<p><em>Photo ©GettyImages.com/PeopleImages</em></p>

With the unemployment rate hitting a 17-year low of 4.1% in the fourth quarter of 2017, business owners will have to continue to focus on retention to win in the war for talent. Yet a recent study conducted by Kronos Inc. and Future Workplace found that, while 87% of HR leaders consider “improving retention” a critical or high priority over the next five years, 20% said there were too many other priorities in the mix to hone in on addressing the issue anytime soon.

It seems that, despite the high cost of turnover, many companies are still more likely to invest in recruiting new talent rather than retaining existing employees.

Auto dealers are no exception. A 2016 study conducted by DrivingSales and Hireology found that “dealer executives underestimate their turnover by 20% for their entire dealership and 27% among their sales team.” The study further identified that turnover can cost the dealership $45,000 per salesperson, with the total annual cost per dealership averaging close to $439,000.

There’s no getting around it: Employee retention can no longer take a backseat in your dealership strategy.

The Technological Edge

Van Horn Auto Group is a great example of a dealership group that has benefitted from investing in employee retention and implementing modern, easy-to-use technology systems.

<p><strong>Jennica Kresbach</strong></p>

“Retaining top talent is not easy in this economy,” says Jennica Krebsbach, comptroller at Van Horn, which includes 13 rooftops in Wisconsin and Iowa. “We’ve noticed a sea change in the type of employees we need to grow our business. The stereotypical salesperson or technician has been replaced by tech-savvy people who want transparency into our goals and to feel invested in where they work. The technology choices must be modern and easy to work with or we jeopardize our ability to attract and keep the individuals contributing the most to our success.”

Equipping your employees with the ongoing training and up-to-date technology they need to succeed may seem obvious. But Cox Automotive surveys found that more than 50% of new hires in customer-facing roles aren’t being trained enough to do their jobs successfully.

Train to Retain

This training slump could be hurting your retention efforts. A DrivingSales survey of more than 1,000 dealer professionals found that 36% of salespeople consider their top motivator at work to be personal development and career progress. Your employees want to grow their skillsets. Providing training and access to modern technology can help drive your dealership’s bottom line.

“Building a culture that supports growing our talent has been the biggest driver of our longevity and success,” says Krebsbach. “We started with one store 50 years ago and have since grown to 13 locations. I myself started my career with Van Horn more than 32 years ago as a receptionist. Our business strategy is to always take care of our customers.

“We accomplish that by focusing on our employees and enhancing engagement through ongoing communication, opportunities for professional development, community involvement, and recently becoming an employee-owned organization,” Krebsbach adds.

As exemplified by Van Horn, when you address the needs of your employees and foster a culture that encourages growth and ongoing education, both your customers and bottom line will sing praises.

It’s time to push forward with a people-centric culture that fosters long-lasting, loyal employees who are committed to seeing your dealership succeed. Listen to your people, give them the opportunity to hone their skillsets, and address their hunger for ongoing training.

Candy Lucey is senior director of marketing and brand management for Dealertrack DMS. Email her at [email protected].