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How to Plan For Your Next Level Hire

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Employee Relations Manager


You’re not likely to find an employee relations manager in most auto repair shops.


What was originally concepted as a support role for Craig Noel’s in-house accountant slowly took on a new form as he adapted his workflow with the opening of the operation’s fourth shop and realized there were gaps he had yet to fill.


The customized role fits a trend Murphy’s seen more and more of in recent years as shops invest in relationship-focused positions like customer service representative roles.


“Culture is my top priority. I want people to grow and eventually retire with me, and a big part of growing a culture people want to stick with is staying ingrained in the day to day and touching base with each employee” says Noel. “I just couldn’t keep up the momentum.”


In addition to assisting with admin tasks, Noel built out the position to manage conflict resolution as well as employee recognition projects like a monthly internal newsletter to celebrate team wins. 


What to Look For:


Conscious that the role would include several human resource and team-building responsibilities, Noel was in search of a candidate with a communications-focused background, who would ideally bring an understanding of basic principles of psychology or sociology to the role. 


“It sounds like a tall order, but I was looking for the role to be part mediator, so it had to be someone who can get a read on people and connect with them in order to get to the heart of an issue and find solutions,” he says. An outgoing personality and an ability to maintain neutrality through the decision-making process were also key. 


What to Ask:


Noel found an unexpected, but solid match for the role through a series of informal focus groups with his daughter and her fellow college classmates.


Each quarter the group would meet over dinner and Noel would ask for their take on everything from national politics and the social justice movements sweeping the nation, to the way they use and don’t use social media.


“I posed situational questions to the group to see how they’d handle the conflict we were seeing play out in current events when faced with it on a personal level,” he says. “It was a way of exposing genuine answers to the ‘tell me about a time you faced conflict’ questions, but structured as an ongoing dialogue.”


Noel’s ultimate hire, who had been a member of the group and is a recent college grad with a communications degree, stood out for her ability to craft articulate, strategic, and unbiased answers in real time.


Added ROI: 


“You don’t want those newer, more adaptable roles to become a complete catchall, but they can help with additional tasks and projects to get more bang for your buck,” Murphy says. 


Noel’s employee relations manager now oversees and updates the shop’s SOPs, employee manuals and launched an “employee diary” system using Google Docs to log and file notes on employee issues, concerns, achievements, and progress—a tool Noel notes helps management hold the team accountable, has helped boost team performance and made one-on-one check-ins more productive. 


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