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Why Car Dealers Are Missing Out On Attracting Millennial Talent | DrivingSales News

Why Car Dealers Are Missing Out On Attracting Millennial Talent

January 6, 2016 0 Comments

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Sean Graber, co-founder and CEO of Virtuali, believes there’s an under-told story that auto dealers can leverage to attract Millennial leaders.

Lori Goler, head of people at Facebook, recently shared insights from seven years of employee surveys in an article for Harvard Business Review titled, “What Facebook Knows About Engaging Millennial Employees.” Surprisingly or not, the first Fortune 500 Company founded and led by a Millennial identified “Millennials’ wants and needs are strikingly similar to those of colleagues from other generations.”

She identified five key areas that foster engagement. “They’re looking for jobs that give them a sense of fulfillment or meaning, allow them to be authentic and play to their strengths, offer opportunities for learning and growth, and empower them to take initiative,” she wrote.

Goler’s insight is absolutely in line with the plethora of articles that appeared about Millennial workers over recent years. But let’s acknowledge the inherent recruiting advantage Facebook has over retail automotive. Its pervasive acceptance alone surely keeps top-notch candidates driven by factors like career performance and continued development rolling in.

We looked to another HBR contributor and Millennial expert for his insight into the challenges retail automotive faces in engaging the largest segment of the U.S. workforce. Sean Graber is the co-founder and CEO of Virtuali Inc., a leadership training firm and consultancy that helps companies better attract, develop, and engage emerging Millennial leaders.

His company is the brainchild of his early career at Deloittle (where he focused on development and training) and the growing turnover problem of Millennials. He identified the emerging necessity to adapt workplaces to engage the growing generation of workers.

While he acknowledges the “often-times unrealistic” laundry list of aspirations Millennials expect employers to expedite, he agreed that they aren’t an entire generation of fantastic outliers. “For whatever reason, Millennials are the first to really say they want these things and vote with their feet in many instances,” he said. “They’ve shaped the conversation around employee engagement and culture in a way we haven’t seen previously.”

Facebook’s Goler mirrored Graber’s sentiment in the conclusion of her story, “We’re excited to have a healthy population of Millennial employees whose engagement and preferences have paved the way for a new kind of culture at work in which all generations thrive.”

The 2015 NADA Workforce Study identified that turnover among Millennials at dealerships was 54 percent, with Gen X and Baby Boomers at 36 percent and 29 percent respectively. The number of Millennials hired by dealerships increased one point to 48 percent.

So how do dealers begin achieve a healthy population of employees that pave the way for all generations to thrive?

Graber believes there’s an under told story that dealers can leverage to attract Millennial leaders. He shared that the aspiration of entrepreneurship is widespread for this age group and entrepreneurship is uniquely glorified at this particular point in time in the U.S. “There is a really strong connection between car sales and that kind of [entrepreneurial] mindset, which is one way that the auto industry can tap into the Millennial generation,” he said. “Not necessarily making your own hours, but making your own destiny.”

Another piece of attracting the entrepreneurial generation, Graber says, is in communicating the skills and experiences that professionals in retail automotive gain in their roles and can leverage throughout their careers. He said, “I would bet if you asked 10 people off the street what you think you would learn being an auto sales person, their answers wouldn’t be managing teams, mentoring others, and interpreting financial statements.” He attests these types of skills and professional growth opportunities resonate heavily with the Millennial audience.

“You won’t get rich working flex-hours,” Graber said, identifying the challenge retail hours present in recruitment. He cautioned the dealer audience to be careful when making sweeping assumptions about generational differences. He believes the true key to reducing turnover is in offering opportunities for individuals that value entrepreneurship as well as those that favor more balance, and enabling individuals in all roles by providing non-linear career paths.

Beyond the way dealers are communicating opportunity to their Millennial candidates Graber offered a few more pieces of advice. He said examine the friction points to appeal to Millennial workers:

  • Don’t throw the process out the window, but don’t make them so constricting – offer leeway where possible.
  • Flexibility on non-peak times, little things like that can go a long way.
  • Revaluating incentive structures that foster mentorship and teamwork or at least align with the culture you’re trying to create.
  • Create a frictionless and helpful retail experience that rivals leaders like Apple or a boutique experience.

While the generation of “trophy kids” has certainly stirred both positive and negative commentary, it’s hard to argue that automotive retailers can benefit from listening when Millennials’ feet do the talking. Turnover within the generation (and across generations) in the industry is an expensive problem. Leaders like Facebook attest that Millennials are paving the way for better cultures where all generations thrive. It’s probably worth it to consider how your dealership’s communication resonates with this audience (the tangible and intangible benefits of careers in retail automotive) when engaging recruits and in the opportunities offered to valuable talent.

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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