NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 22, 2000)—With unemployment at its lowest rate in decades, many tire dealers are finding it difficult to attract and retain good workers.
Robert Wendover, owner of Leadership Resources Inc., posed a question to about 100 attendees at a workshop titled "How to Find and Keep Good Employees" at the World ITRA Expo: "Do you have the temptation to kind of hold a mirror up to somebody´s nose and, if it fogs, you give them a W-4 (the federal income tax form to determine withholding)?"
One of the dealers drew a big laugh by responding: "As long as they´ve got a pulse!´´
Demographics indicate there will be a labor shortage for the next several years, Mr. Wendover said. "We are going to continue to have to work harder to find the applicants than the applicants are to find us."
Mr. Wendover challenged recruitment strategies like newspaper classified ads and "Help Wanted" signs. Young people don´t read daily newspapers, he said, and the "Help Wanted" sign doesn´t mean much, because they don´t care much about your business.
Today´s workers want to know, "What´s in it for me?´´
The buyers´ market in service and retail jobs has given workers the attitude of, "If I don´t like it here, I can leave," he said.
Employers should emphasize the value part of jobs they seek to fill. Mr. Wendover suggested asking current employees, "Why
are you here?" That will help the dealership owner determine what will appeal to job applicants.
The direct cost of hiring a new retail employee—including advertising, training, paperwork etc.—ranges between $1,100 and $3,000, he said. Also, depending on how long it takes the worker to get "up to speed," he or she may be paid for several hundred hours of work that is less than fully productive.
If a business has a 5-percent margin, Mr. Wendover said, the dealership needs to increase sales by up to $600,000 to recoup these direct costs.
Mr. Wendover said dealers should develop a recruiting brochure to give each job applicant.
This brochure, containing the basic duties and listing benefits available, such as flexible hours, insurance etc., separates your company from others the applicant has visited. Also, the average person usually consults with someone they trust before accepting a job offer, he said, and the brochure may create a positive impression.
Mr. Wendover suggested distributing these brochures to anyone who comes in contact with potential employees: school teachers, guidance counselors, civic leaders, clergy etc.
Bonus programs for employees who recruit new workers can be successful. The bonus should be paid separately from the regular paycheck, he said, so it is a seen as a special reward.
The many books and articles on job interviewing have made today´s job applicants much more savvy about the process. "They know what you´re going to ask," Mr. Wendover said. "And, for the most part, you know what they are going to say."
Rather than conduct the interview over a desk, he suggested talking with applicants while showing them around the shop. The applicant will be studying the environment and your employees, rather than concentrating on how to answer questions.
"People can not walk and lie at the same time," he said.
Mr. Wendover also advocates putting a few questions that require written answers on the job application to determine an applicant´s ability to read, comprehend and write. However, be sure it´s filled out at the dealership to make sure the applicant is the one who answers the questions, he said.
Mr. Wendover suggested cold calls to other dealerships to determine the prevailing wage. The person who answers the phone may also give you information about working conditions there.
"So call a selection (of dealerships) to make sure you´re at the prevailing wage," he said. "If you are not, that´s going to be the thing you lose on."
For example, a 50-cents-per-hour difference translates into about $1,000 a year. To workers making $7 to $8 an hour, that´s a big difference, he said.
The key to retaining employees, Mr. Wendover said, is to pay attention to their needs. While some employees may want more money as a reward, others might want time off from work.
"Doesn´t every person who works for you deserve 15 minutes of your focused time?" he asked.
Mr. Wendover suggested observing each employee´s actions on the job: how they relate to co-workers and customers; how they fit in the work environment; the grasp they seem to have of their job; and so on.
By determining what´s important to each worker, Mr. Wendover said, the owner or manager can motivate them more effectively.