August 2018 – Who do you need to impress more, the customer or the employee?

Obviously, we speak with a lot of candidates and we speak with a lot of clients. Today I have spoken with a Stock Controller considering making a change and a Sales Consultant who can’t stand their employer. I have also spoken with a Group General Manager, General Service Manager, Group Parts Manager and 3 Dealer Principals, all looking to fill a vacancy, or replace an existing or exiting employee.

Understandably, each party has their own focus on what they are looking for and more often than not, they are at equally opposing ends of the spectrum. That is, for the most part, to be expected, but their needs to be some common ground too. A common request we receive when we take on a new recruitment assignment revolves around the ability of the candidate to go above and beyond when it comes to delivering the perfect customer experience to the dealership’s clients. Clearly, this is very important, all businesses strive to keep their customers happy, but what good are your customers going to be if there is no one to serve them?

Thankfully, a lot of businesses get this right, for the most part. Though there are some dealerships who, if we are being completely honest, how they manage to stay operating and maintain their franchises is a bit of a mystery to us. Businesses with a happy and committed workforce will outperform a business who might be superior in size or location, but whose staff morale is shot. If your employees feel valued and are happy in their position, this will naturally have a flow-on effect. Productivity is always higher, innovation takes place, turnover drops, the organisation maintains its knowledge pool and each one of those happy employees are one of your best marketing tools.

Employees do not leave bad companies, they leave bad employers. We have all heard that we all generally accept that, but what has our industry done to change that? There will always be a certain level of employee turnover in any business, and in reality, you need to have some turnover to enable growth and bring in new ideas. It’s like donating blood at the Red Cross. A certain amount is healthy and promotes growth, lose too much and you can barely stand up.

There are a lot of things that dealerships, or more specifically management, can do to help improve the morale of its staff. Just keep in mind though that it is not a one size fits all approach. What makes a person in their 40’s or 50’s feel valued, can be very different from someone in their 20’s. Employees can either be your biggest asset or your biggest liability and like any part of a machine, the performance and durability you will get from it are directly related to the care, time and investment you put towards it.

Morale is a fluid concept that can fluctuate daily. Measuring morale on a Monday morning, for example, will probably yield a different result than if it were measured on Friday. To gauge employee morale mathematically, you could undertake an employee satisfaction survey, measure overall productivity and turnover, monitor absenteeism, accident rates and so on. A less statistically focused approach may simply be to observe people’s attitudes and watch for changes or red flags. The only issue here is that the change in attitude you are seeing is something that has happened now, as a result of something that happened previously. So from this perspective, you are already behind the 8-ball as you now need to respond to not only the issue that impacted the morale but also the low morale itself. The best option is to monitor morale in a way that you can take steps to alleviate a drop in morale before it leads to a drop in performance.

John Deere recognises how important staff morale is when it comes to employee engagement and customer satisfaction, so much so that it tracks employee engagement every 14 days! Deere has a broad group of staff that it polls fortnightly, which helps them to uncover staff morale shifts before they come even remotely close to resulting in an actual impact on performance or productivity.

In an industry that is dominated by people, not machines, and where there is a high level of competition both locally and online, it is imperative that businesses focus heavily on making sure that their employees are productive and motivated.

Some common causes of low morale include:

  • Favoritism
  • Low staffing levels
  • Poor communication
  • Management is “out of touch”
  • No management support
  • Discipline is unfair and inconsistent
  • Fellow employees have bad attitudes
  • Accountability is unfair or inconsistent
  • Employees aren’t listened to
  • Not supplying a good physical environment

Some considerations for lifting staff morale:

  • Praise people
  • Welcome Ideas
  • Say thank-you
  • Write a letter or email of appreciation
  • Award a certificate of appreciation
  • Take the employee to lunch or out for a cup of coffee
  • Buy a scratch-card or a lottery ticket
  • Bring in doughnuts, or fruit if you’re health-conscious
  • Have a pot-luck breakfast or lunch
  • Hold a silly contest
  • Ensure that all senior managers spend a day on the ‘floor’
  • Have senior managers have lunch/ breaks with staff on a regular basis
  • On hot days arrange for ice-creams or iced drinks to be provided
  • Make time for fun
  • Encourage peer recognition
  • Encourage people to ‘decorate’ or personalise their working space
  • Offer stress relief activities
  • Help people feel valuable
  • Celebrate peoples birthdays
  • Fire Staff. Sometimes the root cause of low employee morale can be an employee whose negativity brings down the team. Even a top performer can bring down staff behind your back.

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