Parts Employee Relations Human Resources Department

Retain Employees by Hiring Internally

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Employees are often inspired in the beginning: they’re invested, interested, and likely eager to climb the ladder of your establishment. Along with the excitement that comes with starting a new job, however, comes a new challenge for the employer: retaining that employee.

As a parts manager of Toyota Town of Stockton in Stockton, Calif., parts manager, Alan Meier has worked in the automotive industry for over 40 years and says he’s seen a theme with employees departing.

“The only thing that I can say is that a lot of it has to do with pay, for the most part,” Meier says.

According to a 2017 report by Cox Automotive, two in three dealerships have no staffing strategy, and “60 percent of dealership hires are millenials and more than half turn over annually.” After employees leave, not only does the department have to look for a new hire, but it ultimately can disrupt the day-to-day flow of the business, as well.

“You’re paying for a person that you’re putting a lot of time and effort into,” Meier says. “You do want them to stay.”

 For the last four years, Meier has worked with a staff of 13 who are eager to come to work and rise within the ranks. Meier discusses how promoting from within not only pushes employees to work harder, but has also ultimately created a positive and driven team that he enjoys managing.

 

Learn your hire’s intentions.

When bringing a new hire on board with the parts department, Meier takes time to learn about the employee’s desired career path. Learning your employee’s goals while working for the company can provide better insight to his or her potential longevity with the department.

“We find out if [parts] is something you pursue as a career,” Meier says.

After finding out those goals, it’s important to be honest and explain where opportunities lie. For Meier, his department has the ability to start employees out at a higher wage in the beginning, but that’s not always the case with every parts department.

“I’m lucky here at this store because I do have a GM that will pay increases according to how a person performs,” Meier says. “We can financially do that, however, some of our sister stores are smaller and they’re not able to do that.”

 

After employees start, their performance is monitored in order to decide whether they are capable of moving up in the position or ready for a raise.

“We start them out at a decent pay level [and] look at a review after a year or two,” Meier says. “Maybe they weren’t a parts department person and before that came from an AutoZone or an O’Reilly background.”

By paying employees higher than an entry-level position, Meier has been able to cultivate a staff that is dedicated to his department and ready to take on high-level positions.

“I’ve got a gentleman that’s been with the company for at least 25 years,” Meier says. “If I feel that somebody has been with me for a period of time and their position justifies to have a pay increase, [then I will] present it to the general manager and we will review it.”

Regardless of how your department can finance new employees, it’s important to be honest with hires about what is common practice in the department.

“Get the person in [to the dealership], find out what their future plans are and then go from there,” Meier says.

 

Move your staff up.

As a manager, Meier is constantly determining whether his employees are ready to move into a higher role or fill an open position offered at one of the auto group’s nearby stores.

It’s important to take note on what you consider to be a good employee, Meier suggests, which can be employees who are fast-learners or adapting well to the parts environment.

“If they’re a good employee and [are] sticking around, it’s a good indication to know that they want to move forward and make a better life for them and their family.”

Providing opportunities for employees to advance in their positions has allowed Meier to think critically about where his staff members’ skills lie.    

“When we hire them and we explain to them the process that we have from promoting within, that gives them something to look forward to knowing [that] there’s potential growth within the company,” Meier says.

In the last four years as parts manager, Meier has seen two individuals move up in the department.

“One of the guys that I had in my department here was shipping and receiving, [and we] moved him to the back parts counter, and the other [who was] shipping and receiving wanted to try sales, so we promoted him to the sales department,” Meier says.    

After those two moved to new positions, two lot porters who were looking to move up were promoted to the parts department.  

“That’s how we mainly fill those positions is pulling from the other departments,” Meier says.

 

Utilize your dealership network.

Meier says the company takes notice when employees are dedicated. For example, the staff member that’s been with the parts department for 25 years is in the process of managing his own store.

“We’re building a new store down in the Los Angeles area that’s going to be a Honda store,” Meier says. “He’s going to be down there and taking over being the parts manager—he’s very capable of doing that.”

Within Meier’s dealership facility, there are a number of nearby shops within his auto group that employees can either move up or to which they can transfer.

“[When] we need to pull from one of the stores because there’s an opening, then upper supervisors will contact me and say, ‘Hey, do you have someone for this position?’ and I will say yes or no,” Meier says. “Where my store is located on the west side of the building, we have a Honda dealership, which the owner of the company also owns that Honda store. To the east side of me, we have an Acura store that is part of our organization, and also the one that I came from, which is only about 10–12 miles up the road that’s a Honda store.”

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