Do you know the most important factor in determining happiness at work? Not money, not career prospects, not job satisfaction. It is culture.

Or rather cultural fit. Do I want the same things as my employer does? Do we see the world the same way? Do we share a common ethos? Do I buy into their goals and aspirations? Do I want to work for them?

I recent survey showed that the majority Millennials are prepared to take a pay cut to work for a company whose goals they believe in. A significant minority will not work for a company that is at odds with their world view.

The single most quoted reason for a new recruit not lasting long? The promises made at interview never materialised. And most serious promises are the intangibles – “we are a people company”, “there are plenty of chances of promotion”, “you will be given all the support necessary to do the job”, “you need a life outside of work”.

It has been dubbed the Emotional Contract.

Terms that are too vague to be legally binding, but indicate the way that people are expected to work, how they develop, how they interact. If you break it they may not have recourse in law (yet), but they will vote with their feet.

Especially the ones you really want to keep, the ones with the “get up and go”. Lie to them and they will be the first to get up and go before you even realise what you’ve done.

I second that.

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When the industry or, more particularly, a manufacturer goes through a bad patch, the first instinct is that the people at the coal face are letting them down, rather than looking at the underlying causes.  

The knee jerk reaction can be to change all the managers first and then see if it makes a difference.  Just like a failing football club will ring the changes. And I guess we all know what will happen if you just swap everyone round – the more it changes, the more it stays the same.

Anyway, dealer standards mean many franchises insist on approving each Dealer Principal and every one, sometimes every senior manager, has to be assessed in depth. The cynic will say this is a good money spinner for the manufacturers – assessments can cost hundreds or thousands of pounds.

But it means that decision making has shifted, and with managers having to please two masters, in some areas staff turnover is increasing rapidly.  Good for us as recruiters perhaps, but is it in the long interest of the business?

If you scratch an itch it will get better for a while, but it always seems to come back itching more.

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I was quoted quite a few years ago as saying that the retail motor industry was founded on a lie.  And they were right, the quote was down to me. When was I quoted?

Well, you would probably have missed it, because even my Mum did – it was about 15 years ago on a live interview for the long, long lamented but never ever watched Automotive channel for Sky. And I explained that what I meant – the lie was the way that cars were sold to consumers.  

Most buyers assume that dealers make money is on the original sale and aftersales prices are so high because they reflect the cost of the technology and training required to service today’s hi-tech products.

But anybody who works within the industry knows this is not exactly the case – wafer thin margins of 2-4% on sales are matched by mind-boggling 65-80% margins on aftersales, or at least on the labour part.

But there are serious long-term problems with this approach.  Any part of your business model that generates unusual profits is open to attack from outside.  The independent sector will get better if the rewards are so high for servicing vehicles. And they will do with the blessing of the authorities if our charges are seen as excessive.

In addition, the rise of Electric Vehicles means that we are likely to perpetuate the low margin culture on sales, but then have to forego the profits on aftersales, broadly speaking because there won’t be any.

So that will be our conundrum over the next 5 years, how do we wean ourselves off a reliance on aftersales, especially if it going to disappear?

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I recently talked with my Bank Manager, naturally a very important person for us. After we had talked about us, we talked about the changes in his industry and in ours. And he explained the revolution in retail banking, and especially in banking for small businesses, over the past fifteen years or so.

At the start the banks’ main focus was on pure short-term profit. The advent of call centres and of Internet banking meant the personal touch was no longer necessary. So people were moved around very quickly, promotions were often rapid and talent was sought in every other sector of the economy to boost the banking talent pool.

And the customer became a number. I remember his frustration, as he couldn’t get close to his customers. Equally customer loyalty wasn’t valued so we got much better deals by moving, first away and then back.

He felt that banks had forgotten that banking wasn’t just about numbers, it was about people. About ten years ago, after the crash, Business Bank Managers took back control of local areas. And they were kept in those areas for a time, developing local relationships, understanding their customers properly.

But then internet banking technology got better, and more relied upon.  And then it was the customer who took the lead, deciding that it was quicker to go on line than to phone. It was faster to rely on a machine driven decision than to wait for a human.

So now there are fewer business banking teams, covering more people.  And banking has moved out of branches, less cash, fewer cheques, and is carried out more remotely. And branches are closing.

Banking is a huge business and its model has changed several times since the start of this century. I am not sure automotive retailing has changed much in that time, but it’s about to.

You can bank on it.

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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
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