Growing a dealership impacts every aspect of the business, but when your total number of employees nearly doubles in a short timeframe it presents some very specific challenges for the Human Resources Dept. It's imperative, as the administrative volume increases, that the human side of the equation stays in focus.
This is the task CVE's Human Resources Director Chantal Persons is met with daily. "When I started, there were just 2 stores and 45 employees," Persons recalled. "With the additional 2 stores, we're upward of 80 employees so doubling the locations and the number of employees has brought a lot more challenges."
It goes beyond the additional workload associated with the paperwork of a growing team; the greater task comes in changing systems and mindsets of the new team members. CVE was fortunate to retain many of the existing employees at the locations it acquired, but routines need to be adjusted when you've got people working in the same buildings and doing the same jobs but all of their processes have changed - everything from how invoices are run to the computer systems they work on will be different.
"I think that's one of the biggest challenges of acquiring another store," says Persons. "First of all, the new people need to have the right mentality and desire to change. And then we need to be able to free up people at the other stores to help train them. It's taken a while to smooth things out, but after a year it seems to be getting there," she says.
Persons was born and raised on a farm and her husband currently works as part of her family's farm, but she is an admitted "numbers person." She joined CVE nearly 9 years ago after spending 4 years in public accounting and joined the dealership in an accounting role prior to taking on the payroll, benefits and human resources responsibilities in recent years.
Years with Organization: 9 - after spending 4 years as a public accountant.
Role: "I take care of the payroll and related taxes, all the employee benefits human resource issues and the new hire reporting. I also handle the quoting and the administration of health insurance, worker's comp, property insurance, supplemental insurances and the 401k plans. Essentially anything personnel related that requires discretion, attention to detail, and pushing paper around, that's where I sit."
As an HR staff of one, this means a tremendous amount of administrative work for her. "I take care of the payroll and related taxes, all the employee benefits and human resource issues and the new hire reporting. I also handle the quoting and the administration of health insurance, worker's comp, property insurance, supplemental insurances and the 401k plans. Essentially anything personnel related that requires discretion, attention to detail, and pushing paper around, that's where I sit."
The hiring and firing is still handled at the store level by each individual location, but the associated paperwork and discussions about benefits are still routed through Persons at the St. Albans location. Until a consolidated process is put in place, Persons will continue to be that central contact and work with a point person at each location who'll pass required paperwork along with Persons' contact information to any new hire.
As critical as her role is, much of what Persons does goes on behind-the-scenes and is likely unnoticed to most of CVE's employees. "As long as they get their paychecks they're happy," referring to her responsibilities with payroll. "But I wouldn't be surprised if half the people who work for CVE had any idea I did anything other than payroll."
Persons isn't concerned about the lack of recognition because she recognizes the time spent renewing policies, gathering and soliciting quotes for insurance is vital to the overall well being of the organization. She does, however see opportunity as the organization grows to give increased attention to the HR side of things and help make working at CVE less of a job and more of a career.
"I would love to be able to stop in at each store once a month and talk to everybody to find out what their hot button topics are," she says. This could be anything from addressing training issues, to insurance matters, to taking requests for new company-branded attire. But as Persons sees it, employees appreciate someone caring and having an ear to talk to. "I would like to be able to set aside a little bit of the administrative stuff and focus more on people," she says. "I believe it would help with retention issues if everyone felt more valued and part of the family."
Persons envisions a time when CVE will have a company newsletter to not only update employees on vital company news, but also bridge the physical miles between locations with information about hirings, anniversaries, birthdays, etc.
"Brian Carpenter makes it a point to get to know everybody, to know everyone's birthdays and spouse's names, but a newsletter would help all of our stores get to know one another better," she said.
Also on her wish list is getting more involved in the hiring and retention processes at each location as well as training programs. Specifically she would like to see more formalized training that's completed within a specified timeframe that would show the new employee that he or she has a clear career path. She believes defined processes would help create an environment of certainty for new employees and a quicker path to satisfied team members.