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Car Dealerships Still Struggle To Attract & Retain Female Employees | DrivingSales News

Car Dealerships Still Struggle To Attract & Retain Female Employees

December 1, 2015 3 Comments

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Part 2: Recruiting Women In Dealerships

Part 3: Recruiting Women In Dealerships

NADA recently reported a 90 percent turnover rate for women in auto dealership sales roles. Marti Eulberg, from Sonic Automotive Group, comments on the findings.

The NADA Dealership Workforce Study delivers data and analysis from screened, classified, and statistically analyzed payroll records provided by dealerships nationwide. The findings for the fourth annual report compiled more than 290,000 records from 1,800 dealerships. Dealers utilize the report to compare competitive market wages, analyze benefits packages, manage employee retention, and identify trends and problem areas in their people processes.

While the report includes data pertaining to around 60 dealership job titles, NADA reports with special emphasis on nine “key dealership positions.” The graph lists those roles and the percent of female employees represented in each based on NADA’s data.

According to the report, “Creating a more female-friendly work environment, particularly in sales, and attracting and recruiting more women to work in dealerships, is still a major challenge.”

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Key findings identified:

  • 18.5 percent of active employees on new-car dealership payrolls were women—an increase of less than one point over 2013
  • Females hired by dealerships in 2014 showed no significant change from 2013, remaining around 20 percent of all new hires
  • Women represented only 8 percent of all active employees in key positions, compared to support positions, where women represented 91 percent

Arguably, the most discouraging finding from the NADA report was female turnover among sales consultants. Turnover of 90 percent was 25 points higher than the male sales consultant turnover rate of 65 percent. While both gender statistics are embarrassing for the industry, why is the rate of churn for females so overwhelming?

DrivingSales News recently reported on Sonic Automotives’s One-Sonic One-Experience and EchoPark initiatives in special interviews with Sonic leadership. Jeff Dyke, EVP of Operations, and Marti Eulberg, Director of Brand Management, shared that while both programs were designed to make buying a car a positive experience for the customer, the business models and employment structures were also built to cultivate employee happiness in the workplace.

The seven-year development of the two initiatives was geared toward establishing a culture uncharacteristic of traditional dealerships. Sonic’s overall turnover rate this year will be less than 25 percent; compared to the industry average of 39.4 percent (a year-over-year rise of three points from 2013).

“I’m surprised and I’m not surprised,” Eulberg said in response to the attrition of female sales people. Her own industry experience began as an intern at GM while she was in college.

“I don’t know if I found the industry; but the industry found me to some extent,” Eulberg said. She expressed how lucky she was at an entry-level to have colleagues that took time to explain, share, and teach. “It wasn’t about gathering a file and putting information together. It was really about understanding the data I was pulling and understanding what we were doing and why we were doing it,” she said. The learning environment engaged her early on and instilled a passion for automotive.

“You have to love what you do and then find the people that can support you and people you can learn from along the way,” she said.

With 25 years in the industry she has since worked in sales, marketing, and operations globally for OEMs including Volvo, Jaguar, Fisker and was the CEO of Maserati. She started about 3 ½ years ago with Sonic. In her role on the development team for EchoPark, she traveled throughout the nation exploring high-volume used car operations as well as hospitality and retail outside automotive.

Eulberg says the model for employment at EchoPark is inclusive versus exclusive. They look at the long-term good and try to hold on to their teams by respecting their lives outside of work; providing balance and flexibility.

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As a publicly held retail group, Eulberg says they’re going after this strongly. Despite external criticisms their executive leadership team is being patient; and things are changing because of it. Switching to salaries, creating flexible workplaces, a resolute focus on training, hiring non-automotive people, establishing career paths and mentorship, and promoting inclusion and diversity are all leading to a more female-friendly environment at EchoPark.

“Diversity in totality is so important,” she said. “Because our business can be so tough, and at times untrusting; people will gravitate toward people that are like them because there is an inherent trust level.”

Eulberg says women bring a lot to the table as demands for a higher-level customer experience are making their way into automotive through the influence of other industries and technologies. She attests that product knowledge and dealership process are trainable while interpersonal skills are more innate.

“Overall we [women] have a really strong ability to create a nurturing environment,” she said. “Willingness and wanting to have good relationships is important in any industry.” She said this often makes women excellent listeners in guest interactions, patient and understanding when things don’t happen overnight, enthusiastic about sharing their passion with others, and willing to mentor and nurture in their professional relationships.

A frequently sited statistic when communities discuss women in automotive is that 85 percent of car purchases are influenced by women. Yet, if women only represent 8 percent of all active employees in “key positions,” are decisions that take place among dealership personnel representative of reality or are these decisions perpetuating norms that continue to suppress dealers’ ability to attract and retain a female workforce?

Over the coming months, DrivingSales News will continue covering stories from passionate industry leaders like Marti, who influence their organizations to be more inclusive and as a result are attracting and retaining more qualified talent.

Part 2: Women In Automotive Series

About the Author:

The DrivingSales News team is dedicated to breaking the relevant and the tough stories affecting car dealers. Have questions for DrivingSales News? Reach the team at news@drivingsales.com.

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    Gina

    I would love to hear more about how to achieve balance in a challenging environment. Schedules, pay plans and not just for Women, family life.

    Molly

    What a well-written article! Dealerships with a great culture are now empowering women to be seen and perform as business equals. Please continue to post content featuring women in the dealership!

    Bethany

    Great article! I look forward to reading more on how to attract and retain good female personnel

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