After nearly two years of pandemic restrictions of some kind, employers are eager to have their teams back in their offices. According to research by Robert Half Talent Solutions, two in three senior managers in the U.S. want their staff back in the office full-time. Only one-third is open to flexible schedules, either as remote work or a hybrid style, allowing employees to choose where they will get their work done. 

The research collected more than 2,300 responses from a range of professional industries including finance, legal, customer support, HR, marketing, and tech, not to mention over 1,000 responses from employees currently working from home. The view of a return to the office by employees is markedly different than that of the managers. 

Of the workers who responded, a full 50% “would look for a new job that offers remote options if their company required employees to return to the office full time”. The research highlights that the most likely to quit if forced back to the office rather than a hybrid or remote structure are millennial professionals – almost two in three would likely quit – and 55% of working parents.

Paul McDonald is senior executive director at Robert Half. He said in the press release, “Employers may be holding onto the idea that the office is the best place to collaborate, innovate and get things done — but workers feel otherwise. Companies already face retention challenges, and taking away remote options will only exacerbate the problem. Hybrid work models give employers and employees flexibility and choice and are the way forward.”

This survey does not encompass automotive industries, but the data can be inferred to be representative in attitude, especially among millennials and parents working at dealerships. Perhaps just as importantly, how and when customers interact could also be changing.

Strict on-site structure may need to be modified

As the saying goes, “You can’t unring a bell.” The WFH model sprung to popularity out of necessity, but it’s a model that will be difficult to rein in, particularly among those who found it to be more productive or more conducive to healthy family life. 

For dealers, WFH models aren’t overly popular since most positions require a physical presence to repair a vehicle, hand out parts, or demonstrate vehicles. However, the attraction of remote work or a less traditional employment structure is still prevalent among the staff who could leave for an opportunity that’s more in line with their wants and needs. 

Increasing flexibility in work hours and location, including where and how salespeople communicate with leads, should be on management’s radar. That could mean increased flexibility in hours worked in-office or a hybrid structure where certain days could be worked at home, of course coming in when needed to show a vehicle or make a deal.

Changes in shopper behavior

Just as important as the effect on the workforce at the dealership, consumer behavior among car shoppers could change with an increase in WFH in other industries. Rather than Saturday and evenings remaining busy times in the dealership, both for sales and fixed operations, a swing towards shopping or servicing midday during the week could become more popular. 

Along with a shift in busier times, customer requirements would be likely to change. Dealers could see more emphasis on loaner cars rather than shuttle services, for example. Length of ownership is likely to grow, both due to higher prices as well as fewer miles driven, generally. It provides more opportunity for loyalty with maintenance plans and F&I penetration where the emphasis is on better service and longevity rather than value. 

For dealers, skilled talent is difficult to come by and expensive to train up. Addressing the need for a more flexible workplace before staff becomes unsettled is important, and watching for new needs among customers could help engrain a unique service proposition that benefits the store.

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