Richard Dugan knows it’s a difficult time to hire new workers. 

“We’ve got an inventory problem on the people side,” says Dugan, the service recruiter for KanEquip, the largest New Holland dealership in Kansas and Southeast Nebraska. “Fertility rates have been falling since the 1970s, and immigration rates are down. We don’t have enough people.”

Not only that, Dugan says, but more high school graduates are going straight into 4-year colleges than there are jobs available for those students after they finish their studies.

“Sixty percent of the job openings in the U.S. do not require a college education, but where does everybody go when they graduate from high school?” Dugan says. That misalignment leaves college graduates struggling to find employment while dealerships are struggling to find technicians to fill vacancies, he says.

Additional factors that impact the hiring market are accumulated wealth, the high cost of childcare and increased opportunities for self-employment, according to Dugan. 

“We are one sneeze away from something heading south, and it’s going to affect this [entire] industry,” he says.

That leaves dealers in a tough spot, where they may have to focus more time and energy on recruiting than they have previously, Dugan says.

“Be fishers of talent,” he says. “Focus on the underemployed [instead of the unemployed]. If you’re looking for a parts specialist, go to NAPA. Go to O’Reilly. Find that young guy, that underemployed person, and have them move up.”

Check Your Culture 

Dugan says there are 2 reasons someone might choose to work at a competitor’s dealership.

“They’re either unable or unwilling [to work for you],” he says. 

Technicians who are unable to work for you are simply uninformed, Dugan says. They don’t know about your dealership’s mission, values or benefits. On the flip side, he says, those who are unwilling know all sorts of things about your company and your culture, but they actively choose not to apply for job openings at your location.

“Either you have a promotion problem or a culture problem,” Dugan says. “Promotion is probably the easiest to fix. Get involved with social media, advertising events and word of mouth. Get out on the street and talk to people. 

“Tell them about your company.”

Millennials are a large group of potential hires that are currently overlooked, Dugan says, and it’s important to engage with them directly.

“Bring them to your dealership,” he says. “Let them touch something. Emphasize technology and address misconceptions.

“The best way to get someone on your team is to get on theirs.”

A surefire way to do that, Dugan says, is by being an active member of the community.

“Spend time where your next hire is,” he says. Dugan acknowledges that spending weekends at area truck shows and other local events might not sound like the most appealing way to spend your free time, but he also notes that it’s a proven strategy for recruitment.

“If the technician that you want is there, you go hang out at a truck show,” he says. 

Referral Programs 

Dugan emphasizes the role a referral program can play in a dealership’s hiring process.

“It’s very fast and cost efficient,” he says. “You can get the word out really quick.”

It’s important to remember that a successful referral program is transformational, not transactional, Dugan says.

“It inspires people,” he says. “It grows people. It has an impact.”