A recent report estimated that 60-70% of a dealer’s costs were spent on salaries and staff.  That is quite an overhead.

And quite an asset.  And, according to other studies quite a leaky bucket.  On average at least 9 days out of every working year are lost to absenteeism.

We had a chat to a number of the top employers to find out how they viewed the absenteeism problem.  

As you would expect, there was a range of opinions, but it is interesting how polarised opinions are.  It seems that most of you view as absenteeism a bit like crime figures. It is either something that has to be stamped out, or it is a symptom of something else.  There are very few employers are out there who view it as a bit of both.

But it is a real cost. 9 days adds about 3.5% to your staff costs, and just as importantly a lot of stress, reorganisation and disruption to other employees.  But just as the loss of talented performers from your business is both avoidable and controllable, so is absenteeism.

But you need to decide to tackle it.

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My sons are in their 20s. I think one of the greatest tragedies of their generation is the fact that over 50% of them have gone to university, racked up massive bills and left with a degree that has been, at best, devalued by so many others.

So it is good to see that the government, in the form of Damian Hinds, the Education Secretary, has recognised the technical training is worthwhile. In an interview with The Times in late September he promised to put much more importance on technical training. And to ensure that it was recognised for what it is, an ideal way for technically, rather than academically, minded school leavers to improve their skills and find the right way into the workplace.

It is over simplistic to say that society is divided between thinkers and doers, but there is an element of truth to it. And the sooner that we recognise that technicians, engineers and other skilled trades are just as valuable and important to our society as consultants and academics, then the better it will be for all of us.

And perhaps one day we can return to a system where we are not trying to educate everyone to degree standard, and it becomes more affordable for all.

Ask any managing director in our sector and they will all tell you that talent matters. And if talent matters then you will only attract the best if you have a great career brand.

Let me take this argument one step further, a really successful employee could earn you £.5m improving in improved performance, year in year out. There aren’t many franchises where you could say the same about an individual customer.

But every customer that makes an enquiry with you, however speculative, would expect to get a prompt reply. Even if you only convert one out of every 10 enquiries, you would not expect anything less in today’s environment. So you do not see websites saying “We get an enormous number of people asking for quotes on vehicles, if we do not back get back to you assume that we are not interested in your business”

Now study the recruitment section of many websites in this sector. That is almost word for word the quote from one that I looked at this morning. Why not say “We are one of the leading brands in automotive, one of the most aspirational places to work and we value our potential future employees. We value you so much that we won’t even send you an automatic acknowledgement if you register with us?” And I know there are plenty of others like it.

And yet many people in HR tell me talent is so difficult to come by in the industry at the moment. Do you wonder when you treat it like that?

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Employers, what are you doing? You cannot automate everything. Talent management does not become a process. Talent is about people.

Take a look at this tweet I saw a couple of weeks ago daft recruitment, it is typical of the processes that there are out there today. Many of you employers don’t even have the good grace to reply to highly qualified candidates who have just spent 45 minutes filling out your application form and telling you about their career aspirations.

Football has every single statistic about performance going, and yet humans are still heavily involved in recruitment at every level. We all know that the fees gained by their agents are outrageous, but that is because they recognise the importance of human intervention.

And yet you all want to recruit the very best in the business, you tell me you do. But you rely on systems that look at people’s social media profiles, Twitter feeds and LinkedIn entries and make a judgement about them. You ask them a series of connected, difficult questions and reject those who don’t quite get it right.

You hold assessment centres two days before the end of March (yes it happens surprisingly often) and then exclude those sales managers who can’t make it. Would you want to recruit a sales manager who could make the end of March?

And then after that you give most of them no feedback, and if you offer them a job it takes two weeks often to get anything on paper (or email) down. Two weeks? At which point another, more switched on group has taken them out of the market. Would you let your sales team take 14 days to send out an order form?

It is time to get back to the human, I don’t care what science tells you about a better way of recruiting, you can use it as a useful aid, but do not use it as your main means of filtering.  You are so scared of making the wrong hire, you don’t make any. In footballing terms you are so scared of missing, you don’t shoot.

Apart from anything else, there are people out there who know how to play the game and they tend to attract the best people.

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A new report from the Boston Consulting Group and online recruitment company The Network lists the top 10 countries that everybody wants to work in.

The good news for the UK is that despite Brexit we are still in the top five. This was quite a wide-ranging poll with over 350,000 people questioned across nearly 200 countries, so I guess it reflects the wishes of the wider world.

However, before we pat ourselves on the back too much, you should note that since 2014 the UK has dropped from 2nd to 5th, while Germany has moved the other way. The top five countries are

  • The United States
  • Germany
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • The UK

So we are still almost the top destination in Europe. Well Germany has overtaken, but even if you don’t enjoy working here, be assured that most of the rest of the world would do.

