effective and Exciting Dealership Onboarding Process

Once you’ve decided on the level of staffing your dealership needs, who to keep on board and established a new criterion for your recruiting efforts, you’re now challenged to keep employees interested and engaged to prevent a new cycle of excessive turnover.

After any new hire, it’s critical for dealerships to have a well-defined onboarding process designed to both quickly get recruits up-to-speed on position-critical processes and inspire their contribution to the overall dealership team. (The same holds true for “reboarding” furloughed employees that are returning.)

While this onboarding process should be unique to your dealership, it’s critical to begin before the employee’s first official day of work. Ensure leaders are aligned on what this onboarding process will look like before it begins to prevent any “awkward downtime” or miscommunication between teams. 

Consider treating day one as a true first day of work as opposed to an introduction into a week worth of paperwork, tours and process meetings. Research finds this sort of structured onboarding results in stronger employee engagement and improved retention.  

As dealers continue to adapt in the new consumer-first era, strategic staffing decisions are more critical than ever. Whether you are bringing team members back or hiring entirely new trainees, developing a staffing strategy curated for your dealership – and powering that plan with the right people, processes and technology – is critical to scaling your business well into the future.

Interested in learning how Market EyeQ can empower your dealership team to go further in 2021 and beyond? Contact us for a free demo.