Recruiting the Next Generation of Service Advisors

Adam Wright NewsletterEvery time the word “millenials” is uttered, it’s easy to see the eye rolls and groans from the employers of America.  They are a part of our workforce that were given participation trophies and grew up with a computer in their hands.  But now they are all grown up.  Today they are starting families and desire jobs that pay more than minimum wage and offer a lifestyle above the poverty line.

“Millenials” are typically considered Americans between the ages of 18 and 30.  They make up roughly one third of our workforce (about 50 million adults) and will soon surpass the GenXers and the Baby Boomers generations.

Think back to the last time you hired a new service advisor.  Often, each market area is its own mini-hurricane, with the same folks moving from store to store to store.  As good as many of these “recycled” advisors are, why do so many managers settle?  Service advisors are the face of the service department.  At many stores advisors see 20 or more different customers every single day.  This kind of exposure merits real consideration into where we have set the bar with our hiring and training policies.

Many dealerships and their managers have little to no recruitment strategy in place to attract and retain young, talented, and motivated individuals.  In a stagnant economy that hasn’t experienced strong job growth in over a decade, there are a huge number of such young men and women in the workforce.  Most would jump at the chance to work in a fast-paced environment with an opportunity to make significantly more money than they’re currently earning.  With the right plan in place, these individuals could represent a huge win for a dealership over the long term, infusing fresh perspectives and energy into what is, at many stores, a stale atmosphere.

When designing a recruiting strategy we need to start with a simple question: what is important to Millennials coming into a dealership from outside the industry?  Over the past few weeks I personally spoke with a large number of new young service advisors to get their input.  Below are the three top desires they have and ideas on how to address them.

 Limit the hours at work and make those hours more flexible

Advisors typically work very long hours, many working from start to close all week plus handling a full or partial day on Saturday every other weekend.  This can add up to well over 60 hours a week – burn out zone for many people.  In my informal poll, the hours worked are far and away the number one source of job dissatisfaction among new advisors.  The work schedule is also the number one deterrent for potential new hires.

So what can be done?  The top request is to limit the hours and, when possible, make them more flexible.  Take a page from Goldman Sachs – a firm notoriously hard on interns and new hires – even they implemented a 17-hour per day maximum!  If a weekend day is scheduled, give them a day off during the week.  A study by Ford found that working 60+ hours in a week only results in a short term (up to one month) increase in productivity.  Afterward those long hours lead to a decreased productivity.

Allow all employees a “must-have” – for example, if an advisor is in a sports league with games scheduled for 6pm once a week, let them off early.

 Structured training – both on the DMS and within the department

Even the brightest and most talented young people need training.  Especially when they are coming in from outside the industry.  Too often dealership training goes like this – the manager walks the new hire around the dealership, shows them their desk and computer then says,”Follow ‘Insert Senior Advisor’s Name Here’ around for a week.”  This is a terrible way to introduce a new employee to their new career.  Many times that “Senior Advisor” is extremely busy, and/or does not have the skills, attitude, or desire to train a fresh face who may “take away their business”.

A good service department will have a structured, written training program in place for all new employees.  The best of these typically include rotational training with current employees in all departments and different roles – including but not limited to technicians, sales people, office personnel, receptionists, finance, and business development centers.  Upfront exposure to all the different departments in a dealership will be extremely beneficial in the long run.  The new employee will begin to form relationships with their co-workers and have a chance to see what goes on in other areas of the store.

Managers should also set up formal DMS training for new hires.  Contact the DMS rep and see what is available – many have webinars or online training available.  Another way to ease into the system is to allow the new employees to handle internal vehicles for a few days away from the pressures and time constraints faced when dealing with customers on the service drive.

 Fair treatment for all

In my polling, many of the younger advisors feel that they receive the short end of the stick from their manager and/or other older employees.  This often leads to a worker being disengaged in his or her job, driving down productivity and morale.
An example of perceived unfair treatment is a senior consultant taking all of the vehicles from fleet accounts, regardless of whether they were requested at write-up.  A simple solution here is to have a written policy to govern how fleet accounts and internal vehicles are handled.

Another concern new younger advisors have is a lack of equal treatment regarding breaks (lunch time included) and time off.  Again, having written policies in place regarding these issues will help prevent this issue from being a larger one that could lead to turnover or poor performance.

Millenials have grown up in an era of financial uncertainty and huge advances in technology but ultimately they want what all workers want: better hours with some flexibility, training and opportunities for advancement, and fair treatment from their coworkers.  Dealerships can and need to adapt.

The new generation is already here.

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