Computer technology may be an earth-shaking breakthrough in gathering information, but it can’t always help with one simple problem common to shop owners everywhere: How to find good employees.
Countless sociological and economic issues have come into play in recent years that, despite helpful technological advancements, can’t be fully compensated for in the recruitment of high-quality workers. Tire dealers often agree that locating and attracting good employees is harder than ever, despite the boosts in communication options offered by the Web. Some, in fact, say that communication and interpersonal skills, as they relate to the workplace, have even been hampered by the plugged-in state of America, not to mention the sociological repercussions of a bad economy.
So how can dealers roll with today’s reality, and make up for the social and economic hindrances to employee recruitment that technology and other tools strive to diminish? Tire Review asked four dealers – Kevin McGee, district manager of McGee Auto Services and Tires in Lakeland, Fla.; Jim Enger, president of Enger Auto Service and Tire in Cleveland; Larry Griffin Jr., vice president of Griffin Brothers Companies in Charlotte; and Gary Michaels, general manager of Tires, Tires, Tires in Sioux Falls, S.D. – for their insights. Two of these dealers are Tire Review TopShop winners and a third is a TopShopFinalist.
From their responses, we’ve culled the Top 10 Ways to Find High-Quality Employees. Consider the recommendations, and then read on for the details behind the dealers’ directions.
Top 10 Ways to Find High-Quality Employees
1. Abandon old, obsolete recruitment methods – like relying on newspaper classified ads – and embrace new technology, including social media, to reach more and younger job seekers.
2. Offer online job applications and a human resources webpage to filter out applicants who aren’t open to a technologically changing workplace.
3. Hire hard to manage easy: Conduct multiple interviews with several candidates and check their references; the extra effort will be compensated for by less intervention later.
4. Follow the “ABR” approach: Always Be Recruiting, remaining aware of potentially great hires outside of the workplace and engaging them in recruitment exchanges even in casual encounters.
5. Conduct professional background checks and drug tests, which continue to identify an often-surprising amount of undesirable applicants.
6. Check out automotive groups of all kinds – schools, clubs, events and shows – as potential sources of like-minded and properly skilled employees.
7. Don’t be limited by an old, 40-hour-week paradigm, as good applicants within the new employment environment may demand flexible schedules.
8. Seek candidates with the most important qualities: a willingness to learn, a positive attitude, self-motivation, helpfulness, a proven track record and the drive to succeed.
9. Maintain a good company reputation by being active within the community, as well as properly managing the dealership’s online presence, because high-quality workers seek high-quality workplaces.
10. Once a good worker is hired, focus on retention by keeping the employee challenged, continuously trained and developed to his or her fullest potential.
How would you define and describe a high-quality employee?
Michaels: One who truly believes in, and exemplifies, the mission of the company. A high-quality employee brings a positive, high-energy attitude to the workplace. I always stress the importance of effort and attitude, and if employees choose to approach those positively, they will become high-quality employees.
Enger: One who is committed to and passionate about his career. My best associates love their life career choices and have true inner passion for what they do. My best techs live and breathe automotive repair; they understand the systems and study new automotive technology. My best salespeople love selling and serving our customers. It is their gift to gab, talk and make friends while getting paid. A great associate has built-in personality traits that make them great if they are in the right position.
McGee: An individual who takes pride in all aspects of his or her job. They come to work each and every day with a positive attitude and all personal matters are set aside. A high-quality employee gives direction and sets a course for other employees to follow.
Griffin: A team player who is open-minded to change, as our business is ever-changing.
How would you characterize whatever lackluster workers you’ve hired or experienced?
McGee: Lackluster employees have to be constantly given direction. They bring other issues from their lives to work, which in effect pervade throughout the shop. It’s like a cancer that can spread quickly. Their attitudes are often poor and they constantly have to be reminded what to do.
Michaels: Challenging employees are ones who are not grounded in the mission and do not see themselves as part of a team. They see their daily work as “just a job” or “just a paycheck,” rather than as an opportunity to use their knowledge and skills to make a positive impact on both customers and co-workers.
