I recently learned that according to a survey this year by one of the largest recruiting websites, British Airways has been named as the dream job for graduates for the second year in a row.  The fact that BA are experienced a punishing round of challenges brought on by regulation, rising charges and increased competition from the “no frills” sector, appears to have flown over the heads of these young hopefuls.

So what attracts them?  Apparently, young candidates are enticed by the travel and perceived adventure and excitement the airline offers.  It’s about “Image” and “Lifestyle”.

Is the Motor Industry missing out then? And if so, why?  Travelling by four wheels may be a good deal slower, but can be every bit as seductive.  As anyone who watches the TV ads can bear witness to.  So why is that seductive imagery not getting through to candidates?  In the minds of young people, the Motor Industry can appear inaccessible.  How do they get in?  How would they fit in?  Behind the glossy ads is a whole network of dealerships with corporate structures and varied career opportunities.  I know from my years of experience in the Motor Industry that it is a very exciting business.  It’s never dull and its always challenging, but sadly, you need to have actually worked in the industry to find that out.  All of this needs to filter out to this generation.  It’s about marketing.

My business gets many applications from Managers who have left the Motor Industry for a while and are desperate to return.  Why?  It’s probably not the salary levels.  An industry where total earnings potential comprises 30-70% bonus can be considered high risk by a substantial proportion of middle management.  And the long hours aren’t exactly a draw!  However, I am frequently told and I quote that the industry “Gets in your blood”.

We also get regular applications from Candidates from outside the Motor Industry who want to get in.  It can be difficult to help.  The Automotive Academy is a good start for the manufacturing sector, but the absence of an integrated training course for the Retail Motor Industry means that a candidate will need to know in advance where to aim his or her talent.  There is no doubt that there are very many training courses that are available.  At Technician level, there are Technical Colleges and other training providers out there who have capacity to train apprentices.  But what about sponsorship?

A bonus driven Service Manager with an average of 2 years in any role will not be concentrating on the long-term future of the business.  He is purely focused on the profitability of the department and how it impacts on his earning ability.  He does not want to be burdened with fixed costs that are on the bottom line.  Should the Industry therefore exclude the cost of trainees when calculating departmental profit?


Initially, how do you recruit staff?

Advertising vacancies yourself may cost less at the outset but it does involve a lot more work and may well cost your dear eventually.  You will be negotiating packages and terms of employment on a one to one basis without having too much to go on aside from the candidate’s CV and application.  When you do select your candidate, how confident are you that you have achieved the best response?

Using a good recruitment consultancy can save you time and money in the long run.  Remember, if you don’t get the candidate you want you don’t pay the fee, but you certainly should receive good advice on salary scales for the area and on how realistic your recruiting goals are in the current market.  My advice is to select the consultancy well, ask around for recommendation.  Negotiate what you consider is a fair fee at the start and then go with it.  Don’t register the vacancy with everyone, stock to one or two at the most.  A reputable consultancy is there to serve you throughout the process and a good specialist will know the Motor Industry well.

In recruitment, the cardinal rule is, the right person for the job, whatever the job is.  I like to believe that when we recruit for a client that our candidate will fit in and stay on.  If you recruit to retain you need to have an eye for the future.  As well as skill-set we need to look at the mind-set.  Is the candidate a self-starter does he/she have the flexibility to develop with your business or will they simply “fill a gap”.  As we move towards a culture of people-based management, an employee’s ability and inclination to take ownership of the role is becoming increasingly important.

Do you set down any ground rules for assessment?  Example: providing job description and company information to prospective candidates.  Psychometric evaluation of the candidate against the role / manager to establish compatibility.


The Retail Motor Industry of necessity has become lean-burn in recent years and investment, in terms of people, may not be the number one priority.  Having gone through the expensive and time-consuming process of recruiting how do we retain our staff?

There will always be those who – however rewarding their job, will itch and move on.  We live in a restless culture where “variety” is almost considered to be a birthright.  Keeping key staff on side in this climate is a challenge for everyone.

How do we keep them motivated and stimulated, provide job satisfaction, a career path and an element of security in what is a very insecure world and a very competitive industry?  At the same time defining and keeping an eye on how their skills and profile fit into the organisation.

When someone decides to move on, in my experience it is rarely just about the money.  “Reason for wishing to move” can take in many forms on our application and redundancy or dismissal apart, they can mostly be filed under three headings:

  1. Undervalued / Frustrated
    • Not sufficiently stretched in the current role
    • Stayed with current company for a while and see no prospect of promotion
    • Ideas are ignored
    • Underpaid
  2. Insecure / Threatened
    • Their company has been / is in the process of being taken over and they have no idea whether the incoming company will retain them.
    • Friction / incompatibility with an existing / new line manager
    • Instability of the company
    • Overwork / Stress
    • New management
    • New systems
    • Promotion
    • Increased workload
    • Staff shortages

Most of these concerns if not resolvable are understandable.  Where do they go in the organisation to get these issues addressed?  It doesn’t necessarily need to be a personnel department.  Line Managers can be just as effective with the right motivation.  All too often problems arise purely through lack of communication.  Particularly during periods of change or instability it is crucially important to keep people on side and to do what you have to be prepared to communicate.  Sharing information is critical: challenges as well as goals.

Ask yourself how vulnerable you would be should you lose a member of staff from a key area.  It I s important to identify those areas and put in place a contingency plan should you lose a key staff member suddenly.  Some positions are notoriously difficult to cover on a temporary basis.  For example:

  • Do you have an apprentice scheme for technicians?
  • Does someone in the organisation have an understanding of the Warranty and / or Vehicle Administration processes?

If you are an independent dealership, cross training is crucial. Even for the larger groups, you still may find it hard to move the more junior staff from site to site.  They are not as mobile as the Managers.  And if you decide to cover areas with roving staff members, remember that candidates usually expect to be rewarded for lots of travel and time spent away from home.

In the future therefore, can the Motor Industry hold its own and continue to ensure it gets its fair share of available talent?  What has it got to offer when judged against the Airline, Travel, Media, Government and Hi-tech Industries?

Over the last few years, the Motor Industry has faced challenges imposed by the removal of  block exemption, the revolution, fuel and vehicle taxation and has almost re-invented itself in the process.  But it’s still strongly out there, it is still an exciting, rewarding and – for all its internal reshuffles – a stable force in a volatile labour market.  Until they perfect the Star Trek style Transport personal travel will be about cars, whether fuel driven or battery powered.  And as long as consumers continue their love affair with their car, the Motor Industry with the wealth and diversity of opportunities it offers to future generations will always be a formidable force in the labour market.

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