Recruitment and Retention: The Right Message

June 4, 2024
In the News

As originally appeared in Autosphere on May 24, 2024.
Author: Huw Evans

Honest feedback and interaction is key to successful staff recruitment and retention.

Often, two of the biggest challenges facing dealers are employee recruitment and retention. Whether it’s in sales or service, many retailers are having to deal with major skills shortages and finding good quality people to fill them today is exceedingly difficult.

Last year, in 2023, the Motor Vehicle Retailers of Ontario (MVRO), supported by the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA), released an Ontario-specific automotive trades labour market report, conducted by MNP (one of Canada’s leading professional service firms). While this report strictly focused on service technicians, and at the provincial level, it highlighted just how chronic the situation is.

Double the number

According to the report, there were more than 3,000 vacancies in the automotive trades in Ontario alone, double the number prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and that’s just one province!

Additionally, changes in the way vehicles are purchased over the last decade have also impacted business on the sales side, which in turn, has impacted recruiting. More and more, we’ve seen consumers use online and virtual tools when interacting with dealers, with often, only the test drive and final delivery being the time when customers meet face-to-face with sales staff.

And, with the great resignation we saw during the pandemic, it is becoming harder and harder to find good people and keep them. This is why, it’s more important than ever for dealers to have a recruitment strategy that not only provides a clear branding message about the organization and what it stands for but also articulates clearly what the job description is for a particular role.

“These [factors] are critical for accurately understanding the employer’s needs and reflecting the company’s image,” explains Sophie Corriveau, Automotive Recruitment Advisor with

“Employees who align well with the company culture are more likely to adapt quickly, make significant contributions, and stay engaged over the long term,” she says.

Every stage

In order for that recruitment process to be successful, however, Corriveau says it is crucial that the organization considers its corporate culture at every stage of that process.

At Palladino Auto Group, which is based in Sudbury, Ontario and has multiple dealerships, a systemized process for hiring, onboarding and developing staff has been key to the group’s success. As Marissa Holla, Director of Human Resources for PAG notes, an effective strategy has been what is termed ABR (Always Be Recruiting). “It is a motto for all Executives, Directors, Managers and Team Members,” she says.

Holla notes that PAG actively focuses on providing encouragement and incentives for existing team members to refer job seekers to the group’s recruitment process. Additionally, hiring managers are given the tools required to engage and recruit team members on multiple platforms. Once onboard, consistent training, development and mentoring are provided, with each employee’s needs, challenges and traits identified in order to help them succeed. The results speak for themselves and in 2024 PAG was named a Dealership Employer of Choice (see the April 2024 issue of Autosphere Mag).

Cindy Brannan, Vice President, People and Culture at LGM Financial Services, which provides F&I solutions and partnership support for dealers, notes that robust loyalty and retention for auto retail customers tends to be driven by having the right staff in place to deliver on those expectations, whether in variable or fixed operations.

Effective system

Brannan says that often, a core problem facing dealers [and other businesses] when it comes to tackling staff turnover and recruitment challenges, is that there is no effective system in place which allows employees to properly share their feedback or actively engage with management. One way in which this can be done [and to great effect] is to encourage employees to post reviews on the organization and its culture to sites like Glassdoor and then have the ability for senior management to respond to each and every review.

“It really is about your branding as an organization,” she says, “and, if you develop a reputation where your CEO is involved and responds to every single employee review, that becomes part of what your brand represents, and people will identify with that because ultimately they have a choice in where they choose to work.”

While having that human touch between employees and staff is important, including a personal introduction and welcome from the CEO and senior management as part of the onboarding process, retaining people long-term is key to organizational success and that means having effective engagement practices.

Three factors

From the employee perspective, Brannan, says there are three key factors when it comes to successful engagement. “Firstly, there is willingness by the employee, to say good things about the company; secondly, there is the willingness in wanting to stay and be a part of the organization, and third, is the ability to want to strive, and really succeed in the role.”

Beyond that, employees often want a sense of purpose—an understanding that they are contributing to something that’s bigger than themselves. “Paid volunteer days are something that can really make a difference,” says Brannan, “because when people feel better about themselves, they tend to have a greater sense of purpose.”