EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth of six stories celebrating our latest group of 25 Best Dealerships To Work For in Canada.
Millennials are rewriting the rules for employee attraction and retention, prompting dealerships to change the way they compensate and train employees, industry experts say.
These workers, born between 1981 and 1999, will make up three-quarters of the workforce by 2025, according to a recent study commissioned by the U.S. based National Automobile Dealers Association. Experts say millennials expect new approaches to technology, compensation, coaching and career advancement from their employer and want to sign up with companies whose values align with their own.
At the forefront is a need for dealerships to be both tech savvy and up to date in the information technology systems they use, said Bri Newman, vice-president of The Minery, an Ontariobased company offering tools to help dealers manage employee recruitment, hiring, development and retention.
Dealers who still have antiquated computer platforms or disjointed IT will be unable to hold on to millennials, Newman said.
“If I’m in front of a customer, and I have to go through 15 clicks to get the information I need, then that’s cumbersome and embarrassing.”
TECH MUST BE TOPS
This view was reinforced by a spring 2019 report commissioned by the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) and conducted by Seguin Advisory Services. “Thinking needs to be inverted to transform dealerships into technology-enabling companies first and product companies second,” the report said.
And Jason Dale, executive director of the Automotive School of Canada at Georgian College in Barrie, Ont., said he sees this in the students, who are “looking for [dealerships] at the forefront of technology.”
“Technology is innate in them.”
Steve Chipman, president of the Birchwood Automotive Group in Winnipeg, says tech-savvy millennials like to engage “reverse mentorship,” teaching their older bosses how to use new computer systems.
“It used to be the old guy teaching the younger guy,” said Chipman. “Now it’s the other way around.”
But the latest technology is just one of a panoply of millennials’ expectations, Dale said. Millennials are career-focused, and that means they want a “very, very thorough” orientation process, succession planning and weekly or bi-weekly feedback instead of yearly.
STABLE PAY, RIGHT CULTURE
Compensation models have had to change from ones based on commission to more stable salaried positions, with benefits and annual bonuses, Newman said. Millennials also seek dealerships that are the right cultural fit.
“Anytime I’m talking with dealers, I tell them to get very, very clear on what type of culture they want to foster,” Newman said. She cautioned that if a dealer chooses to “own” a community-focused culture, for example, that dealer has to fully commit to it or risk losing millennial employees.
Chipman said his millennial workers appreciate the company’s commitment to supporting the United Way. In fact, the company has its own GenNext United Way chapter, aimed at millennials.
“They want to understand that they’re making a difference [by] giving back to the community,” he said.
Recruiters can use their technological edge as a tool, Newman said, for example by adding the term “tech savvy” to a posting for a sales job.
“It signals that they are not recruiting for a typical salesperson,” she said.
SOFT SKILLS MATTER
Each year, the Automotive School of Canada graduates, on average, 75 diploma students, 40 degree students, and 80 from the automotive-dealership-management program.
Teachers at the school have had to adjust their approach for millennials and the oncoming Generation Z, Dale said, focusing more on soft skills. Not the technical details of how to text, but, rather, texting in a professional manner and in a way that invites a response from the customer. Millennial students know they are entering the industry during a time of change, Dale said. “They want to lead that change.”