The First 90 Days: What Every Dealership Should Know to Train & Retain Employees

By Stephanie Licata 

The amount of money that employee turnover costs dealerships is no secret. For the nitty gritting on the staggering uphill battle the industry faces, check out this Automotive News Article. We can debate the numbers and sources of the turnover all day, but it’s more interesting to start solving the problem. 

We can’t pinpoint every single cause of turnover, but we can look at the staggering data around employee engagement that is more plentiful than memes on facebook. According to Gallup 88% of employees think their employer did a poor job with the onboarding process. What’s even more frightening is that only 22% of organizations have formal onboarding programs (Harvard Business Review)

Throwing employees into the fire is probably the best way to waste your dealerships money. Each person is an investment in your dealership. It is also an investment in your customer relationships. Well-trained engaged employees provide stellar customer experiences. This creates lasting relationships, which we know is any dealership’s goal. This is not reserved for sales staff – service, F&I, BDC, compliance – every single person is an investment. Planned onboarding is your key to ROI on a hire. 

So how do you know your onboarding program is effective? Here are FOUR characteristics of successful onboarding processes. Does it take time? YES. But any dealer willing  to be more than ordinary has to go above and beyond. 

  1. It lasts 90 days. Onboarding is not two weeks. It’s a true 90 day period that helps the employee get up to speed on their job, the culture and how to be successful
  2. It includes REGULAR weekly check-ins with their direct supervisor. One of the key reasons onboarding programs are so poorly run is the lack of training and development provided to managers. Knowledge of a subject area is the least indicative factor on whether a person can lead people effectively. Managers should have 5-10 minute check-ins with new employees weekly for the first 90 days. This is an opportunity to exchange feedback, get questions answered and “take the temperature” of the employee and where they are at
  3. It welcomes feedback from the employee. If an employee is scared to ask a question, that’s a troubling sign. It’s critical that leaders make it known that they are approachable and available for questions and concerns. 
  4. It includes manager feedback. There is nothing worse than not knowing how you are doing. Feedback is not saying “good job.” It’s saying “I noticed that you picked up on _______process pretty easily – I can see that you are a quick learner and can succeed here.” Or, “I think there might be confusion about___________ task, lets review that.”

In any workplace, an organization gets back what it gives. If it GIVES effort, time and energy to the new employee, it will get that in return. If it GIVES stress, fear and ineffective practices, it creates stressed, scared, and ineffective employees. 

Onboarding is not the job of just HR – it is a collaborative effort between Dealers, GMs, HR, Compliance, and supervisors/managers. It requires owners and operators demanding excellence and understanding. More to the point, a dealership without a people strategy is a runaway train hoping to make it to the station without crashing. Get back on track and examine those onboarding practices. You can’t afford not to. 

Stephanie Licata is the Principal and Co-Founder of DCG Consulting. DCG Consulting works with dealers to employ strategies that increase team effectiveness, productivity and profitability.

To schedule a complimentary consultation with Ms. Licata, click here.