The last thing you want as a dealer is employee turnover. It’s demoralizing to the team and creates a sense of instability for your customers. It’s not difficult to keep happy employees happy, but it does take some effort on the part of the dealer and the managers.

Here are proven ways to reinforce to all employees the value they bring to the dealership and ideas for compensating employees in support roles to show them that they are valuable to the business.

All of us want to make a difference. We want the hours we spend at work to make some contribution — to have a purpose. Your goal as a manager is to establish a work environment in your dealership where the employees can experience an appropriate level of challenge and know that what they do makes a difference. To achieve that goal, you have to work to create an environment where your employees are motivated and inspired.


You need to identify each employee’s purpose in working for you and your business and then show the employee how their purpose aligns with those of the dealership. In a dealership, the motivation of an employee can range from the need to just make money, to the desire to make a broken mower, snow blower, generator or trimmer work again.

Regardless of the reason, once you recognize why your employees work, you’ll be able to uncover the goals, plans and dreams you have in common. After identifying these shared purposes, your goal is to help your employees recognize that they share common purposes with others. As your employees understand how their work collectively meets their own purposes, the purposes of others and those of the organization, their motivation to work grows.

Think back for a moment to a time when someone said you were good at something. You may have been very good at sports, music or art, and someone simply let you know that they noticed how good you were and encouraged you to continue pursuing it as a goal or dream. At that moment, you probably wanted to excel in that area even more. Now, imagine if you were given a scholarship to continue pursuing that goal or dream in college. You would be even more motivated to hone your skills.

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The same thing happens in your dealership. Employees are more motivated when you give them opportunities to develop their talents. Opportunities to grow, learn, and improve are some of the most effective motivators. And because 80 % of critical job learning occurs on the job, motivational opportunities at work abound.

By identifying the specific talents and skills of your employees, you can then find ways to nurture them. The investment you make in their training and skill development will increase employee motivation and satisfaction, as well as the bottom line.

Think back to when you learned how to ride a bicycle. You were motivated by the challenge of learning a new skill. You focused your attention on the task and finally mastered it. But there was also probably someone right behind you, cheering you on as you peddled away — a mom, dad, brother, sister or friend that encouraged your effort to master this new skill.

As an owner or manager, you are now that someone to others — you need to balance challenging your employees with supporting them when they need help. Challenge your employees too much and they will give up. Give them too much support and you rob them of initiative. Employees thrive on an intermediate level of challenge, enough to make the task interesting, but not so much that it becomes nearly impossible.

A proper balance of challenge and support are key components of a motivated workforce. Achievement carries its own reward. Employees are automatically proud when they accomplish something challenging and worthwhile. If allowed to celebrate their victory, they will be highly motivated to repeat their efforts and even improve on them. But, if you rob them of the natural rewards of success, their motivation will die.

Praise the good work that your employees do and make others in your dealership aware of what they have accomplished. Your employees will respond to your praise by giving you more effort and working harder to make you notice them again.

Keep in mind, however, never praise good work and then follow that praise with the word “but.” More than any other word, “but” kills all the momentum built with praise. That word negates your praise and creates a hollow victory for the employee. Like a parent telling a child, “You did a great job on your math test, but I am surprised you missed that question.” The moment you said the word “but,” your praise became conditional and killed the motivation.

I know a manager who claims that motivating employees and holding feedback sessions are a waste of time because, he says, “My people know they are doing a good job because when they don’t, I let them know.” Unfortunately, this owner’s management style is based on negative consequences and his employees tend to focus on not upsetting him rather than on achieving success. It’s important to understand that in the short run, negative motivation such as threats or fear may pay off, but in the long run, it destroys a motivating environment and comes at a high price which results in mediocrity and high turnover.

Employee Appreciation

As your employees engage in the process, find ways to reward them for their initiative. Keep in mind that rewarding an employee has everything to do with them taking initiative, perhaps a leadership role or defining a problem and bringing forth a solution.

It’s interesting to note that most new employees come into a dealership and ask a lot of questions and think about solutions to problems that they see or encounter. Because they are new, for the most part, they are ignored and dismissed with a wave of the hand and soon they learn that their thoughts about things have little, if any, value in the company. So, they are trained that to be a good employee means you don’t think, you do what you’re told and leave the thinking to the owner or manager.

It only takes a couple of days for a new employee to move from being a potentially valuable leader to just someone who merely punches the time clock and collects a paycheck. Few employees are rewarded for the initiative they take in bringing in possible solutions to problems they find, causing them to feel burned out.

In fact, for most employees, “initiative” means being frowned upon by an owner or a manager for a mistake they made while trying to implement a solution they believed would help the company move toward its goals.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2: Reducing Employee Turnover Part 2: Reward for Initiative