This is Part 2 in a three-part article.
- Concepts to Improve Communication and Assist in Retaining Employees
It is important to utilize available concepts to improve communications. Using proven tools and practices assist in retaining employees:
- Job Descriptions
Job descriptions are vital. Each position in the dealership must have a specific job description.
A job description is a detailed list of duties and responsibilities. It is generally an outline of what is and what is not to be done. A good job description clarifies departmental responsibilities. In some situations, it is a good idea to list the physical requirements and demands of the position.
When reviewed at hiring, a job description gives the employee a good idea of what must be done to do a good job in the eyes of the employer. From that point, the job description should be used as a management tool to assist in regularly scheduled employee performance evaluations. During many in-dealership consultations, employees have told M5 consultants they either did not have a job description or had not seen it since they were hired.
- Employee Reviews
Regularly scheduled employee reviews are a way to provide a positive experience for employees. The feedback provided gives the employee an understanding of management’s view of their job performance.
Some key areas of review are attitude, attendance, working relationships and attention to detail. A review of the job description is necessary to maintain effective communications. If there are any necessary changes to the job description, this is a good time to make the changes in preparation of reviewing the changes with the employee.
Using the job description as a tool, management may make changes that expand on the responsibilities of the employee. Changes in the job description may relate to more responsibilities, a greater challenge, and/or a way to motivate the employee..
The employee should be evaluated during a performance review, but the employee should be encouraged to join in the discussion. Give your employees advance notice of performance reviews to eliminate the element of surprise. This should make them more comfortable and reduce anxiety. Increased frequency of reviews makes the review process less threatening.
- Bonuses, Spiffs and Incentives
It is frequently possible to get into a rut or a routine in any human endeavor. A way to improve employee retention and inject vigor into the work process is to implement bonuses, spiffs and incentives. Such motivating devices promote enthusiasm, excitement and motivation in the workplace.
Bonus, spiff and incentive goals should be structured in a way to increase employee performance, but they must be attainable. If the goal is perceived to be unrealistic, the employees’ efforts will probably not be maximized and morale could be affected in a negative way.
It is very important for spiffs and incentives to have time limitations. If a spiff or incentive lasts too long, the employees perceive it as a permanent element of their pay plan. One of the worst things that could happen is to have a misunderstanding about a spiff or incentive. Management’s best intentions can be in vain if employees feel they have played the game and do not get the reward.
Make it a point to give the information in writing. Indicate the start and end dates of the incentive in a written format. Also put the rates of the incentive in writing. Proper planning gives the employees a chance to succeed, and provides a way for management to assert positive employee recognition.
- Sick Days versus Personal Days
During a recent survey of over 300 managers, an amazing point came up regarding employee retention. Sick and/or personal days were a very common benefit offered by the dealerships who noted that employee retention was high. In some cases, the employees did not take the total amount of days afforded to them, but knowing that the days were available was important to the employees.
Many employees perceive sick days and/or personal days as part of the benefits package. The question is whether the dealership should offer sick days, personal days or neither.
Some employees will be sick and need time off during the year. Some will take every available day if sick pay is granted. Employees sometimes need a personal day and the only way to be paid for the day is to “call in sick.” When this occurs, it is a surprise to management and may create hardships for the dealership. If personal days are part of the benefit package, employees can schedule the day off, allowing management to plan in advance, as well.
Many employees probably view personal days as a better benefit than sick days. Absences must be managed regardless of your policy. During in-dealership consulting, we have found situations where record keeping was so inadequate that management did not know for sure who had missed days or how many days were missed over a period of time.
- Dealership Newsletters
A dealership newsletter can be a good communications tool and promote positive morale for the dealership. Newsletters encourage communication within the dealership.
If a newsletter is published, it should be published on a regular basis. Knowing the timetable, employees will look forward to getting the publication. Get the employees involved for long-term success. When employees are involved, the publication is more exciting for them and for those who work with them. This is another way to give employees the recognition they want and need.
Some specific considerations:
- Will the publication be weekly, monthly or quarterly?
- Will the publication be a company information tool?
- What kind of topics will be featured?
- What do you expect the length of each issue to be?
- Can the publication be written in-house?
- How much will it cost to produce the average issue?
Obtain examples from dealerships already up and running. Decide what you are willing to spend and develop a budget. Develop employee surveys for ways to improve the publication. Create an inventory of articles for future use to help reduce deadline concerns.
- Management Techniques
Why does one dealership have a stable staff with little to no turnover while others do not? In most cases, this starts at the top and filters down through the management staff.
- Management Visibility and Accessibility
Dealers should have an open door policy while not overstepping the boundaries of their management authority. The average employee likes to have dialog with the dealer principle or at least know that they are visible.
Many dealers and managers exercise management by “walking around” to be visible and give the employees a sense that management cares. In many cases only casual conversation takes place, but issues or concerns can also surface. Should a concern develop directly to the dealer, a position to consider is, “Have you discussed this with your manager?” Take notes, discuss the circumstances with the manager and ask them to get back to the employee.
Employees want their questions, concerns or ideas addressed in a timely fashion. Sometimes when an issue is verbalized, the employee receives a response such as, “I’ll get back to you.” Does this mean today, tomorrow or next month? The worst situation is if there is no return response at all. This can lead to an employee feeling that no one cares, which leads to frustration.
The following are three positions that can be taken with regard to ideas, concerns or complaints:
- Give an immediate answer and supply date(s) for completion, e.g., “Bill that is an excellent suggestion. We will do that by Friday. Thank you for the idea.” Always follow up to ensure that what was promised actually happens.
- “Allow me to take this under advisement and I’ll be back to you by Friday.” Concern or consideration is shown. Once again, follow up by the committed date.
- When the change is not feasible, “I can understand how you feel, but there is nothing that can be done as it relates to this issue.”
Too often employees may feel that they are doing a good job only because they do not hear anything as it relates to their performance. Or, employees hear the bad but not the good. Recognition for a job well done goes a long way. Psychological income can be just as important as financial.
- Employee Functions
Employee functions build awareness and unity as well as develop a sense of a family. Many dealerships address this issue differently. One of the most effective ways is to have a monthly dealership get-together, as witnessed at Noble Ford in Indianola, Iowa. Once each month, a lunch hour is dedicated to an employee function for all employees.
One department is responsible for the arrangements, such as food, entertainment and prizes. The meetings are always opened by the dealer principle. A general state of the business is addressed, followed by departmental and individual accomplishments. A gift is given to any employees who have a birthday in the month. The gifts may range from a restaurant gift certificate to tickets to an event or attraction in the local area. Lunch is catered or cooked depending on the agenda set by the host department, and entertainment is provided. The entertainment may range from a comedian to a motivational speaker to a carnival atmosphere complete with a dunk tank and a dart throw complete with prizes.
The employees look forward to the monthly lunch meetings, which create a family type atmosphere.
Family functions are held at least twice a year, generally a function during the summer months and a Christmas party. The summer gatherings normally take place at an amusement park or a game field for a cook out, games and entertainment. The expense pays for itself in psychological income for the employees.
- Employee Mistakes
Different employers have different policies on mistakes made by employees. These mistakes may be minor in nature or could be a door ding or a blown tire while putting a vehicle on the rack. If an employee becomes a “habitual offender,” steps must be taken to instill a sense of accountability. However, it may not be in your best interest to assess penalties from the start.
Continued next week in Part 3!
Written by David Dietrich