Mastering Automotive Career Pathing: A Strategic Guide for Dealership Retention and Growth

Mastering Automotive Career Pathing: A Strategic Guide for Dealership Retention and Growth

Let’s talk about automotive career paths. If you’re in a leadership position at a dealership, you should be considering how you can implement automotive career pathing strategies at your location.

Understanding Automotive Career Pathing

What is automotive career pathing? I grew up in the age of Super Mario Brothers, where you didn't start by fighting the boss or saving the princess; you began at the entry level. This progression is a fantastic analogy for introducing Millennials or Gen Z to automotive career paths within your business. Start them at a basic level, allow them to gain essential skills in a safe environment, then let them level up as they advance in their automotive career.

The Need for Defined Career Paths in Automotive Dealerships

Today, in the dealership environment, we often tell salespeople that success could lead to management roles. However, the timeline and criteria for this progression are frequently undefined, which can create confusion and frustration. It’s vital to have a clearly defined structure, including a list of responsibilities and KPIs, that an individual needs to meet to advance.

Identifying Leadership Potential Through Career Mapping

Even after identifying potential managers, how can you ensure they will succeed in their new roles? Not every employee excelling in sales or service has the necessary leadership skills. Effective automotive career pathing must include strategies to identify those who are genuinely suited for leadership roles and those who are not.

Structuring Levels Within Automotive Careers

Every job role in your dealership should have multiple career levels that make up a comprehensive automotive career path. For example, a salesperson might have four levels to achieve, while BDC Agents and Service Advisors might have at least three. This structure helps to create retention and allows employees to feel a sense of progress without the immediate pressure of competing with top performers.

Benefits of Level-Based Career Paths

Implementing level-based career paths in automotive careers offers significant psychological benefits to employees. It provides a clear roadmap from the start—like a martial arts system where one progresses from a white belt upwards. Each level should have achievable standards that encourage growth and development.

Creating and Implementing Career Levels

Here’s how you can create effective career levels within your dealership:

  1. Define the Number of Levels: Decide how many levels you want for each job role, with at least two recommended.

  2. Start with Trainees: Assume the lowest level is a trainee with no experience.

  3. Establish KPIs for Each Level: Define what success looks like at each level, such as the expected hours per RO a service advisor should achieve.

  4. Outline Necessary Training: Break down the training needed into four factors: process, skills, product knowledge, and temperament. List everything they need to learn without worrying about the sequence initially.

The Importance of Non-Monetary Rewards

While creating a reward structure, consider non-monetary incentives like accolades or perks, although integrating these achievements into their pay plans is recommended. This step helps to acknowledge the accomplishments of employees as they "level up" in their automotive career.

Conclusion: Addressing Employee Retention Through Career Pathing

We face a significant challenge with employee engagement in the automotive industry, and providing a defined automotive career path is an effective strategy to enhance employee performance and retention over time. Organizations outside the automotive industry have realized the benefits of career pathing, making it essential for dealerships to adopt similar strategies.

DrivingSales: Your Partner in Career Pathing

At DrivingSales, we recognize the critical role of structured career paths in enhancing dealership operations. Our platform is designed to support your journey in establishing effective career pathways, offering over 6,000 learning modules tailored to various roles within the automotive industry. Alongside a dynamic community, we provide continuous professional development opportunities, ensuring your team not only meets but exceeds their career goals.


Career Path, HCM, Managers

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About the author

J.D. Mixon

J.D. Mixon specializes in automotive marketing and operations management, with a strong focus on employee development. Skilled in digital advertising and business leadership, he directed marketing strategies for diverse automotive sectors since 2014. As Customer Success & Marketing Director at DrivingSales, he excels in enhancing customer engagement and expanding market reach, while prioritizing team growth and development.

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