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HR Update: What does Generation Z means to the powersports industry?

BY FORREST FLINN

Finding good employees in today’s job market is downright hard and it often feels that it is an impossible and endless task to accomplish. Here we are in the middle of the season and some of us are still trying to fill key positions in parts, service and the sales department! Every dealer is struggling this time of year just to keep up with demand on a limited staff and remain profitable. There are no quick fixes in finding good employees who will last but you as a dealer have to look forward to the future and this future lies in the next generation called Generation Z or GenZ for short.

Who are members of generation Z and why are they important to our industry anyway? Well first of all, members of GenZ are currently positioned to be one of the largest sources of employees and are estimated to be 20% of the workforce by the year 2020. Members of GenZ are those born in 1994 and later and the oldest members right now are around 24 years of age.

Members of this generation are good for the industry for many reasons. Yes, we need them as employees, but in my opinion, we need them in our dealerships to help us drive sales to other members of GenZ, which overall are not interested in what it is we are doing in our industry. Baby Boomers are aging fast and our industry is not adjusting to this very well and sales and profits are stagnant at best.

What do we need to know about members of GenZ as an industry? Well actually there is a lot!   To better understand this elusive generation, I turned to some recent research conducted by a highly respected man by the name of Imraan Lilani who is an expert in his field. His research was published as part of a whitepaper detailing the characteristics of members of GenZ. Below are some important findings and how they tie to the powersports industry.

  • 43% of GenZ’ers said that they felt that having a fulfilling role as their number one priority, followed closely by 33% of the group responding that they want to work for companies that have a strong commitment to social responsibility. In the powersports industry we need to design roles to retain these employees. And as far as fulfilling social responsibility we in the powersports industry do a lot for our communities and the biggest thing I hear from dealers wanting to do more is that they do not have the staff willing to work on the social causes of the dealership such as community rides sponsored by the dealership and other efforts.

 

  • 85%, which is a clear majority of respondents feel that is important for them to align their passions with their profession as very important. As an industry, the powersports industry needs to gain market share through increased ridership and we have to do it one person at a time. If the staff in your dealership, whatever department it is in, these young staffers would be in a prime position to have a greater impact on turning non-riders into riders and consumers of what we sell.

 

  • GenZ respondents to this study that when asked to choose between a high paying formal job with less pay but greater flexibility 65% said they would choose the later. This is something that as an industry we need to work on. In an economy which has only 4% unemployment and (less in other areas of the country) we need to think how competitive our dealerships are in recruiting and retaining top talent. It is a shame when an employee has to leave the dealership and the industry to be able to provide for themselves and their families. We also really need to think in terms of work life balance as well. Would a Saturday off while in season from time to time bring the dealership to the ground? With proper planning we as an industry can make dealerships a more desirable place to work.

 

  • When compared to their millennial counter parts, members of GenZ do not require as much as constant feedback to be effectively managed. Right now we could have four generations working side by side in today’s modern powersports dealerships. We as an industry need to know what makes each generation “tick” to better understand their needs to increase employee and therefore dealership performance.

 

  • What do members of GenZ value in their managers? In a recent study 35% of respondents stated that they value empowerment and courage in their managers. What does this translate to in a powersports dealership? Well members of GenZ value being able to be empowered to make decisions that affect the dealership’s profitability. They also value managers that have courage to try new things in the dealership that aren’t part of “old-school thinking”. There is an old adage that holds true today and it goes like this: If you are looking to solve a problem, ask a young person.

The landscape of the powersports industry is constantly changing and we as owners and managers of complex businesses need to stay on top of current thinking in dealership operations, specifically human resources. The one constant that we get to enjoy in the powersports industry is that the industry will constantly be changing and we have to have the flexibility to adapt.

Getting ready to employ members of GenZ, if you aren’t already doing so, allows you to stay ahead of the curve in employee recruiting, selection, and training. Right now with unemployment being so low, our pool of potential employees have a lot of options in terms of who they want to work for. Our industry is already competitive and we need to beef up what we can offer to attract and retain good people to work with our customers.

If you take these words to heart you are in fact thinking strategically about your dealership’s future. Young people are in fact key to the future of powersports and we need to understand them at a very deep level.

After all, it is just good business.

Forrest Flinn, MBA, PHR, SMS has been in the motorcycle industry for more than 20 years and has been a true student and leader serving in various capacities. He previously worked as an implementation consultant for Lightspeed and as a general manager with P&L responsibility for a large metro multi-line dealership. Currently Forrest is the managing partner and chief visionary for a consulting firm that specializes in outsourced accounting, human resources, social media strategy, dealership operations consulting and Lightspeed/EVO training.

Contact: forrest@powersportsmc.com

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