Career progression in a dealership environment

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Every dealership wants a workforce that is engaged and motivated to work hard when they come into work each day and offering ample scope for career progression is a great way to make that happen.

Whether you’re an employee or an employer, in this post we’ll discuss some of the reasons why career progression needs to be given the attention it deserves and how to go about establishing pathways that help both workers and employers get to where they want to go.

Why career progression is important

Career progression is important for a range of reasons. Most workers dislike becoming stagnant in their career but instead want a career that offers some challenge, keeping them busy and stimulated.
There’s a very rewarding feeling associated with learning new things and developing new skills. When an employee feels they’ve learnt everything there is to learn about a role and accomplished everything they wanted to accomplish, it’s likely they’ll start looking for a new role elsewhere if there’s no more room to move, even if they’re working for a great dealership.
Career progression allows employees to expand their skill set and widen their knowledge base. While there was a time where staying put in a single position for 10-15 years was viewed as a good thing, today most employers will question the number of skills someone has picked up over that time, so staying in the same role for many years could be detrimental to a worker’s career.
A good career progression pathway provides employees with a goal to work towards. When associated with meeting performance expectations, a career progression pathway can also serve as a high-value reward which keeps workers engaged and motivated to work much harder, while also improving retention rates.
While some dealerships have established career pathways, others choose to ignore the topic entirely.

For employees looking to establish a career plan, they may need to take the matter into their own hands by raising the topic with their manager. While it can be an awkward conversation (particularly for workers aspiring to their manager’s role), most good managers will appreciate the honesty. In many cases, it’s still much easier to have that conversation than to have to resign a little further down the track because you’re feeling unfulfilled.

The importance of networking

Career progression in a dealership environment
A key challenge for many employees is not knowing what the options for their career really are. While they may have visibility of the scope for career progression within their current dealership, it can be difficult to know where their skills can take them.
That’s where networking comes in.
In days gone by, attending industry conferences, workshops or seminars were the only real networking opportunities most workers had access to. While these platforms are still a great way to network, networking in today’s dealership environment seems to happen a lot more organically, with many dealerships often in regular contact with other dealerships to source spare parts.
Virtual networking through platforms like LinkedIn have also changed the networking landscape, as they allow industry professionals to connect with people they otherwise wouldn’t be able to engage with.
For employees that want to get an idea of what career progression opportunities are out there, virtual networking allows them to reach out to others within the industry to gain some valuable insights. Contacting someone that’s followed a similar career path to what you’re looking for to find out what helped them get where they are can be an invaluable source of information.

We’re quite lucky within the dealership industry as most people are quite happy to chat to others and share their perspective—some may even be able to offer a helping hand in some way!

Knowing when is the right time to move forward

For employees wanting to know how long it will take them where they want to go, unfortunately there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to estimating how long that progression will take.
For example, you can’t tell a Technician they’ll need to stay on the tools for 5 years, then they’ll be able to move into a Service Manager position. Everyone will have a unique journey; while some can step up relatively quickly, others need a little longer before they’ll be ready to take on the next challenge.

Career progression will also depend on other factors including the area you work in, the individual employer, and the available opportunities. But for employees that think they might be ready to take the next step in their career, there are a few questions they can ask themselves to better understand if it’s the right career move:

  • Have I reached my ceiling in the business, or am I just bored? – This can be helpful to weigh up whether there genuinely isn’t any more scope for progression, or if there are still new things they can learn.
  • Have I truly outgrown my role? – Employees that feel their day-to-day has become too easy may have outgrown the role and need a new challenge to stay engaged.
  • Do I still feel challenged? – Even where an employee has reached a ceiling but still feels challenged, they may feel like they want to stay in the same role.

How can dealerships offer more career progression opportunities?

For dealerships that want to offer their employees more career progression opportunities but don’t know how, here are some simple things that almost any dealership can do:

Implement regular training

Implementing regular OEM training to ensure the service department is across the latest technology and sharing that knowledge with the sales department to ensure they know how it works and how to sell it to customers is a great way to keep employees engaged, learning, and at the forefront of industry advancements.

Promote and hire internally

Regularly promoting internal staff members will foster a culture where employees believe there is genuine scope and opportunity to move up within the dealership. The prospect of promotion will also act as a strong motivator for workers to want to give their all given the prospect of reward for delivering a strong and consistent performance.

You can even use current employees as an example when hiring new employees to help sell your dealership—for example, you could introduce them to a staff member that started out as an Apprentice, before working their way up to become a Workshop Supervisor or Service Advisor, and then a Service Manager.

Establish career development plans
While career development plans aren’t heavily used within the dealership industry, they’re very popular throughout other industries.
Spending some time with each employee to find out where they want to be in 12 months and 3-5 years and working it into a formal development plan is a great way to gain some insights into where an employee wants to take their career and how you might be able to accommodate that.
Having said that, you won’t always be able to accommodate their wishes so it’s important to remember that a career development plan isn’t a promise—it’s about understanding an employee’s goals and ambitions.

For example, a lot of Technicians will say they want to become a Service Manager, but you may only have one Service Manager role. Instead, you might be able to gain some insights into what aspects of the role they’re most attracted to and find alternative ways to meet that desire in some way, shape or form in their current role. There are also a lot of Technicians out there that aspire to become something like an Aftersales Manager, so you may be surprised to find some employees want to head in a different direction to what you initially presumed.

Teamrecruit is Australia’s most established recruitment agency specialising in truck, earthmoving and agricultural machinery dealerships in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. Find out more about Teamrecruit and how we support employers and candidates in the dealership industry.

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