Is your dealership the kind of place where employees can’t wait to come to work every morning? Do your employees arrive early and stay late because they love their jobs, not because they feel they have to?

If you answer with a resounding ‘yes’ to these questions, then your employees are engaged. If you’re not sure, then your employees probably aren’t engaged. That’s because engagement is a tangible thing. It can be felt, seen and measured.

Employee engagement is the strength of the mental and emotional connection that employees feel towards their place of work. It affects every part of your business, including revenues, customer experience, turnover, talent acquisition, brand awareness and more.

Engagement is really about culture, and culture starts at the top. If you’ve been following Uber in the news, you’ll know the company has suffered a series of scandals and lawsuits that were mostly of their own making. The executives at the top set a tone that created a toxic culture and hostile atmosphere for many workers. As a result, Uber’s reputation has taken a serious hit.

Compare Uber to companies like Southwest Airlines, Wegmans and Costco that are well known for taking care of their employees. These companies have high levels of customer retention, attract top talent easily, have stellar reputations and are very profitable.

Creating a workplace focused on employee engagement isn’t difficult, but it does take some time. As a business owner, whatever you decide to invest in engagement will deliver a healthy ROI in the following ways:

1) Attract and Retain Top Talent

Employee turnover is expensive and turnover rates in dealerships are higher than average. The labor market is pretty tight right now. To attract the best talent you need to differentiate your organization. It’s not about offering the best pay or benefits; you need to offer a complete package. People want to work at a company where there is a positive culture, they can make a difference, they have opportunities for learning and career growth, and where they feel genuinely appreciated.

2) Better Employee Performance

Engaged employees have a 37 percent lower absenteeism rate than industry averages. Employees who love their jobs are far more productive and take care of your customers.

Another advantage of creating a workplace with engaged employees is that it helps you have those difficult conversations with employees who are underperforming. When you know you have dozens of people who are eager to come work for you, it’s easier to hold your current employees accountable.

3) Increases Customer Loyalty

Think about how you feel when you walk into your favorite restaurant or retail store. There’s a buzz in the air. Employees are enthusiastic, energetic and they take great care of you. The entire atmosphere just feels good. Isn’t that how you want your customers to feel when they walk into your store? Customer experience is more about emotion than process. Make your customers feel good and they will keep coming back.

4) Increases Company Revenue and Profitability

According to Quantum Workplace’s 2016 Employee Engagement Trends Report, companies with engaged employees realize:

  • 22 percent higher profitability
  • 26 percent greater stock price growth
  • 16 percent greater revenue growth

If you want higher profits and long-term growth, developing a workplace culture that employees love is the most surefire way to make this happen.

How to Improve Employee Engagement

The first step to improving employee engagement is to measure where you currently stand. This requires an open mind. As a Dealer / Manager, you may believe your workplace culture is fine and that the majority of your employees are happy, but that doesn’t mean your employees feel the same way. Don’t automatically dismiss feedback that may suggest otherwise. Then, follow these steps.

Collect. The best way to measure engagement is to conduct annual surveys with your employees. One of the easiest and most reliable ways to do this is to enter your dealership into a ‘Top Workplaces’ or ‘Best Places to Work’ program in your community. Typically, these are sponsored by local business journals and newspapers. Automotive News also runs an annual ‘Best Dealerships to Work For’ contest.

Employees feel comfortable with these surveys because they are anonymous and administered by a third-party. However, as the business owner you do get to see the results (anonymous, of course). Honest feedback from employees is essential to understanding your current workplace culture.

Analyze. Identify weak areas and strong areas. Benchmark where you are compared to other dealerships and also to other businesses and industries in your region. Remember, you are not just competing against other dealerships for employees. You are competing against every other business in your community.

Commit. The hardest part is the commitment. You must act on the results. This may require fundamental changes to the way you manage and operate. Not everybody will be happy, but change in culture has to come from the top down. You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Nothing is worse than asking your employees what you can do to improve your culture, and then not following through with changes.

Best Practices for Employee Engagement

Your survey results are the best guide to how you can improve your workplace culture. However, there are some best practices that just about every company with a great workplace culture seems to follow. Here are some of them:

  • Create a mission statement and vision for the company that inspires
  • Provide ongoing career growth through training and support
  • Promote from within
  • Hold employees accountable for goals and outcomes
  • Do things for the right reason even when nobody is looking
  • Make sure everyone understands their role in their own personal success and that of dealerships
  • Give your employees autonomy in their jobs and the ability to make decisions.
  • Don’t keep your employees in the dark. Share successes, failures and strategic plans.
  • Listen to and acknowledge your employee feedback. If you can’t make a requested change, explain why.
  • Show, don’t tell, your employees that they are appreciated. Host several events a year for your employees and don’t be cheap about it.
  • Don’t overwork your employees; work life balance is key to keeping engagement levels high.
  • Make sure all your employees know what your organization’s goals are and ask for their help to get you there.
  • Get employees involved in community events; make them feel proud to be associated with your brand
  • Don’t forget to have fun

Employee engagement is real, tangible and can be measured. As a dealer, it’s one of the most worthwhile investments you can make in your business. If you or your managers don’t have the time to devote to this endeavor, hire someone for that purpose. The savings from the reduction in employee turnover will more than pay for their salary.

Author: Dave Druzynski

Dave Druzynski is Director of Human Resources and a member of the senior management team at Auto/Mate Dealership Systems, where he oversees talent management, employee engagement, leadership development, and legal compliance. Dave has earned the prestigious distinction as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has been certified by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM-SCP). Dave’s passion for company culture has helped Auto/Mate to be named the “Top Workplace” in NY’s Capital Region and a 6-time “Best Places to Work” winner. He is on the Board of Trustees for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Northeast New York, and is an accomplished Ironman triathlete.

EMAIL: ddruzynski@automate.com

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