Amy E. Allen, SPHR

As a dealer you likely have a lot to be happy about these days.  The economy is solid, affordable fuel costs are driving up SUV and light truck sales, and credit access for customers has eased.  Yet there’s probably an anxiety that you just can’t shake – a “people” anxiety you maybe thought was only felt by larger dealerships. Yet here you are, asking:

  • Do we have the right HR practices, systems, expertise and resources to support both our current and projected growth strategies and workforce?
  • Do we need a full-time HR person now? 
  • How do I ensure that we’re doing everything we can to retain our top performers?
  • Who’s keeping up with all the labor law changes?
  • Where do we start?

You’re not alone. Even the most talented HR professionals find it challenging to balance the daily tasks and unexpected demands of the business and also have the time to proactively address the bigger issues.

Whether you have 50 employees or 500 employees, a comprehensive HR “health” assessment is an efficient way to begin the process of answering these questions.  This is where the Seven Stage Employee Life Cycle and Compliance review process comes into play, to ensure that dealer principals, managers and HR teams have a complete picture of where their HR practices stand today and where they’ll need to be tomorrow, from attracting and hiring talent to developing and off-boarding.  Areas of focus of such a process include:

  1. Attract – Is your dealership in the best possible position to attract top talent and be an employer of choice? Attracting talent is about more than just being on the “best places to work” lists – today we are dealing with multi-dimensional social media influence.  Think about your brand as a dealer…what do you want people on the outside to say when asked “what do you think it is like to work there?”
  2. Select – Dealerships see their best return on not only selecting the right candidates, but in the efficiency in how they do so.  Understand how long it takes you to make a hiring decision and why.  Look at where your best hires have come from and double down on your investment in that job board or strategy.
  3. On-board – Data shows us that in the first 90 days of employment, employees make decisions on how much effort they are going to put into a job and how long they are going to stay. This is a sweet spot of time where your investment in their experience will definitely see a return.  The on-boarding strategy should start at the time of the offer through the first 90 days…meaning orientation is just one component of a solid on-boarding program.
  4. Engage – Although “employee engagement” is becoming an antiquated term in the HR world, having employees that are jazzed up about coming to work in your dealership and who feel pride in the work that they do are still going to have a positive impact on your bottom line. Look at your communication strategy and how you are recognizing above and beyond efforts.
  5. Develop – Development doesn’t always have to mean promotion.  Often lateral opportunities can expose individuals to areas other than their current career track.  Think about project work and special events as opportunities for development.
  6. Manage – The “culture of constant feedback” experiment has proven to not be what employees are looking for.  Amazon and others who looked at eliminating performance reviews have since gone back to formal reviews in one form or another. There is a lot of good data put out there by performance review guru Marc Effron (“One Page Talent Manager”) about what science tells us where they add value. Don’t try to solve all problems via your performance review.  Keep it simple!
  7. Off-board – Whether involuntary or voluntary, the way your dealership handles employee departures can save you money and promote your employment brand. There are compliance components to this process in each state (in MA, for example, you have to give departing employees unemployment information even if they are going to another job). It is an important program for your dealership and often doesn’t get enough attention.

Focus on these areas includes assessments of efficiency, employee experience, and compliance, providing a solid foundation for the critical decision making that you’ll need to make your ever more critical HR function.  Improvements in just one area will save you money and improve your employee’s experience.

Amy Allen, SPHR, is a partner with BlumShapiro, the largest regional business advisory firm based in New England, with offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The firm, with a team of over 500, offers a diversity of services, which include auditing, accounting, tax and business advisory services. Blum serves a wide range of privately held companies, government and non-profit organizations and provides non-audit services for publicly traded companies. To learn more visit us at

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