Griffin: Besides a poor work ethic, most are not open to change and are not willing to do things in a different way. You can’t change their belief system.
Enger: Most lackluster employees haven’t discovered their true passion in the workplace. Everyone has passion, but sometimes it’s outside the workplace. Too many times associates will advance beyond their ability, or outside of their true passion. Also, passions change. Harness the passion to succeed with them.
Have you found it harder or easier to locate and hire high-quality employees in recent years? ANDWhy?
McGee: It has become more difficult than ever to find high-quality employees. Our economy is in a poor state. Unemployment levels are high and the wages that people are used to seeing have been cut way back. I believe this diminishes people’s positive attitude and they become content with doing a job that’s less than their true ability. Plus, I think our government aids the unemployed more than it should. The unemployed stay unemployed due to the benefits they receive. Their inspiration and inner drive slowly weaken. They become very-mediocre-to-good at best. There are many good people looking for a job, but greatness is hard to come by. Over time, people become complacent and need a continuous push to keep their drive going. A high-quality employee is self-driven.
Griffin: It’s always hard to find high-quality employees no matter what the economic environment. If they are very good, they typically have a job, and if the employer is smart, they will take care of them.
Michaels: One of the most important jobs of a manager is to hire high-quality employees, and that has not changed. That is always a manager’s responsibility. I firmly believe in hiring hard to manage easy.
Enger: Yes, it is harder to find high-quality employees. There are a lot more average-or-below people looking for work, but the best ones are enjoying success and doing well in this tough economy. I hope more young, enthusiastic gear heads pursue careers in the tire and automotive businesses.
In addition to the economy, what impact has the prevalence of high technology played in the situation?
Michaels: As technology becomes more and more integral to our personal and professional lives, we have had to factor that into the interview process. In addition to exploring other job-related skills, we also need to assess applicants’ levels of technological experience and whether they have the ability and desire to learn new skills.
McGee: Technology is an ever-changing part of the game. How you diagnose a vehicle today is completely different than the way it was done 20 years ago. We invest in the latest technology, like top-of-the-line scan tools, TPMS reset computers, alignment equipment, and tire changers and balancers. Training our employees how to use this equipment accurately and quickly the first time is important to staying ahead of the competition.
Enger: Technology will continue to advance exponentially. We must embrace it and be more productive with fewer employees.
Griffin: Not that it’s high-tech, but we no longer do newspaper ads. Most are online ads.
What impact have social changes – behavioral, moral and ethical – played in the hiring process?
Michaels: I think it’s important to set clear, written expectations for every employee in the workplace. Each employee must fully understand what is acceptable behavior, and management must model desired behaviors. A complete review of your company’s policies with employees is imperative. And, if behaviors occur that are not consistent with your company’s policies, you must be ready to follow through with consequences.
McGee: Tough times can cause people to behave immorally and go against worthy ethical standards – tough obstacles that we have to overcome. And communication through the use of cell phones, computers and social media has created a new era in how we interact with one another. It sways perception and often creates a “follow the leader” type opinion.
What are some of the specific pitfalls you’ve encountered in attempting to recruit good workers?
Michaels: There are many facets of our society that have become much more casual over the years, including the way we dress and the way we communicate, and that has impacted employee recruitment. Interview skills seem to have declined somewhat. More potential candidates are arriving dressed informally – sometimes too much so – and they are unprepared for the interview. There’s not much thought or effort put into their applications, resumes and questions to ask the employer.
Griffin: We drug test and do background checks. You’d be surprised how many fail both even after we tell them we will do it.
Enger: Some employees want more money and others want more time off. Be flexible when you can. I think the 40-hour week is over, and we must be flexible with schedules.
McGee: The available pool of qualified workers is much slimmer to pick from than ever before. Workers often are not qualified and are unwilling to take the necessary steps to become trained and certified.
Have any interesting incidents arisen at your shop as a result of difficulties in hiring high-quality employees, or of finding great ones?
