(Not So) Radical Ideas – Critical Changes for a Millennial Work Force

I recently spoke at a conference in Orlando. After my presentation, I noticed a workshop on the schedule: “How to recruit and keep your technicians.” I ran down the hall to a room packed like sardines. The conference-goers were anxious to attend because someone was finally going to share the magic bullet! A woman approached the podium. We awaited her message with anxious anticipation. “I’m sorry, today’s speaker didn’t show up.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony.

The large crowd is proof our industry is entering a crisis. It is increasingly difficult to find quality employees and recruit new talent. The next generation isn’t considering the automotive industry as a career choice. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020 half our work force will be Millennials and younger. We must take steps now to attract and keep these valuable assets.

Warning: the following suggestions will require big changes and an open mind.

Let’s start with recognizing what is important to this group:

They need a sense of purpose.

Believe it or not, this is more important than money! They want their work to count or make a difference. While there are many generous dealers, this is a new concept for our employee incentives. In our field we have focused on numbers, productivity and bonuses. Now we need to focus on a different type of incentive. So how can we fulfill this need?

Set a clear impression about your core values. You should have a very concise mission statement posted throughout your dealership and on job postings. Integrity, honesty, service and commitment are all strong words. Your mission statement should be very visible and practiced by all on your team.

Get the entire staff involved in outside causes. Most dealership are great at doing this around the Holidays and it produces unity and the sense of fulfillment we all desire. Why not keep that going all year round? Local causes such as supporting a homeless shelter, or gathering cash for a struggling family in the community can be particularly rewarding. You can tie donations to production. For example, donate to a cause of the employee’s choice for selling so many xyzs or for hours produced. We recommend games where $$ goes into the employees pocket and $$ goes into a jar labeled with their cause. This will encourage fun and competition while increasing performance.

This group must be active on social media.

I understand wanting to limit access to social media, but you will not attract new talent without it. Why not make it productive? Consider a private company page. Encourage or require everyone to post at least one thank you note to another employee every day. “Thank you for getting that oil change done so fast,” “Thank you for helping me complete that engine job” etc… Of course there will be jokes and fun videos or daily helpful posts from sw Service Solutions, (I had to throw that in, of course.) The positive remarks, information and thank you’s will create a fun positive environment that will attract fun positive new employees. Make it very clear this will not be a page used for complaints or reprimands.

They want clear standards that apply to all.

The days of “Do what I say and not what I do” are over. Actually they should have never existed. If everyone is required to wear a nametag, you should wear a nametag. Don’t require anything of your employees that you don’t require of yourself. If you are a leader, lead by example. There is no better way to gain respect than to set consistent standards and participate yourself one hundred percent. Along with that respect you will gain loyalty and commitment.

You must provide learning opportunities.

It is important to provide books, articles, technology and training to promote development. This could be a huge part of your social media page as you discuss training sessions, books and announce new accomplishments and certifications.

The current young generation grew up being able to Google everything and will get bored quickly without the opportunity for continued learning and growth. With all of their knowledge and ability to adapt to new technology, they are also the perfect group to research and teach others. Give them assignments and responsibilities to share their knowledge in these areas. They will be even more open to listening to the mentors that you provide. You have to admit that old dogs bring knowledge and experience but a new pup will bring energy and the ability to adapt quickly to new ideas. Use these strengths in every department.

Fewer hours with more flexibility.

I saved this top priority for last because I know it is the most challenging. Many people think that fewer hours equal laziness, which simply isn’t true. If you want to be able to give back, make a difference, be social, and continue learning; you need time. Some dealerships have gone to a 4 days on- 3 days off schedule with success. In order to make this efficient, advisors would need to work with a partner. When one advisor is off, the other is there which requires great communication skills and builds teamwork. You could use a similar schedule for technicians. Ask for your team’s input in developing options. I am sure they will have many ideas and will appreciate that you value their involvement. There is a good chance this is going to affect their pay so group participation is important.

All of these steps are easy to incorporate with a little time and effort. The payoff will be tremendous results. Open-minded, forward thinking companies will attract the best new talent because your employees will tell all of their friends what a great place it is to work. If we don’t begin to make these changes today, we could be obsolete tomorrow!

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