IN THIS ISSUE

  • This week
  • This week’s jobs
  • Quote of the week
THIS WEEK

As we get to the half way point in the year, many dealers and manufacturers will be reviewing what they’re doing. They will be reflecting upon how hard the market has become and perhaps looking at their investments in real estate in deciding whether or not it was money well spent. And an article I read today in car dealer Magazine by James Baggott chimed with a number of conversations I had had at the IMI’s network conferencing event the previous week. You may recall I was talking about talent acquisition, but it was really a conference about how fast the industry is changing. And a subscription model for car ownership was mentioned in passing.
Well James expanded substantially up on that idea, as it is currently being trialled quite successfully in the States. Essentially, for about £800 a month (quite an investment) consumers can have access to pretty well the whole of the Mercedes range. Assuming it operates on some sort of points basis, with 24 hours notice you can dial up pretty well any vehicle you want. And I am sure that there are all sorts of flavour of subscription, so for those working in London and only needing a car at the weekends they might have very different needs to those living in the country, needing a vehicle every day to go to work, but wanting a big people carrier for two days when they’re not at work. The model is an interesting one, and, as James argues, for Generation Rent not really a leap of faith. In amused me, because he was referred back to Blockbuster Video, and how we used to pop down and see if the Disc you wanted was in stock. When I can remember when they offered me a choice of Betamax or VHS. And that is probably only 30 years ago.
The really big questions are going to be answered over the next 24 months, because the more you talk to manufacturers and the more you talk to group managing directors you realise that pop-up stores on the high street, in shopping centres and even in big supermarkets could become the norm. And a generation that is used to ordering everything on Amazon or eBay is not really going to see the point of travelling too far to test drive a car. Especially if it’s on a subscription basis, just send it back if you don’t like the way it drives. Everything is surely on 14 days return?
Have a great weekend – you can relax, England don’t play until next week when Wimbledon starts as well.
THIS WEEK’S JOBS

Here are some jobs from the past ten days. Check these out and see if there is anything tempting. Click on the link to apply immediately through our site. The situation is changing the whole time and if any link refuses to work, it is probably because it has already been filled and removed. Check out all our jobs at on our Jobs Page
Latest Jobs
QUOTE OF THE WEEK

The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how good I get, I’ll never be as good as a wall.
Mitch Hedberg (1968 – 2005)
If all the year were playing holidays, to sport would be as tedious as to work.
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), “King Henry IV Part I”
The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.
P. G. Wodehouse (1881 – 1975)
When a man wants to murder a tiger he calls it sport; when a tiger wants to murder him he calls it ferocity.
George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950

There are some great assessment companies out there and there are some fantastic assessment centre programs that really work.

But equally a lot of people are making a lot of decisions on a lot of assessments that are not perfect.

I read an article last week that suggested that it might be time to can the face-to-face interview. That, because it relies on human reaction, human emotions and gut instinct, then surely it is time to get rid of the process? We know it doesn’t have to, but that’s what the article argued.

Assessment centres are so much better it said. Well they are possibly if they are set up properly and if they ask the right questions.

Many years ago we worked closely with an industrial psychologist who helped to set up a personality profiling tool. We discontinued the project, others had invested lots more and did it better online. Nevertheless it gave me a really valuable insight into the purpose of assessment and how it was carried out.

And they had helped one of the leading supermarkets who were having real problems finding the right checkout staff. Not surprisingly, they had put together an assessment program around a series of interviews. They were getting plenty of people through, but the people either didn’t stay the course or they weren’t very good at their job. This was surprising, as they were choosing the most numerate and literate amongst the candidates to do the job. They figured the ability to read and to add up was pretty crucial for somebody at the checkout.

Except, of course, it isn’t. In an age where barcodes are ubiquitous and computers do all of the adding up for you, why do you need people who can duplicate this effort? What they needed, and it becomes really obvious when you point it out, is people who could recognise different shapes. Why? Because it is quite important to tell the difference between a wholemeal roll and a ciabatta, or between an apple and a pear or between a plum tomato and an organic tomato. Those were the skills they needed, but they were testing for completely the wrong thing.

So I sometimes throw my hands up in despair when candidates fail an assessment with a manufacturer because as a general manager they are too “detail orientated” and not “strategic” enough. Why?

“Retail is detail” is an age-old truism. We are not looking for people who want to conquer the world, as Daksh Gupta, CEO of Marshalls put it to me, great general managers are great shopkeepers, they are not global strategists.

Test for the right thing and you might get the right people.

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Unconscious bias is not exactly a new thing in recruitment, but it is a bit of a buzzword at present.

It is the type of bias that all of us have, and applies most specifically when people are recruiting. Unconsciously we will all tend to favour a certain type, and while we may not discriminate illegally, we might still favour somebody from a similar background, a similar age, a similar height or even, people with beards, red hair or one that has been highlighted most recently, we discriminate against those with a body mass index of over 30.

Interestingly enough this type of bias is the most intractable to remove. Concentrating on objective measures like performance, track record, capability, professionalism are just very hard. Especially if you are not an experienced recruiter.

