Auto dealership HR director stresses importance of investing in employees

Updated November 28, 2023 - 3:57 pm

The Ascent Automotive Group (AAG), parent company of Lexus of Las Vegas, Lexus of Henderson and Centennial Subaru, was recently honored with coveted Nevada Top Work Places 2023 Awards for Top Managers for midsize companies and overall third place for midsize companies.

We are very appreciative of the feedback from our associates allowing us to win these awards. It demonstrates our AAG philosophy of managers providing the necessary tools for our employees to succeed is spot on. We invest in our employees by giving them ongoing training, listening to their opinions, showing empathy when they are in need and encouraging them to grow with our organization.

We have countless examples of entry-level associates progressing with our company and advancing in their careers. As human resources director, I am always on the lookout for high-potential candidates who could advance in service, sales or management roles, but I equally value candidates and associates who embrace their chosen roles. We have a melting pot of different cultures, beliefs and backgrounds, which truly makes us great. It is our diversity and tenured “servant” leaders, who make the difference in attracting the best talent. High performers want to work with other high performers, and we overflow with such talent in all positions.

Thankfully, we had not experienced the “resignation tsunami” so many employers experienced across the country. We have a significant amount of tenure throughout our company, and we have worked hard to retain our valued associates. In December of 2022, we opened our new dealership, Centennial Subaru, and increased our overall staff by 87 people in a four-month period. Our new store created opportunity for veteran employees with growth interest and for top talent in our Las Vegas Valley. Even with the new associates, half of our employees’ tenure is five years or longer and a quarter of our 260 employees have been with us for over 10 years. This year signifies my 20th year with this company, and I am among many others with lofty tenures (32 employees over 15 years)!

Our company’s turnover rate was only 22 percent in 2021, 17 percent in 2022 and 16 percent through November 2023! What is impressive about Lexus of Las Vegas, Lexus of Henderson and Centennial Subaru is, according to Automotive News, the average employee turnover rate at dealerships throughout the country is 34 percent, and we are well below that average.

Prior to the start of the pandemic, we were in tune with the growing demand for higher wages. Our leadership conducted pay analyses over a span of four years and took action to increase our employees’ compensation. Many companies chose to increase only the pay of their entry associates, while we incrementally rewarded our tenured employees making way for an impressive starting wage of $18 per hour. Nevada’s minimum wage is $11.25 an hour (or $10.25 with benefits offerings.) We certainly positioned ourselves to hire the best of the best!

AAG believes seeking candidates with high integrity and consideration, is the best way to ensure our guests are cared for. If you make your employees feel respected and trusted, they will stay. Lee Butler, Ascent Automotive Group chief operating officer, has provided the backbone for our organization with showing care and demonstrating support. He is the reason I look forward to many more years with AAG. Mr. Butler is open to feedback, takes time to talk to every employee and tries to make reasonable decisions that benefit all associates.

My best advice to other Nevada companies is invest in your associates, show you care and be open to collaboration with your team. You hire the best so they can help you be the best!

Niki Michael is the human resources director for Lexus of Las Vegas, Lexus of Henderson, and Las Vegas Centennial Subaru.

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