Employees are the face of the dealership. In an industry largely dependent on service, it is critical that employees consistently meet both customer and dealership expectations. There is value in outlining employee expectations with every new hire, and continual reinforcement creates a profitable dealership with a strong customer following.
Getting Employees ‘On the Bus’
Fully committing to a job and work environment is like climbing onto a bus. We’re willing to ride if we know where the bus is going; like the destination; trust the driver; find the cost reasonable; and know we’ll have enough legroom to feel comfortable.
Similarly, an employee will want to belong to your dealership and will come along for the ride if — and only if — your company has a clear purpose that aligns with the employee’s own purposes. An employee wants to trust the ownership; doesn’t want to sell their self-respect; and wants to be allowed room for self-expression.
For most employees, one of the greatest obstacles that get in the way of working successfully with others are unclear expectations. An employee’s commitment to the dealership diminishes when unfulfilled expectations accumulate. This will eventually lead to failure.
Your job is to make sure that each employee on the bus stays in the position of an excited and motivated passenger, but that requires a good deal of work and the right processes in place to keep them.
Clear and consistent communication of expectations to your employees should be a daily mission. Communication that is maintained and used to share understanding of expectations creates success in your dealership.
I encourage all owners and managers to commit 10 minutes each week to every employee, asking two questions: “On a scale of 1 to 5, how are you doing?” and “How or what do you need from me in order to meet your work goals?”
Truly listening will give you the crucial information needed to improve your company. It helps employees feel involved and motivated to help you achieve your goals. And, in turn, because of your actions, they see you are motivated to help them achieve theirs.
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Keeping Your Bus Running
There are two things you need as new employees step onto your bus. First, make sure you have updated job descriptions. Many managers say they don’t want job descriptions for the employees because they get pushback saying, “They don’t want to do any additional work that is not listed on their job description.” I always say, “Keep in mind that the job description is the minimum of what an employee needs to keep their job, not the maximum.”
The first expectation in every job description is that all employees have a good attitude and a willingness to learn. Those two things alone can take you a long way toward building a successful work relationship.
The second expectation is to have an updated employee handbook. This document gives you a basis to work from when outlining expectations. It keeps you from making any decisions “on the fly.” For instance, often an employee will ask if they can do something and will want an immediate “yes” or “no.” The employee handbook takes this variable out and documents everything an employee can do in the company.
An employee handbook gives your employees the ability to make better decisions. It helps them understand the effect bad decisions have in regard to being able to work for you.
Dealers who haven’t taken the time to put together an employee handbook often have employees asking them special favors. One dealer I worked with had gotten in the habit of advancing a certain employee his paycheck to help him when things got tight. He was creating a policy for all employees without being aware of it. All employees could also ask for an advance, but if he refused, there is potential to sue for unfair practices.
Keep in mind that your employee handbook is your human resources process. It gives you the structure and accountability you need to operate a successful dealership.
The job expectations and employee handbook help new team members and also helps you communicate your expectations to existing employees. Your expectations for your employees should never be a secret. They should be clear, precise and easy to understand.
Read the Next Installment: Setting Processes for Your Employees