Where the debate is becoming most acute is over artificial intelligence, because no matter how hard you try to make computer systems impartial, they will only reflect the prejudices of those who have set up the program in the first place.

Let me give you a little example, recently the BBC ran an item about machine learning, they tried to teach a computer to spot the ideal selfie. It worked brilliantly, except the original sample they gave featured only young white women. Guess what, everything else was rejected as unsuitable.

Now that type of bias can be adjusted, but supposing your superefficient, super intelligent system slightly prefers people who listen to George Michael, and you have a standing order with Oxfam? And do not fool yourself, that information is out there and can be looked at.

The world is a scary place right now, lots of decisions we used to make are now done by machines. Surely we have a duty to make sure that they do the job better than us, not merely backup our imperfect prejudices?

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THIS WEEK

I went to a very interesting IMI conference on Thursday this week. In fact I had been asked to speak so I was quite heavily invested in a successful outcome in any case. What came across throughout the day was that we are sitting on an industry on the brink of massive change. Changes to the way we operate, to the way we sell and distribute our product, to the technology, to the way we recruit and lead our teams, even changes to the way that everyone drives. In fact I opened my talk with “Welcome to the 1988 Typewriter Manufacturers’ Conference”. Because it feels like the changes we are about to see are just as dramatic as the Word Processing revolution.
Electric vehicles are here to stay, diesel would seem to be on the way out. The development in electronic technology is staggering, and the implementation of infrastructure, new battery technology and above all, the lack of servicing and maintenance opportunities going forward are quite sobering. If you add in the need for software specialists and electricians used to dealing with extremely high voltages, you will see some of the training, development and indeed regulatory issues that are facing a traditionally mechanical industry. While fully autonomous driving may seem a long way off, driving aids are getting ever more sophisticated. And the ability to help drivers in their imperfect efforts to drive safely are impressive.
The bit I particularly liked when I researched my side of the business, and obviously I read a lot in any case, was about artificial intelligence and recruitment. Because in case you don’t know it, there are some very sophisticated systems out there already. They go way beyond what GDPR is desigend to protect us against. Some of the companies’ ability to share data, even is in this heavily protected age, is staggering. It will probably come as no surprise to you to learn that if a company trawls LinkedIn profiles, a programme can compare them to somebody’s Facebook profile. It can also look at their Twitter feed.
None of that probably comes as a surprise to anybody. But what if it also looks at your Amazon shopping list, your Netflix history, your Spotify playlist? Supposing somebody makes a decision about your future based on whether you are following Richard Branson or not, or in these days of open banking whether you have a standing order with Oxfam or any other such random, but useful indicators. You have to ask where this will all stop, whether your Tinder account will be looked at, or your purchase history with Majestic Wines? We do have some protection under GDPR, though that is limited if people are also involved in the decision-making process.
Isn’t the future wonderful? It probably always looks a lot scarier than it is, but I wonder, more than ever, whether we are in danger of turning people into something that relates more to an algorithm than to flesh and blood.
Enjoy the near future at any rate, especially this weekend. Time to get the barbie out.
THIS WEEK’S JOBS

Here are some jobs from the past ten days. Check these out and see if there is anything tempting. Click on the link to apply immediately through our site. The situation is changing the whole time and if any link refuses to work, it is probably because it has already been filled and removed. Check out all our jobs at on our Jobs Page
Latest Jobs
QUOTE OF THE WEEK

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.
Alice Kahn
During my eighty-seven years I have witnessed a whole succession of technological revolutions. But none of them have done away with the need for character in the individual or the ability to think.
Bernard M. Baruch (1870 – 1965)
If there is technological advance without social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery.
Michael Harrington, The Other America, 1962
Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.
R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 – 1983)

A I, as it is known, is just starting to invade (and I use that word deliberately) all areas of our lives. And nowhere is this more true than in recruitment. You may not be aware, but systems out there, despite the advent of GDPR, are being developed that will look at your LinkedIn profile and make a decision about you.

But, and here is the scary part, it won’t just look at your LinkedIn information, though it is capable of making a decision about you on just that. It will also trawl your connections, your Facebook profile, your Twitter feed, and there it even talking about your Netflix, your Amazon and your Spotify histories. And in these days of open banking, your bank account and your credit history.

Imagine your application being turned down because the computer says you’re not linked to the right person, or because you listen to George Michael? Or you jumping straight to the top of the list because candidates who reviewed holidays in Bali on TripAdvisor are more likely to be creative?

I’m not saying that any of these are not relevant, what I do worry about for the future is how people will game this information, just like they have done on review sites. I am sure, because it is artificial intelligence, the systems will be developed to outwit the gamers, just like Google has developed systems to outwit search engine optimisation specialists.

The future is looking scary, isn’t it? Fans of Black Mirror (watch “Nosedive” but make sure it is not on your history!) will recognise the ethical dilemmas posed by making sure you get enough likes on your social profile to be viewed as valuable to society. If we are obsessed about it now, imagine what it will be like in the future.

Happy days.

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