Michaels: We hired a young man with no formal experience to work in our tire-and-lube department. He’s also training to be a professional cage fighter. What we have seen, though, is that he has taken the passion he has for his hobby and brought that same commitment to his work. Now, he is working a physical training program with three other employees. Whether they take on his hobby remains to be seen, but the effort they are putting into their physical health is translating into positive energy at the workplace.
McGee: To sum it up in one word: Retention. More than ever in today’s society, people jump from company to company in hopes of finding something better. Many employees will leave and then return, finding out the grass is not greener on the other side. This process can create a disruption of policies and procedures implemented by upper management. Furthermore, it can destroy a company culture.
Has the advent of computer technology and social networking helped in your location-and-recruitment process?
McGee: We now have a human resources website. It allows potential applicants to digitally fill out an application without ever visiting the location. With 28 stores, it has enabled us to consolidate the application process with the click of a button. It also has assisted in expanding our pool of applicants without going to an outside recruiter. Additionally, it enables us to see what areas of work they’re interested in.
Michaels: We use social media, such as Facebook, as one of the components of our recruitment efforts. Social media is certainly an effective way to communicate with and reach younger workers.
Griffin: We manage our Facebook page regularly, so it has to help with getting our name out there. Besides, if a person doesn’t have a computer or is not fairly proficient with one, we don’t need ’em. Our employment application is only online.
Enger: One interesting recruitment tool is Craigslist, under “automotive chat.” There are some great techs out there, chatting about car repair. These guys are smart and resourceful. Jump on and read the threads. We’ve also posted job openings on Facebook and Craigslist. The newspaper doesn’t work any longer.
What other tools or methods of recruitment, interviewing and hiring do you implement?
Michaels: In addition to some traditional recruitment tools, we use word-of-mouth and employee referrals. We follow the “ABR” thought process: Always Be Recruiting. Every employee and every manager is expected to always be recruiting. If they speak to someone who shows interest in our workplace, they give that prospective employee my business card. And if they get contact information from prospective employees, I follow up with them.
Enger: Automotive clubs, automotive events, automotive schools and automotive trade shows are great resources. We are car guys and look to hire other car guys.
Griffin: NASCAR Technical Institute has a center in our area that is a great resource for part-time employees, many of whom we’ve turned into full-time. We also put emphasis on hiring young techs we can grow into advanced techs. This has worked very well.
McGee: We have a fully-paperless human resources website; two face-to-face interviews for every associate; a requirement for employees to commit to a training program to become certified or ASE-certified in their areas of competency; and expectations and goals that are laid out from the very beginning.
What recruitment tools or methods do you now consider passé or obsolete? Why?
McGee: Newspapers and classified ads, such as on Craigslist, open up an unqualified pool of applicants. That creates a lot of time used by human resources to sort through them.
Michaels: It seems like many print sources, such as newspapers, are seeing a decrease in readership and may not be the strong recruitment tools they once were. Many job seekers are using online sites instead.
What are a few of your best tips for recruiting and hiring high-quality employees?
Michaels: Do your homework: check references and make phone calls to learn as much as you can about potential employees. Conduct background checks according to company policy and in a timely manner. Interview hard to manage easy: interview 10 to 15 people to hire for one position, as the additional effort will be compensated for by easier management. Know that the onus of responsibility for hiring quality employees is on managers, because the perfect employee won’t just show up on the doorstep. And motivate employees to be better than they think they are through coaching, training and mentoring.
Griffin: Grow great employees by hiring young if the prospect has the aptitude to learn, and then educate. Interview hard and long, starting with the store manager and passing the best prospects to the general manager and owner. Manage your online reputation so competitors or disgruntled employees don’t discourage good prospects from applying. And be involved in the community, as people want to work for good hometown companies.
McGee: Look for people who are willing to learn, have a positive attitude, are ASE-certified, are self-motivated, seek career advancement, are willing to guide and assist others, pursue self-improvement, have a proven track record, seek creativity, and are driven to succeed.
Enger: Passion will always be required at our company. That’s what we look for.