“Many sales associates haven’t had to sell anything in a long time. They (were) just taking orders,” Sheffield stated in his column from last year. “There’s no negotiation over price; it is what it is. Customers place a down payment and then don’t hear back from their salesperson for months. Dealerships are no longer conducting sales training. Customers aren’t being logged in to the CRM.
Dealers discuss how they combat labor shortage challenges and retain existing employees.
62 percent of dealers we surveyed were short-staffed. But that number increases to 71 percent for techs.
While some of these predictions have played out, others have not rung as true. The turnover has been less than expected, and dealerships are still seeing growth, even though unit sales have slowed down due to a combination of inflation and interest rate hikes to combat it.
Littman says Sunrise Cycles has been “fortunate and blessed” to have a good work culture, which he credits as part of the secret sauce to keeping employees for a long time. But generational shifts are starting to be a factor in some dealerships as older employees retire.
“A lot of our guys and girls have been longtime employees here,” he says, “but the challenge we’re having is that some are getting ready to retire. We’ve had difficulty finding that younger generation, my generation, to fill the footsteps of those leaving.” It’s incredibly challenging on the service side, according to dealers we surveyed, which showed that 62 percent of dealers were short-staffed in at least one department. The service department was identified as the most understaffed area, with 68 percent stating they were looking to hire techs.
Littman notes that it’s tough to find people that want to get their hands dirty, even though “there’s great money to be made.”
The technician shortage is very real in both powersports and automotive. Many dealers we contacted are worried about being able to fill open positions that have been that way for months. Most dealers who took part in our recent survey on hiring stated that the problem of finding qualified techs is significant. However, we will note that some dealers have been fortunate to hang on to their techs long-term. But there’s more to it than luck.
“I try to be proactive with keeping talent engaged with our dealership. I’m very big on training and making sure all of our staff stays up to date, whether it’s from the manufacturers, some online course that I think would benefit them, or anything going on locally or through our aftermarket partners,” Littman describes.
One dealer told us he thinks the OEMs should help with training and take on some of the burden of hiring.
The techs at Sunrise Cycles must have their online certifications for all of their OEMs in the first six months, according to Littman, and then after that, the techs are sent to manufacturer training.
“I want all of my techs to be gold level within two to three years,” Littman explains. “I think it’s very important to the dealership because that builds trust with our customers in the community and justifies why our labor rates are slightly higher. The reason is that you’re getting the best in the area. We stay up to date by basically reinvesting into our team.”
Alix Del Toro, marketing manager of Moon Motorsports, credits their technician retention to a combination of factors, including career growth opportunities, product variety, and workplace culture.
“Along with the wealth of talent, there’s so many lines to work on,” Del Toro says. “There’s so much opportunity for each technician, and we’ve grown many into strong brand experts. They’re not susceptible to other opportunities outside of Moon Motorsports because there is so much internal opportunity. In the time I’ve been the marketing director, I haven’t had to invest any of my marketing budget into recruitment for service technicians.”
In powersports, it’s relatively common for employees (and techs) to bounce from one dealership to another within the geographical area. Del Toro says that he’s been approached by other stores, but it has yet to entice him to even think about leaving.
“Dealerships aren’t averse to reaching out to other dealership employees and giving them opportunities,” says Del Toro. “I know we get those opportunities, but it never crosses my mind to leave because it is such a unique dealership experience here.”
Del Toro says his dealership is like a work family; they enjoy spending time together, even outside work hours. Other dealers we spoke to, such as Kim Keen of Donelson Cycles in St. Louis, Missouri, say they can’t find anyone to work.