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The Road to Success: A New Vision for Talent Acquisition

In the fast-paced world of automotive, the pursuit of excellence is a relentless endeavor. Dealerships are always on the lookout for the next "game-changer," someone who will revolutionize their team's dynamics. But here's the million-dollar question: Is this strategy working for you, or are you still grappling with the staggering 46% turnover rate that NADA suggests for 2022?

Many dealerships I've worked with have an open-door hiring policy, driven by a primal fear of missing out on exceptional talent. It's akin to keeping the lights on late into the night to welcome walk-in customers, ensuring that no potential sale slips through the cracks. Consequently, we extend the opportunity to almost everyone, regardless of available positions. If they outperform the lowest-performing team member, they're in.

This hiring culture is why job security is virtually nonexistent in our industry, and our high turnover rates persist. Alarmingly, projections indicate that these rates will double in 2023.

Given these circumstances, who in their right mind would want to enter this business at present? I, for one, would think twice.

The term "Car Business" is often used loosely, as many dealerships operate more like car lots than businesses. Onboarding is a rare luxury, training is minimal, mentoring is virtually unheard of, and the HR department often moonlights as the accounting team. It's no wonder we hear phrases like "Final or Last Resort" rather than "First Choice," and it's entirely understandable.

So, how do we reverse this course and bring in the right candidates for our industry?

First, we must change the stigma. The "Car Badger" stereotype is deeply ingrained in public perception, which is far from the truth. To attract better candidates, we must work on improving the customer and dealership experience.

The next crucial step is onboarding. Did you know that NADA has a 12-month onboarding process for Technicians but no standardized process for Sales? In many cases, Sales team members receive no orientation at all. It's essentially a sink-or-swim trial, leaving new hires to fend for themselves. Why? Because we expect high failure and turnover rates and hesitate to invest in employees before they prove themselves. This approach is a recipe for failure, a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself.

What many fail to realize is the hidden cost associated with this approach. It doesn't appear as a line item on financial statements, making it challenging to measure. If we could measure it, it would undoubtedly become a top priority for every stakeholder in the industry.

Changing this mindset will be our greatest challenge. We need to design a new system before we even start recruitment. We must have faith that the candidates we hire are seeking careers and are willing and committed to the journey ahead.

This requires transparency and openness about the industry's realities, sharing both success stories and failures as part of the onboarding process. Engage the entire team to discuss their thoughts on the final product. Once this foundation is in place, we can build the right team.

One of the leading dealership groups in the US boasts zero hires from other dealerships in Sales, and their reasoning is illuminating. They prefer individuals with exceptional customer service and experience, even if they have no prior automotive industry experience. Reflecting on my own experiences, I can confirm that individuals from outside the industry have often outperformed their industry-experienced counterparts, with significantly lower turnover rates. This dynamic allows for the creation of a stronger company culture, which, in turn, fosters greater employee engagement. An engaged employee performs at a 55% higher level than one who is not.

So, where can we find these exceptional hires? The answer is simple: Look for them wherever you've received outstanding service. They could be at your local coffee shop, the mall, the bank, a valet stand, hotels, restaurants, gyms—virtually anywhere but a car dealership. The odds of finding a diamond in the rough are high, and it won't take much time to spot them. However, once you do, it's crucial to invest in their growth and development.

While the industry they are entering may or may not offer immediate financial equivalence to what they can earn at a dealership, we must demonstrate the opportunities and progression available. Provide comprehensive onboarding, dedicated training, and ongoing mentorship and coaching. Doing so will safeguard your investment in them, yielding tenfold returns. Ignoring this investment will result in them leaving as quickly as they arrived.

As you contemplate building your team, remember the words of Herb Brooks when selecting the 1980 Gold Medal Olympic Team: "I want players who play for the name on the front of the sweaters, not the back." In other words, seek individuals who prioritize the team over individual ambitions.

If you require assistance in this transformative journey, please feel free to reach out to me personally at or via phone at (872) 274-4422. We have partners specializing in every aspect of this process and would be delighted to discuss how we can assist you in reshaping your dealership's future. Together, we can build a team that will redefine the automotive industry.

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