Hire Learning

For some marine retailers, the struggle to fill holes in their dealership is presenting difficult challenges and new approaches to recruiting and hiring

Like many other people in the world, your “daily feed” is filled with coverage about rising inflation, spiked gas prices, war (and all the political dancing around it) and concern about interest rates climbing. But you’re also trying to run a business, one that’s been seeing a continued consumer demand for boats, in addition to a shortage of inventory, parts delays and an evolving labor force. You’re neck deep into your hiring season — not to mention coming off two of the most challenging years as a business owner you’ve ever witnessed — so adding to your team ahead the summer boating season is at the forefront of your mind.

In our phone conversations with dealers, we’ve heard multiple stories of bringing in a new hire or spending the time to lining up interviews only to be ghosted by the new hires or candidates. And that’s on top of a lack of job seekers. Finally, a changing workforce and a lack of urgency to find work has also slowed this hiring game and forced some dealers to pivot in their approach.

Meanwhile potential employees seek more flexibility when it comes to hours worked or amount of vacation time (not ideal for a retail business like yours). Others demand better benefits or more compensation and/or pay than a company’s existing employees get, which opens another can of worms about worker compensation entirely.

That’s why as part of the March 2022 Pulse Report (With our partners, Baird Research and Trade Only Today) and to support our April Spotlight effort on Recruiting and Hiring, we tried to dig a little deeper with dealers to find their top recruiting and hiring challenges. We also inquired about how many open positions they are currently looking to fill and how that related to their typical staffing level. Around 60 marine retailers of all shapes, sizes and locations provided answers to our questions.

Question 1 asked: What of the following do you consider your top recruiting and hiring challenge?
A. Lack of candidates
B. Skill or experience level of candidates
C. Ghosting (new hires don’t show up at work)
D. Unreasonable demands (compensation, benefits, hours, etc.)
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As the graph here portrays, the lack of candidates led the way for the survey participants. We know there is a shrinking workforce out there these days, and the continued and worsening marine technician shortage isn’t helping dealers fill the holes in their org chart. Another issue one dealership mentioned was their current employees slacking more because they know there are no replacements out there to fill their place. Some have already satisfied their new-hire quota, while other have chosen to halt it. “Not looking to fill positions. Lack of product availability and inflation are already slowing sales and service. A recession is on its way,” one participant explained. While recession fears have creeped into the minds of some business owners, some are more effected by this thought process than others and have found their new hires. One dealer answered, “[We have] zero openings now; 16 full-time and 4 seasonal.”

The skill or level of experience came in second, as you can clearly see, which points to comments like this one, “We have 3 to 4 positions available, but nobody wants to work and the skill level of candidates is below par. New hires are not lasting long.” One common theme in the responses was the need for technicians and those filling roles within the service department. However, in the same breath, dealers seek to find workers with proper amount of training and knowledge. “We are trying to add 3 people to staff in positions, all of which require a high degree of talent,” eluded another partaker. “We have had few applicants, but very few if any that would meet our search criteria.”

Unreasonable demands are not always driven by higher salaries. Two participants even mentioned that they couldn’t find hires to fill the holes in the dealership despite better wage levels. In fact, one respondent said all of the above for his struggles, adding “We are looking for two candidates and it has been slow in spite of top tier wages in our area.”

In terms of ghosting, it’s a real as ever, despite finish last in this particular ranking. One participant, who devoted more money on recruitment than ever before yet still sees a lack of applicants, responded with “Seeing a lot of ghosting of candidates who submit resumes/applications but do not respond or show for interviews.” To remedy both, they’ve resorted to hiring more part timers to cover their needs. Or, as other have suggested to do as a strategy moving forward, is to do a reduction of their absolute needed number of new hires. While it may be a temporary way to cope with the current labor issues out there, one dealer effectively shrank their absolute need of 10 employees down to four new hires.

MRAA members can read the entire March Pulse Report here. We also have devoted all of April to helping you improve at recruiting and hiring. Visit the mraa.com/hirebetter page to explore a variety of non-member and member resources to hone your hiring skills and efforts to land the next additions to your dream team. This page can help you avoid common mistakes in hiring, explore new recruitment practices and build a culture that attracts new hires. In addition, MRAA members can find job descriptions and training courses to hire differently..