“What we didn’t know is the sentiment that was going to come from the pandemic and people questioning fulfillment and what they value,” she said.
A cultural change
New dealership employment culture norms are likely to look much different, Bloom said.
Changes could lead to a larger push for diversity, equity and inclusion at dealerships. The stores honored on the 2022 Best Dealerships To Work For list had significantly higher employee engagement scores on survey questions around diversity and inclusion compared with stores surveyed but not making the top 100. Winning dealerships also had higher scores than winners in other industries for which Best Companies Group creates lists, Bloom said.
Bloom acknowledged that the norm in auto retailing on diversity and inclusion issues is likely nowhere near the numbers reflected for those making the Best Dealerships To Work For list. The list’s preponderance of big dealership groups that pay attention to those issues and already have structural efforts in place probably skews those measurements beyond what’s typical in the industry, he said.
Bloom also noted that more efforts don’t mean there are adequate results yet.
“It’s great to recruit, and it’s great to try and hire, and it’s great to have all these policies, but the next step is changing the culture,” Bloom said. “And what we probably haven’t seen yet is the cultural change.”
Eyes are opening up, but dealerships still need to make improvements, especially in developing a healthier work environment for women and minorities, he said.
In 2021, for instance, 19 percent of dealership employees were women, according to the latest National Automobile Dealers Association Dealership Workforce Study. Dealerships’ employment of women has hovered at that level for many years, and the highest percentages of women occur in back-office roles versus customer-facing or leadership positions.
Still, policy improvements are happening, Bloom said. Best Companies Group reported that 41 percent of non-winning dealerships in 2022 offered full or partially paid parental leave for births or adoptions, up from 28 percent in 2021. For winning dealerships, the number rose to 48 percent from 44 percent.
Dealerships are starting to catch up on offering paid parental leave, but for now, it remains available at less than 50 percent of all of them, Bloom said.
To meet employees’ evolved expectations for workplace cultures, dealers should consider bringing on team members who specialize in people strategies, Ford told Automotive News.
“I don’t think they can afford not to do it,” Ford said.
Without guidance from a chief human resources officer, dealerships could end up with higher costs related to turnover and lost opportunities if they are unable to staff at needed talent levels, Ford said. Similar losses could result from the lack of inclusive practices, such as paid parental leave.
“If we’re not helping [employees’] lives be better, they’re not going to be able to bring everything in their best selves to work,” Ford said.