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Embracing the Dealership Millennial and Gen Z Psyche

Why should dealers care at all about what the millennial workforce wants? Well, like it or not, by 2030, about 64% of the workforce will be comprised of millennials and Gen Z. 
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Why should dealers care at all about what the millennial workforce wants? Well, like it or not, by 2030, about 64% of the workforce will be comprised of millennials and Gen Z. Furthermore, according to the 2021 National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Dealership Workforce Study, the average dealership suffers a 46% turnover rate.1NADA also reports the average dealership as having 63 employees,2which means that the average dealership sustains 29 turnovers every year. These numbers indicate some of the highest turnover statistics among any other industry.

The connection between turnover in today's dealership arena and the steadily increasing number of millennials (with Gen Z on their heels) occupying positions within the industry is no coincidence. Thus, accommodating the wants and needs of this up and coming population of spry employees will be critical in keeping your dealership running smoothly.

What Matters to Them Matters to You

To appeal to millennials, dealers must first understand what matters to them, as their values are quite distinct from the generation X and baby boomer workforce that once occupied the industry. Whereas a decade ago, employees may have placed more emphasis on compensation, millennials seem to have other priorities.

Primarily, a flexible work schedule rises to the top as a job incentive that millennials seek out—as in six-day work weeks, long workdays, and minimal time off isn't cutting it anymore. Millennials' intolerance for these rigid schedules is a leading source of turnover in the industry. A balance of work and personal life is pivotal. The pandemic proved this for many industries.

When identifying talent for your dealership, make sure you ask prospective hires what they expect out of their work life to best gauge what incentivizes them most. While it very well may be compensation, it may be more likely to revolve around work-life balance. Whatever the case, make sure they leave the interview having communicated to you what matters to them most.

Embracing the reality of what matters most to your millennial employees and prospective Gen Z employees means harnessing what incentivizes them. As the industry adapts and evolves in tandem with its younger generational workforce, employers must adhere to its desires. Therefore, what matters to them must matter to you.

What Does a Millennial Look Like?

It is no secret that having the right people in place directly impacts a dealership's bottom-line success. Behind every successful dealership is a team of talented people. Therefore, in addition to embracing the incentives that make millennials happy, such as work-life balance, it is also imperative that you factor into your recruiting and retention strategy the values that motivate millennials to work hard for your organization.

A good place to start when strategizing is to consider the shared traits of millennials. While comprised of diverse individuals, there are several common denominators that often span the millennial workforce.

  • They are optimistic and tenacious.
  • They are highly tech-savvy and thrive on digital forms of communication.
  • They crave information and excel in a learning environment.
  • They are accustomed to and expect immediate access to any and all sources of information.
  • They are strong multi-taskers.
  • They are goal-oriented and driven by positive reinforcement.
  • They thrive on collaboration.
  • They are easily inspired by mentorship.

This is just a small sample of the many characteristics you may find in a millennial prospect or employee. Nevertheless, facilitating a work environment that enables the millennial generation to thrive will help set your dealership up for future success.

Motivate to Perform

In alignment with the above traits, below are a few recommendations on how you might consider adjusting the workplace in a manner that both attracts the next generational recruits and keeps top performing employees in your dealership. Many of these folks are very young in their career but they thrive when given opportunities in these areas:

  • Avoid micro-managing. A tenacious young employee will respond much more positively to having some degree of job autonomy.
  • Additionally, tenacity is a trait often accompanied by a thirst for involvement. Take advantage of appropriate opportunities to share decision-making so that emerging leaders feel like their voice is heard. Start small—even involving them in minimally-impactful decisions will go a long way. Once they demonstrate their quality of input, you may start trusting them to weigh in on larger issues.
  • Leverage today's evolving digital arena. Consider integrating mobile devices throughout the daily workflow, or use tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams in lieu of a phone call. Finally, never underestimate the power of social media—use it to connect with millennial and Gen Z recruits and employees.
  • "At the touch of a button" is no longer figurative speech—millennials and Gen Z’s literally expect to attain information at the touch of a button. Maintain updated online, resources to facilitate continued education and growth. Ask yourself if you are using the most up to date technology in your business.
  • Millennials are like human sponges—they are hungry for information and prosper in an environment rich with learning opportunities. In addition to offering online tools such as web courses and training, you might also consider sending them to conference workshops or classes. Due to the lockdowns during the height of the pandemic, Gen Z is well-adapted to online learning opportunities too. 
  • Cash in on your multi-taskers! Most millennials are proud of this skill. Communicate to your recruits that you encourage a high level of responsibility and provide your existing employees with an assortment of tasks (be sure to verbalize that this work is important and express gratitude). They will feel valued, and your dealership will benefit.
  • Reward innovation and commend a job well done. You don't necessarily have to hold their hands throughout the course of their career, but make sure they feel appreciated.
  • While millennials strive for individual growth and betterment, they work very well in groups and see great value in collaboration. Provide opportunities for your employees to join forces. Involving them in management sharing sessions will also encourage teamwork across the various hierarchies in the dealership, which is important.
  • Provide mentoring opportunities. In line with their taste for teamwork, enabling a mentor-mentee environment fosters motivation. It's not that these new generations necessarily fear disappointment; rather, they thrive on the opportunity to please and achieve the goals set forth by someone they consider a role model.

Bottom line, as the workforce continues to shift and millennials and Gen Z continue their role in the dealership industry, it is important to craft your recruiting and retention strategy around what impacts their happiness. Whether or not the millennial ideals resonate with you, in an industry so ripe for evolution and change, it is imperative that employers acquire the flexibility necessary to be able to successfully evolve.

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