Obtaining and Retaining Employees – Part 1

This is Part 1 in a three-part article.

  1. Introduction

Selecting the “right” employee is a challenge each employer faces when filling a position.  This challenge has become greater in recent years due to lower levels of unemployment.  Unemployment levels have a direct effect on the selection process—as unemployment rates go down, so do the number of candidates from which to choose.

The automotive industry has felt the impact of this changing environment.  The industry demands a new type of employee, one skilled in the latest technologies, dedicated to doing the job right and able to communicate with the customer and employer.

These changes have forced us to reevaluate our priorities in the work place.  Customer service has long been the prime focus in the automotive industry.  However, our definition of a customer has been limited to the individual who purchased goods and services from us.  This definition must expand to include our employees and peers.

An emphasis must be placed on employee retention.  Employee turnover is expensive, wasting both time and money.  Consistency is the key to a productive department.  Inconsistency produces a negative effect within the department, reducing calendar utilization and profitability.

Why does an employee stay at one store and not another?  Money, hours, benefits and work environment are just a few of the reasons.  Getting to know your employees is important.  Explore the reasons why an employee remains dedicated to an employer or company.  Opening the lines of communication helps to provide you with those answers.

  1. Interview Process

Hiring the “right” person starts with the interview process.  The conditions of employment must be discussed at this time.  Each potential employee must be advised of benefits, paid holidays, policies and procedures that affect the job and, most importantly, the company’s expectations regarding the position and the employee.

The following questions are fundamental in the interview process:

  1. Why does this individual want to work for this company?
  2. Does this individual have a background in this particular field?
  3. Why is this individual applying for the position?
  4. How will this individual contribute to the company and its success?

These questions provide a baseline of information for the selection process.  The information gathered at this time will help you decide on the most suitable candidate.

III. Employee Orientation

Once the candidate has been selected, the orientation begins.  It is important to gain the employee’s confidence from the start.  Create a positive impression.  Be available.  New employees have a lot of questions-be there to ensure that their questions are answered.  Provide a preceptor or partner to acquaint the new employee with his or her co-workers and work environment.  Once this is completed, the training can begin.

The employee must know the why, when, where and how of the position before he or she can expect to perform the job.  Give the employee the materials necessary to learn about the position, emphasizing the individual’s role in his or her own orientation.  Each employee must take responsibility for learning what it takes to do the job.  The employee will participate in a program of self-directed learning under supervision.

Allowing time to review policies and procedures provides a foundation for learning.  How is it done here?  Of course, there are elements of each orientation that must be reviewed and documented.  “Right to Know” policies and procedures, as well as the accompanying Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), are two elements required to be in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

A vital component of the orientation process is to review the Employee Handbook, which is the guide to functioning within the company.  The Employee Handbook provides:

  1. Information specific to the company, including its Mission Statement.
  2. Explanation of the terms and conditions under which the employee is hired.
  3. Summary of benefits and eligibility.
  4. Explanation of how the system functions and the employee’s role within the system.
  5. Explanation of what will happen upon termination, voluntary or involuntary.
  6. Issues related to employee safety.
  7. Employee Needs

You are building a foundation.  A new job is not only an adjustment for the employee, but an adjustment to his or her family as well.  Keep the family in mind, showing interest and support.

Employee needs vary depending on the individual.  Different employees have different personalities and personal needs.  One employee’s priority may be medical insurance coverage, while another employee may have personal needs that vary from other employees.

  1. Effective Communication

Effective communication is important in retaining employees long-term.  Employees have a need to be recognized.  Employee morale is linked to recognition.  People like to know that management knows they have done something good and it was recognized.  Management needs to understand the work environment in order to communicate more effectively with employees.

The image of the dealership and its reputation in the community are important in employee retention.  A less than desirable image can make it hard to employ even average personnel at premium wages.

A savvy employer should make a conscientious effort to know what the competition is offering in ways of benefits and compensation.  It is a good idea to perform a wage and benefits survey at least once a year.  As well, it is wise to periodically research benefits options for employees.  Through these efforts it may be possible to get better insurance coverage, lower co-pays and deductibles, retirement benefits, etc.  Employees usually appreciate an employer who listens, pays attention and shows a genuine interest in personnel.

Continued in Part 2! View Part 2

Written by David Dietrich

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