Editor's Note: Rural Lifestyle Dealer's "Best Practices" series helps dealers fine-tune their management strategies. Check out previous "Best Practices" expert and dealer insights on our website. Write if you'd like us to tackle a subject, lwoolf@lesspub.com.

Midwest Machinery of central Minnesota has grown from 2 stores to 9 stores in the last 10 years and last year, they hired 41 new people. To accommodate this growth, the John Deere dealership offered its human resources consultant a full-time position and is finding new ways to seek out and persuade talented people to join their team.

"Our biggest concern is bringing new employees in. Retention has not been an issue for us. Our turnover analysis shows we are at about 8%. That's a low percentage in any industry," says Scoop Reif, Midwest's former consultant and now its human resources director.

"We have two concerns on the recruiting side - finding good, qualified employees and the geographic territory from which we can recruit. Most will not relocate unless it's for a management position. And many won't commute any great distance. The extent of our reach for most our positions is 30-40 miles," Reif says.

Think Local

Midwest's recruitment strategy starts with building brand awareness for the dealership and reaching those still in college or technical schools.

"We really try to 'preload' the system. We do a lot of outreach at school and community job fairs and make contacts with the faculty, any way we can do branding about who Midwest Machinery is, who John Deere is and how ag has changed," Reif says.

He says that community involvement also raises awareness about the dealership and the John Deere brand.


Scoop Reif is Midwest Machinery's human resources director.

"Our ownership is very committed to the communities we are in and we do all sorts of community events. The whole idea of feeding the world is an honorable thing to do."           

Win Them Over Online

A critical next step to turn recruitment efforts into hiring efforts was to enhance the employment section on the company's website. The new site lists jobs by location, details benefits and posts employee testimonials. A brochure promotes the idea of Midwest as a career and shares the company's core values: commitment, passion, progressive, integrity and value delivery.

"We used to have an employee application page, but it wasn't engaging. There was nothing that would make a person come back. So, we wanted to make it more interesting and came up with the idea of the employee profiles."

The site now features 9 employees and the goal is to feature about 25, showing a cross-section of ages, genders, departments and years with the company. Managers recommend possible testimonials subjects to Reif and he then works with them to develop short profiles. No last names are used to protect their anonymity and employees can ask to have their profile removed at any time. Reif says he's received good feedback from those who have participated.

"Generally, they feel honored that they've been asked to participate."

Job seekers can fill out an application online and upload a resume. Midwest wanted to make the process as easy as possible, so applicants can skip some sections of the online form and refer to information on their resume. Or, the application can be printed and mailed in. For higher level jobs, Midwest asks applicants to submit a letter of interest to measure their communication skills.

Reif can download the information submitted into a database.  This helps him go back to qualified applicants if another position opens.

"We wanted to move toward more a digital management of the recruiting process. Now, I'm able to take all of the online applications and pull them to a database file. Then, I can go back and search for specific skills and go back to that contact."

Be Honest

During the interview process, Reif promotes the dealership as the applicant is promoting their skills.

"Promoting our company culture is first and foremost ... the worthwhile work we do every day is important. Second, we promote long-term sustainable growth opportunities. We have 9 locations now and John Deere has been around for 176 years. How cool is it to be in a town of 1,000 in central Minnesota and be connected with an international organization?" Reif says.

"You need to always
be recruiting ... "

One thing Reif doesn't do is make everything seem perfect. However, he does show how Midwest is improving.

"If one of our service departments is older and needs upgrades we communicate that early in the process. We always want to make sure that anything that could be construed as a negative doesn't come as a surprise. We outline our plans to change."

Never Stop Recruiting           

Reif, who has more than 30 years of experience in human resources, says some dealers make the mistake of only recruiting when they have an open position. He shares this advice: "You need to always be recruiting and always doing what you can to get your name out there."

Learn more about recruiting employees in another article from our Best Practices series, "Recruit Employees With Dealership Culture, Benefits."