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Recruitment - It’s not just the taste of Money

The moans from the motor trade are all too familiar: I go to the expense of training a new workshop recruit, only to see him poached by someone up the road; I can’t hang on to salespeople – they’re always chasing the next job offering more commission; I can’t get a fix on our poor CSI ratings, but I suspect it’s got something to do with our aftersales people.

What these complaints have got “something to do with” is the way an employer goes about recruitment and – perhaps more important – retention.

As Chris Eastwood, managing director of  Chris Eastwood Automotive, puts it: “There’s no doubt that staff turnover is one of the most de-stabilising factors a motor dealer has to face.  Why is there so much movement in our industry and is it endemic or a problem across the board in all industries? And who, or what, is to blame?”

Eastwood, who has been in the recruitment business for the past 10 years having previously worked in accountancy and business development for a main dealer group, takes issue with the view that all problems can be solved simply by more pay. 

“From the most recent recorded ‘reasons for wishing to leave’ taken from our database of registered candidates, higher pay represented a surprisingly small sample of the responses,” said Eastwod. “Staffing problems are never  just about salaries. Throwing money at a problem isn’t always the wisest way forward – that’s a lesson being learned by the government’s investment in the health service.   What employers should look at is how they recruit to ensure they are getting access to the best candidates. And from the candidate’s point of view, they want reassurance about their potential employer: are they among the best in the business; can they be trusted?”   

Ian Hunt, head of people development at the Carter & Carter Group, which provides support services to automotive companies, agrees with Eastwood’s belief. Referring specifically to salespeople, he says: “The industry needs to put a stop to this cyclical nature (of high turnover among sales staff), but the answer isn’t about offering the highest rates of pay and commission.  

“Increasingly we are seeing manufacturers and dealer groups investing in apprenticeship programmes and other specialist training schemes designed for sales staff. This has to be the right way forward.”

Hunt said the retention issue could only be effectively addressed if there was sufficient focus on staff development as well as on performance appraisals and succession planning. “Not only will this help to motivate the staff, but it will also encourage more long term careers in the industry.”

Chris Eastwood is critical of employers who are more concerned with how much the recruitment process is going to cost them than the quality of the candidates. “I do understand that fees represent an important basis for negotiation but, to use an analogy, how can you sell a prestige car if the only questions your customers ask are ‘how much is it and how many have you got in stock?’ We are asked firstly how much we charge followed by ‘let’s see who you’ve got’. Our code of conduct forbids the sending over of candidates indiscriminately to companies who refuse to discuss these applications.”

He says job seekers can’t be shifted around like cars on a forecourt to be viewed to best advantage by the “customer”, adding “they want a lot of information on the position before they will even begin to consider it and they need first and foremost to know that it won’t get round the grapevine that they are out in the marketplace”.

Does your screening need adjusting?

Using CVs as a recruitment filter carries with it the risk of employers falling foul of ‘impression management’, warns Ian Hunt, of Carter & Carter. And pyschologist Wendy Lyons says another screening method - multiple-choice ability tests, more commonly known as psychometric tests – also needs to be regarded with caution.

Hunt says that application forms designed to gather information relevant to the post tend to be far more effective than CVs.

It was also important to ensure there was a clear understanding of the job profile and a ‘person specification’ of the best individual fit for the role. “This will identify the core competencies that are required and an appropriate recruitment process developed to ensure that the right candidate with the right competencies will be identified.”

Hunt added: “Recruitment for each job should be individually addressed.  Different jobs require different recruitment processes to test the competencies of candidates against those required for the job for which they are applying.  For instance role playing may be suitable for a sales vacancy but not for an administrative position. During the recruitment process robust scoring methods must be used for assessing candidates rather than basing evaluations on perceptions.”

Wendy Lyons said psychometric tests were popular because they were “equally adept” at evaluating a handful of candidates or many hundreds of them and could easily be delivered over the internet.

“However, they do not give the candidate a chance to communicate what he or she is really like other than by furnishing answers to the questions,” said Lyons. “When the test is being used as a screening tool, the candidate will not usually be interviewed until he or she has turned in a sufficiently promising result from the test  to reach the next stage. Until this happens, the test is all there is and the candidate will be assessed solely by how he or she responds to the test itself.”

She advised employers using ability to tests to check the following: 

  • Has the system been vetted against bias on race, gender, disability or age?
  • Does it have good content validity (i.e. does it measure qualities that are essential to the role)?
  • Does it help reduce test anxiety among applicants, e.g. practise questions/comprehensive instructions?
  • What kind of feedback do you offer applicants?

And if you are using online selection tools:

  • Are these proven to be equivalent to their paper and pen counterparts?
  • Are they designed to ensure that all respondent groups (particularly older respondents) have an equal and fair ‘crack at the whip’?
  • Have you considered the possibility of cheating and collusion and how these can be tackled?

Wendy Lyons is a chartered  occupational psychologist working with Human Assets, a business psychology consultancy: 020 7434 2122; wendy.lyons@humanassets.co.ukwww.humanassets.co.uk.