“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller
The Internet is a two-edged sword when it comes to attracting and hiring good employees. Employers can research applicants on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and other social sites to see how they represent themselves in business and personally. They can see who the applicant associates with on these sites and identify if any foul language or inappropriate behavior is being exhibited. Employers can also see if there are inconsistencies in the applicant’s resume and completed application. All this is valuable intelligence to make a good hiring decision.
Now let’s look at the other side of the sword. The employee can also go online and look at the activities and reputation of the dealership and the current employees. If they see any significant number of negative reviews that have gone unresolved or poor behavior of employees it could send a signal that the dealership does not provide a professional level of customer service or that the work atmosphere is not conducive to maintaining long term employees. Additionally, if the candidate sees all positive comments, which smacks of manipulation of data, they may, like many potential customers, become suspicious of the dealership. Thus, a fair and transparent amount of data must be adhered to if you want to be trusted.
Also, websites like Glassdoor.com allow ex-employees of companies to post reviews about their work experience. More job seekers are using this resource to research good companies and avoid ones who do not value their employees.
There is a distinct correlation between incomplete interviewing/poor hiring processes and poor dealership performance. Once employees are hired it is incumbent on the dealership to provide resources that help the employees build their professional expertise, competence and confidence as well as helping to develop their network of prospects and customers. While dealerships get an abundance of “prospect leads” all the time, too often good sales people never see those leads and often it’s the lease or Internet managers who gets the leads. Unfortunately they often can’t follow up all the leads and they go “unworked.” If your dealership does not have a BDC that works all the inbound leads, then it is critical to have an equitable system to distribute leads to all willing and able sales people and an accountable management team to monitor these activities. When managers play favorites with lead distribution it can cause morale issues and employee disengagement.
In order to build a successful sales team, managers must develop key resources that support each salesman’s efforts. In the old days every salesperson had a brag book. This was often a loose leaf binder with pages of testimonials from happy customers. The sales people would share the book with customers sitting at their desk to show them proof of a good customer experience. Today most everything has moved online, but sales and service people still need to build their personal brands and provide social proof they are doing a good job. Managers can help by finding a service that offers a free page to every sales person or service advisor to highlight them and provide a simple way for customers to share their experience. Pages are also transportable so reviews can follow the employee when they switch dealerships. This allows sales employees the opportunity to build their network, leverage referrals and very often within one year work by appointment only. This is what changes the dynamics of being a car sales person, and now makes them a true industry professional.
Note I received from a general manager:
The topic (of an interview and hiring process) is one that has haunted the automobile business since day one. Sometimes I error on the side of caution when hiring but I guess that is natural. Turnover and the way we hire is to me the biggest issue in our field but all we do is try another test and survey and move back to the old ways. You’re on track with a hot topic I think. It’s not a new issue but one that should be in the forefront of dealers minds.
“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits. Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.” — Lee Iacocca
Hiring and retaining valuable employees is the ultimate goal of the game. Measuring systems, people or processes should focus on the “activities” to insure the desired results. Communicate priorities to your entire team. What is important to the manager then becomes important to the employee, and what the manager does not give attention to is perceived as unimportant by the employee. Choose it or lose it. The key here is to make certain you are checking on the correct things. I particularly like what Sam Walton practiced – management by walking around, seeing and hearing what was going on. Or inspecting instead of simply expecting. He could have chosen to sit in his office and guessed at outcomes or become dependent upon his managers to tell him their ideas of what was happening. The MPI should not be reserved for the service department. MPIs need to be a regularly performed leadership practice throughout the store. Remember — “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.”
The following clearly exemplifies how important it is to pay close attention to your people:
Based on a five year study conducted at the Western Electric Plant in Cicero, Illinois, a Professor from Harvard Business School Management wanted to determine the optimum level of lighting for employees to create the best production output. Actually, they really wanted to find the least amount of light to “stream” into the plant to save money and still get good production from the workers. Where would the happy medium occur?
They commissioned a team of students to watch, interview, document, and observe the assembly line workers. The premise was to measure the physical and environmental influences of the workplace such as brightness of lights, humidity, and the psychological aspects such as breaks, group pressure, working hours and managerial leadership.
The lumens were manipulated up and down. Lo and behold, when more light was fed into the factory, the workers were happy, productivity went up and everything was copacetic. Then, they started to dim the light. The expectation of course was that productivity would go down. To everyone’s surprise productivity continued to climb. They made the decision to dim the lights even more. To everyone’s bigger surprise, productivity climbed higher. How could that happen?
This inspection process continued for a while. It actually became a little humorous. The Western Electric employees were practically working in the dark, yet productivity was exceedingly high. The plant management was happy. Employees were happy. They all looked forward to going to work each day. It was a win-win situation: happy employees, low electric bill.
The commissioned study was coming to an end. The observers packed their notebooks and white coats and left. Within a mere two days productivity started to go down. Did they need more light? Productivity continued in a downward spiral. After much analysis, the conclusion was that the real catalyst in all this was the attention the workers were getting and how valued they felt because of it. Simply receiving attention and being noticed kept the morale and the productivity up. It had nothing to do with the amount of lumens in the factory.
“Appreciate everything your associates do for the business. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.” — Sam Walton
Take-aways for Managers:
- Understand that there are unintentional factors that affect productivity. Watch what you say, how you act and what content you deliver to your team.
- Be mindful of understanding what and how to deal with post-project emptiness. Start a new initiative. Keep your initiatives, learning, leadership and personal growth workshops on-going!
- The relationships you develop with employees will influence your team’s performance. Focus on building positive employee relationships. Employee satisfaction index (ESI) makes better CSI.
- The team is important –there is a social system that is interdependent in the workplace. The results by individual talents in your store are paled by the sum of all those talents working together.
“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” — Vince Lombardi
The very act of observing a system or people, will in itself affect that system and the people. In this case, the resulting observation made the workers feel valued. If you go through life knowing only one Latin phrase, make it this one: Audentes fortuna iuuat, or “fortune favors the bold.” (If you would like a slightly more modern interpretation, look to hockey great Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”) Regardless of how you articulate it, you increase your odds of winning dramatically simply by stepping up to the plate and trying something different.
Your focus and attention needs to be on your greatest assets — your people. Any dealership can compete on capital expenditure like advertising but no one can compete with a store that values and places their stock in their employees. The newspaper is in the trash the next day, the ads are in most cases forgotten but the lingering assets of your team’s enhancement towards professionalism will remain fixed in place. Give them new tools, new learning techniques, encouragement and inspection regularly. Don’t just expect results — “inspect” to achieve better results. Here is the key; Stores that have a disciplined and well-taught leadership practices in place hold steady growth increases. Once you stop showing care for your people they stop caring as well and usually get by on as little effort as possible.
If you would like a few more examples as to how you can achieve an improved inspection process to yield more engaged employees and get better results, just send me an email and I will be happy to get them out to you.
Chuck Barker has been CEO of his two companies, Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, LLC and Impact Summit, LLC, for the last 24 years, both located in Virginia. His experience ranges from an executive with Harris Corporation (16,000 employees) one of Fortune Magazine’s largest companies to the automobile industry where he has performed all executive positions. His companies specialize in growing businesses, dealerships and people. He delivers unparalleled sales & service development programs, management leadership workshop programs and dealer/principal business & profit improvement ideas for automobile dealerships. He has recently published the first comprehensive ‘in-house’ sales training solution program for dealers entitled The Dealership Success Guide.
You can email Chuck at firstname.lastname@example.org