Byline: David Muller
The Internet has not just brought transparency to automotive retailing in terms of vehicle pricing. It is also shining a light on how well people are treated -- not just customers, but employees, too.
Enter Glassdoor. The website is geared for job seekers, as it uses feedback from current and former employees to rate companies and provide workplace reviews. If a company rates poorly, then Glassdoor obviously will not be a useful recruiting tool.
Many auto dealers are aware of this. But one seems to have naturally backed into high praise from Glassdoor.
Or at least that's the way Bergstrom Automotive Group CEO John Bergstrom puts it. Bergstrom said he was surprised to be named one of Glassdoor's top 100 CEOs in the U.S. and the recipient of a Glassdoor Employees' Choice Award in June.
"We just do what we do -- try to be nice to people," Bergstrom said. "We live in a small town. We treat people with respect. I'm glad they like working for us. And I'm glad we win awards. But I don't know anything more than that."
On Glassdoor, John Bergstrom enjoys a 96 percent CEO approval rating based on 165 reviews. It put him at No. 21 overall among CEOs rated by Glassdoor, not far behind the leaders of much bigger companies Salesforce and Microsoft. The average CEO rating out of some 900,000 companies on the site is 69 percent. Bergstrom Automotive Group, of Neenah, Wis., has a 4.8-star rating on scale of one to five stars. The average company rating on Glassdoor is 3.3.
Crucial for dealers
The Bergstrom rating is impressive in an industry not usually associated with high job satisfaction.
Dealerships can sometimes have a revolving door for employees, particularly sales staff. The average turnover rate for dealerships in 2017, the most recent year available, was 46 percent, with an 80 percent turnover rate for sales consultants, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association's 2018 Dealership Workforce Study.
Good reviews on Glassdoor will get noticed. The review site averaged 67 million monthly visitors in the first quarter of 2019, according to Glassdoor, which cited Google analytics.
Companies with little to hide in terms of employee satisfaction do well on the site.
"With Glassdoor, we encourage obviously our employees and people who've had good experiences with us to go out there and give us a rating, especially from an employment perspective, so that potential applicants can see from people who actually work here what they think," said Casey Willson, area human resources manager for Penske Automotive Group in the Fayetteville, Ark., market.
Glassdoor reports a blended rating for the overall dealership group. Penske has a 4.0-star rating with 297 reviews. On Glassdoor, 76 percent of people said they would recommend a job within the group to a friend, and 90 percent approve of CEO Roger Penske, based on 169 ratings.
"It's all about culture" and making sure employees are listened to, valued and treated with respect, Willson said.
"That rolls down to our customers," Willson said. "They feel that, they sense that -- that we're working as a team, that we're working together with the same goal."
Laura Casselli, general manager of AutoNation Buick-GMC West in Golden, Colo., said it's important to keep dialogue open with employees, including those who post reviews on Glassdoor. Employees who are disgruntled may do better if moved to a different place in the company, for example.
"Sometimes people are a better fit in one store than they are in another," Casselli said. "And rather than lose them from AutoNation altogether, it's better to have a conversation amongst the GMs about" placing them elsewhere.
AutoNation has a 2.8-star rating based on more than 1,100 reviews, and 42 percent of reviewers said they would recommend the company to a friend.
Employee satisfaction secrets
Glassdoor advises employers to use the hiring and onboarding process as one strategy to address retention. Making sure a new employee's position fits his or her expectations can go a long way to keeping someone on the job.
So what's the secret at Bergstrom Automotive, and why is John Bergstrom such a highly rated CEO?
You could almost hear Bergstrom shrug off the question over the phone. He said he doesn't "think of it as I, I think of it as we." Bergstrom's employees all work hard together, he said.
Having a culture in which employees are directing their attention to creating and maintaining a strong customer experience is part of it, Bergstrom said. It goes back, he speculated, to the dealership group's roots as one of the first retailers for Saturn, the now-defunct brand that got its start with a legendary focus on the customer.
"Whenever we get an award, I think it's a terrible injustice to give it to me or a leader. It's always about all of us," Bergstrom said. "And I think that philosophy works, to treat people with respect and look at it that everybody's got to do their job. We've always been guest-focused, and I think that helps."
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