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Having the right team supporting your business is absolutely fundamental to your organization's success, and not only during times of economic prosperity. As the dealership industry navigates the growing uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, we not only must adjust our day-to-day operations to meet the demands of the customers, we must also focus on how to retain and best utilize our employees. The core team members that created success within your dealership group will be needed as we proceed forward. With this in mind, the following are some suggestions to navigate the talent side of your business.

Can your employees work remotely?

There are certainly positions within a dealership that could be completed from home. With social distancing, it is prudent to evaluate how many people are working in an office together. If your state has not issued a shelter in place order, and your stores are still operating, consider creating shifts to reduce the number of people in the office at the same time, or send home any employees who can do their work remotely.

Can you repurpose employees in totally different areas of your dealership?

While your employees continue to deal with their ever-changing daily work environments, it may be the perfect opportunity to transition those employees into new roles, such as asking underutilized departments to support the ones with increased volume. For instance, you may convert your finance & insurance (F&I) or sales departments into business development company (BDC) employees. While showroom traffic has and will continue to decline amidst state mandates and adjusted sales hours, your customer engagement should not. With more time to shop, research and prepare for the "ready to buy" moment, customers will likely ask more specialized questions that can and should be answered by the most capable employee (i.e., vehicle specifications, capability, financing options, etc.). This transition may not only help with utilization but also build equity in your dealership, brand and product knowledge.

Can you boost home delivery and remote work for the vehicle salesperson?

Some states with shelter in place orders allow dealerships to continue to operate the service department, sell online and make deliveries to the consumer. Through the delivery process, your employees should adhere to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) requirements of exercising good sanitation and social distancing. Remote test drives are allowed as well as delivering the paperwork to the customer. There are a few requirements that may differ by state regarding which documents require an ink signature, but many of the forms can be signed electronically. Also, to comply with social distancing, the delivery specialist who typically explains the features of the new vehicle should plan to conduct this tutorial through video conferencing.

Are you familiar with the Families First Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act?

On March 18, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law, which provides food assistance support, virus test funding, emergency paid sick leave, expansion of emergency family and medical Leave, tax credits for paid sick and paid family and medical leave and unemployment insurance stabilization.

If any of your employees are sick at home, the federal government has provided a certain amount of paid sick leave and refundable tax credits to employers. Please refer to the article regarding the Act for more information.

The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27 and includes a significant number of tax and other provisions designed to support businesses and individuals. The CARES Act contains provisions for $349 billion in SBA loans known as the Paycheck Protection Loan program (PPP). The proceeds must be used for payroll costs, continuation group health benefits during periods of leave, interest portion of mortgage payments, rent and utilities. Provided the funds are used for the intended purposes, and your employee retention levels are maintained, certain amounts of the loan may be forgiven.

How do we handle recruiting and hiring during this crisis?

You may have been conducting employee interviews in the weeks leading up to the crisis, or someone may have abruptly left your organization in the last two weeks, leaving you without a replacement. It may be difficult to operate without this position in the coming weeks or potentially months of uncertainty, so you may need to consider recruiting during these times. However, the interview process may look very different now due to social distancing. There are numerous high-quality video conferencing applications that should be helpful to virtually conduct any future interviews. You can still spend a significant amount of time with each candidate and involve other key decision-makers in the process by allowing them to interview these candidates via video conference. Some of our clients have already made hiring decisions based solely on video interviews.

Unusual and uncertain times call for creative ways to deal with the talent aspect of your business. Remember to protect your crucial teams, think creatively to utilize them and stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone in new interviewing practices.

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