Managing an automotive dealership requires more than top-notch sales employees and vehicles available for sale. You need a culture that encourages positive growth for everyone, from the company down to the individual. Improving the overall workplace culture within your dealership not only boosts sales and productivity, but also drastically reduces and deters employee theft—and it doesn’t have to cost more than your time.
How to Improve Dealership Employee Culture
At the heart of company culture is how we as leaders demonstrate the company’s values and invest in our coworkers—even if it’s just a time investment for a conversation. The more actively involved managers become, the easier it becomes to generate that “positive culture” and employee attitude everyone talks about while boosting morality, pride, and productivity from your employees, regardless of how long they have worked for your dealership.
Change the Money Equation
Working in sales is often extremely competitive and at times, cutthroat for those who have specific goals to reach weekly or every month. While these sorts of practices may generate additional revenue for the dealership, take a step back and consider what it might be doing to your internal teams.
If every salesperson bonus is solely dependent on individual work, then what incentive do they have to cooperate with their coworkers? Encourage sales that benefit the company as a whole, even if not them directly?
This question goes beyond monetary compensation. Do you praise individuals’ contributions during meetings, or the group’s accomplishments as a whole? When you brag to managers at other dealerships, do you ever talk about the great coordination and teamwork your staff displays?
Encouraging teamwork, praising efforts of employees who work together, and rewarding your employees as a group are all effective measures to keep your entire team on the same page at all times. Absolutely keep individual rewards, bonuses, and acknowledgments if they’re working to spur individual progress. However, consider linking some bonuses, rewards, and internal credit to how entire teams perform.
Coach Underperformers Instead of Immediately Punishing (or Firing) Them
We don’t need to tell you how frustrating it can be to see sales dropping or employees underperforming—employees you know can do so much better than what their current numbers say.
Find time for some one-on-one coaching and general increased attention for these underperformers, rather than simply cutting pay or letting decreased commissions do the talking. You may discover that simple course corrections earlier on reaping greater rewards in both employee performance and retention. One Mercer survey found that employers saw greater ROI on employee retention programs when those initiatives:
- Gave employees challenging work;
- Provided employees with access to training and relevant resources, enabling them to accomplish work-related challenges; and
- Helped employees map their professional “road maps,” with career goals and objectives to achieve within the current company.
Show employees they can grow and progress as a professional within your dealership, and they’ll have no reason to look elsewhere for career progression—or commit criminal acts.
The Mythical “Work-Life Balance” While Making Ends Meet
Desperate people in dire straits do stupid things—like steal from their employers. Good mentorship means taking the time to learn about your employees’ lives off the job, learning periphery information about their circumstances. Are they making enough to pay the bills, or are they working second (or third) jobs? Is there a chance that they’ll leave you when better work arrives, or be at a loss when times are tough?
Often, it doesn’t require extra money or hours to help keep employees’ heads above water. A kind word here, an extra break there—understanding and flexibility (when possible) can go a long way toward building employee loyalty and that anti-theft culture.
When Culture Goes Positive: Reaping the Rewards of Employee Culture Programs
A positive workplace where employees believe their managers and the dealership owners care about them will help prevent future theft. (Why steal, when employees know they can ask for help from a trusted manager-mentor?) That said, there are more benefits to positive culture than simply reduced theft.
Increased Sales and Customer Loyalty
Body language plays a key role for those working in sales, especially in the automotive industry. If a salesperson is feeling less than thrilled about their abilities or discouraged from a meeting, it can quickly be picked up by customers, who only see that the employee is upset for a reason they can’t discern. That negativity potentially drives would-be customers to another dealership.
However, when a workplace culture revolves around improvement and mentorship, it shows in employees without having to “force” a smile. Even during meetings that highlight the need for improvement, employees feel encouraged to accomplish more, rather than beating themselves up over past mistakes. These genuine smiles, reactions, and enthusiasm are all important factors that should be relayed to employees to help with attracting (and retaining) new customers through naturally positive interactions.
Why would an employee leave a place he or she feels valued, supported, and encouraged to grow? They wouldn’t—and that’s not an anecdotal finding.
A CNBC-sponsored Qualtrics survey found that 90% of Millennials said they would stay in their job if they knew they’d get annual raises and “upward career mobility.” In other words, if modern employees feel that they’re fairly compensated for the work they do, as well as a clear career path at the current company.
It stands to reason that dealerships with positive workplace culture that includes coaching, training, and one-on-ones with managers would increase retention, especially of those employees from the youngest generation.
Supplement Policy with Security Options
Policies are only as good as the people who enact them, and technology can help keep everyone on the straight-and-narrow. Eyewitness has personal experience with the benefits of this system at our clients’ facilities.
One of our clients installed the Eyewitness security system at his dealership to deter after-hours theft. However, he inadvertently discovered a side benefit: Reduction in daytime employee theft. Employees even approached him after the cameras were installed to tell him to “watch that area” for theft. The loss had occurred for months, but employees were reluctant to come forward because it would have been a “his word against mine” situation. Now that there was camera footage recording the theft, they were much more apt to self-report the potential loss.