The Great Resignation has made hiring and retention difficult for dealer fixed ops. Even highly desirable occupations such as software development, accounting, truck drivers and nursing are facing job shortages. So, it should come as no surprise that Dealer Parts Departments have been particularly hard-hit.
With good pay, excellent job security and not a lot of physicality, working as a Parts Associate is a top trade job. It’s also one of the nation’s best kept secrets.
Very few young people dream about being a parts counterman. Instead, it’s a job that most people discover. Most of the time parts countermen start at the dealership as lot porters, car wash associates or warehouse employees and organically work their way into a counterman job.
This organic process of creating countermen has been laid bare by the sudden exodus of Parts Department associates from the Great Resignation. The reasons people are leaving their jobs is similar to other industries. Senior Parts Managers retiring and drivers and countermen leaving the industry looking for higher wages and better working conditions.
Finding the right people for parts department positions has become difficult. Historically, there has always been a long line of Parts Countermen qualified to take the next step as a Parts Manager and Parts Warehouse Employees looking to become countermen.
Unfortunately, the departure of employees has left many dealerships challenged to find quality countermen and Parts Managers. This is made worse by a shortage of entry level employees and a lack of training and defined career paths for moving up the parts department ladder.
Creating a Stable Parts Department
A high-performing Parts Department is critical to successful fixed ops and a high absorption rate and is key to an efficient Service Department. And a high-performing parts department is not an accident. It starts with a good Parts Manager and is staffed with Subject Matter Experts.
The Great Resignation has made it difficult to maintain such a high-quality staff. As with any company, the key to building a high quality and stable parts department staff is hiring, effective onboarding and retention.
Recruiting for Dealer Fixed Ops
Working in a Dealer Parts Department has always been an interesting position and should have a lot of appeal for young people. But winning the battle for entry level employees means finding the best applicants.
The baby boom of the early 2000s has a giant class of high school graduates entering the workforce. And this generation adopts and learns electronic systems very quickly.
So, recruiting at local high schools and community colleges can provide employees that are eager to learn and earn money. And to recruit, be prepared to answer the question “is the automotive aftermarket a good career path?” The answer “yes” for some pretty compelling reasons.
- Education is “On the Job”: After Covid learning a lot of kids are likely ready to get away from school and learn on the job skills.
- Good Pay: Experienced countermen earn commissions and Parts Managers can earn 6 figure salaries.
- Great Opportunity: Even when there isn’t a national shortage of employees, there is always opportunity for salary and career growth.
- Job satisfaction – Working with car people all day can be a lot of fun and creates a lot of job satisfaction.
What is Training and Development?
Training and development are about building a quality onboarding program. This helps employees feel prepared for their jobs and can transition a new hire from start date to subject matter expert (SME) in as little as 90 days.
A common question is “What happens if I train my people and they leave?” The best answer is “What happens if you DON’T train your people and they stay?” Well trained employees are better at their jobs and training helps retain people. So, train your people and train them right for a great employee culture and high customer retention.
Onboarding new employees is the process of hiring and brining team members up to speed quickly. This starts them with good quality training. To provide effective dealer fixed ops training, focus on the 3 essentials – Understanding OE data, mastering the software tools and inbound sales techniques.
And while this is a lot of training, the good news is a complete training program can be built by using vendor and factory training courses. Start by using DMS and EPC training and add other tools as your counterman grows.
And while factory data and inbound sales techniques take time to learn, automakers often cover both with counterman training and certification courses.
How to Improve Employee Retention and Motivation
The simple trick to employee retention is to treat people right. At its core, the Great Resignation is about people raising their expectation around how their jobs fit into their lives. And providing fulfillment comes down to fair compensation, a defined career path and quality working conditions.
So, if your dealer fixed ops retention rates are low, it is likely that your pay is low or the job us unfulfilling and you should focus on your work environment. This starts with building some good employee retention strategies and the right company culture.
So, work with the human resources team to conduct exit interviews as employees leave and make necessary changes. And if you need guidance, 3NG Consulting can help you build the right programs to hire, onboard and prevent employee turnover.