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Your dealership’s work environment, including its processes and people, shapes employee behavior. Well-designed processes help us be more productive and efficient, but they can never take the place of leadership or good management. Leadership is the most important aspect of the work environment. Good leaders establish direction and processes for the organization, and they model the attitude they want their employees to have.

Leaders sometimes believe every employee should be self-motivated, no matter how poorly work processes are designed. But that’s not true. Well-designed processes will motivate, while poorly designed processes create roadblocks and frustration.

One of the reasons my company enjoys so much success is because our processes in service and parts are so well defined. We model those processes at the dealership, so employees learn by participating with us during our one-week visit instead of us just meeting with management and telling them what they should do.

The average person doesn’t learn in a classroom — they learn by “modeling.” They learn from working hands-on with people who know what they are doing and who encourage employees to ask questions and try new ideas. In a way, we bring the parts and service employees into an apprenticeship program with us. It is truly amazing how quickly employees “get it” once they understand the process and the daily measurements that are used. They see how helping the dealerships succeed in parts and service assists them in achieving their personal goals.

Measuring Success

Measuring is an important part of keeping employees motivated. Studies have shown that measuring what’s important heightens awareness and directly affects performance. Employees who can track their progress will naturally increase their drive to excel. Every employee we work with at our dealership consultations knows the numbers that they are measured against every day. They know that when they meet or exceed those numbers, they can share in on bonuses set aside every two weeks.

One way to measure your employees is to conduct performance reviews at least twice a year. This will help clearly communicate your expectations.

Performance reviews give your employees an understanding of how they are doing. Everyone likes to know how he or she is doing — on a daily, weekly, monthly and semi-annual basis. For example, in the service departments we consult with, every technician is given the number of hours they billed out during the day at the end of the day. It is like a scorecard.

Semi-annual performance reviews do the same thing, on a larger scale. They allow employees to improve not only themselves, but also the dealership as a whole.

Don’t surprise your employee with an issue at their performance review. Don’t call them into your office and say, “For the last 12 months you have been doing this and it’s driving everyone crazy.” That shows a ball was dropped in management.

Start working with your employees now to fix the issues, so progress can be measured.

There is a book I read years ago called, “The One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard. The concept is that there are times that we are going to praise our employees and other times we are going to be critical of them. It is important to find a balance.

If you are going to criticize someone for what they are doing, you need to find something that they are doing well to help them feel positive about their job. Otherwise, they will run away like a beaten dog. This balancing act is what you should be doing in your performance reviews.

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Be a Coach

There is never a bad time to sit down with an employee to make sure they understand what you expect from them. Often, employees are not meeting expectations due to simple miscommunication.

For instance, you may say, “I hired this person to keep things looking good.” Your understanding of what looking good is can differ from an employee.

Or, maybe you ask your techs to make sure their work bays are clean and organized every night before they leave. But, you have a tech who still has things out every night. You may need to put specific expectations into place about what it means to have a clean and organized bay.

Managers coach employees. I have seen guys who have come from other companies and don’t keep their area clean because it wasn’t an expectation at their last shop. Part of your job is to help employees break bad habits. So, don’t get upset when they leave their area junky or don’t put their stuff back up. Instead, pull them aside and work through it. Performance reviews help coach.

Your job as a coach is to help these people so they are able to grow and bring more value to your dealership. Put a timeline in place so you can review improvements. Don’t wait until the next performance review to meet with your employee if they are off track. It is best to give instant feedback.

If they have an issue, say, “Over the next 30 days, we are going to go down this path and try to figure this out together.” I won’t necessarily wait that long to readdress it. I will sit down with the employee a couple of times the first week and make sure we are on track. If there’s progress, we will wait an entire week before we meet again. As long as we continue to stay on track, we would meet weekly until the 30 days are up. The hope is that the issue is corrected and that we can move forward. This is why a timeline is important. It gives everyone clear expectations of how things are going be handled.

On the flip side, if we have a 30-day timeline in place and the employee messes up over and over again; I am not going to wait that long to do something about it. I might give them another week and inform them they are on notice, but if they don’t get it changed or fixed, I’m not going to wait 30 days before I terminate. Again, that is not the route I want to go. But, if there’s no improvement, I don’t want to keep them there.

You will have happier employees if you have employee expectations outlined in your dealership and an employee handbook standardizing what you will and won’t accept. And if there is one thing I have learned over the years is this: The best way to have satisfied customers is to have satisfied employees because both will feel like they are heard and being taken care of.