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Re-printed with permission from Babcox Media, Inc. AMN AftermarketNews

Re-printed with permission from Babcox Media, Inc. AMN AftermarketNews

For nearly three decades, APA Search has helped numerous aftermarket companies find great talent. The firm has worked with clients to help fine-tune their organizational structure as well as develop successful succession strategies. In the coming weeks, Howard Kesten and APA Search will share with AMN readers some practices that will help keep your company staffed with the most qualified executives, rather than the most available, in a new article series. If you’re a career-seeker, we’ll provide you with the secret sauce for effective and successful interviewing. This week, we kick off with a look at the winning “People Practices” used at today’s most successful aftermarket companies.

What are the winning Human Resources “People Practices” being used by today’s most successful aftermarket companies?

For years, APA Search has been interviewing both candidates and clients. We have probably engaged in more than 50,000 interviews, all in. What did we learn? How are people in the most successful companies (not necessarily the largest) being treated by their employers? Why do we consistently receive unsolicited resumes from employees at some companies, and yet never receive unsolicited resumes from employees at other companies? Why are people from some companies happier, more focused and outperforming their peers at other companies? What is the secret sauce?

Some of what we’ve learned about winning People Practices came from you – our aftermarket peers. Let’s summarize some of the more critical winning people practices.

Create and communicate a clear vision to all associates

To attract and maintain the absolutely best people, a company needs to provide a clear vision of the company’s future and how they are going to get there. That vision would include not only where the company is going, but also the role that each associate will play in reaching that vision. One of the most common complaints of automotive professionals who contact us about new opportunities is that they simply don’t understand the company’s goals and vision. As a result, they become concerned about their future within the company and begin to explore new opportunities. A company without vision is reactive in nature, which does not nurture confidence in the business.

We have found the best companies have a clear and relevant vision and that the executive team has been trained to effectively communicate that vision through every level of the organization, taking great care to ensure that every associate understands their role in achieving that vision.

Provide a career path for associates

Take the time during the review process, or at any time, to shape a career path for your employees. Let them know what opportunities might exist for them (no promises, please) if they perform. Many candidates who contact us do not see a clear career path within their current companies. They are especially sensitive when they know an acquisition or sale is on the horizon.
Once they’ve tendered their resignation, it’s simply too late to review their opportunities with your company. Before you’ve lost a great employee, take the initiative to suggest (not promise) any number of potential opportunities. Great companies work with their employees to identify different career paths while they are still with the company.

A winning culture

Another issue that has driven many candidates to contact us and prevent good companies from becoming great companies would be best described as a “poor” company culture. Many companies simply don’t understand the importance of having a “good” culture.

A “good” culture is one in which employees feel safe, enjoy working together, communicating together, winning together and growing personally and professionally together.

There are a few simple, yet highly effective ways to create a winning culture:


Create an environment where all associates have a voice; listen to what they have to say and praise them for their contribution. Many candidates who contact us feel that that they are not being heard and that they do not have an opportunity to contribute. Creating an environment where associates can contribute their own ideas will help them develop greater self-esteem. If they are heard and you execute on some of their ideas, your employees will feel great about the company and will “own” the performance of your company. They will see your company as their own company. We have found that high-performing, highly innovative people often come from corporate cultures that listen to their employees and really support and encourage communication and collaboration at every level.


If you’re a manager, spend more time coaching rather than just leading. Work to bring out the best in all your employees. Make sure they understand the tactics and have the skills required to perform in their position.

Have Fun

Engage employees in activities outside of work. Give them the opportunity to get to know their team members on a different level. One of our clients recently added a gym to an unused space in their building. The employees are allowed 30 to 45 minutes a day to enjoy the gym providing there is no conflict with their work schedule. Employees are getting in earlier and there is happy “buzz” in the air about the new company benefit.

Maintain your “great” culture. Work at it and make it a core component of your business.

Ensure your executive team has the right attitude and skills

It’s been our experience that negative or positive culture most often trickles down from a company’s leaders. If your leadership team meetings are fraught with sarcasm, indifference, poor team dynamics and negative attitudes, chances are this type of behavior will trickle down through the ranks of an organization.

Ensure your senior executives know how to work together or make the necessary changes that might result in a more cohesive, professional and positive team. The executive team should set the bar and drive teamwork and collaboration throughout the organization.

We are often contacted by candidates who are simply frustrated by their inability to get the appropriate cooperation and collaboration from other departments. In similar instances, we have found this type of behavior can often be shaped and influenced by one or more members of the executive team.

Building bench strength, succession planning and cross training

Great companies prepare for tomorrow’s “people” needs. Our most successful clients want to hear about relevant, high-performing executives before they have a need. We can identify well over 100 instances where we have placed high-performing, high-potential executives with our clients before they had an actual need, with no regrets years later.

The likelihood of losing high-performing people is greater than ever with the professional connectivity that has been created through social media networking platforms such as LinkedIn. Great companies are prepared for the planned or unplanned loss of an executive. They have cross-trained many of their people, and often have the bench strength available so they are not without a strong leader for an inordinate period of time. Take the time to create a succession plan as well as a plan to develop the necessary bench strength so you have the right people in place at the right time.

Flexible working hours

Like many of you, I became a 24/7 employee when I purchased my first smartphone. Today’s leading employers are recognizing the willingness by many of their employees to engage in business matters long after their official working hours. As a result, they have recognized the work commitment made by today’s employees and offered them flex hours to provide them with the opportunity to commute during optimum travel times or work remotely when it makes sense. This thoughtful, collaborative policy has helped many of our clients retain great people and resulted in the improved performance of those people.

Are you ready to improve the People Practices at your company?  Stay tuned for Part 2 from Howard Kesten and APA Search next week.

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