Recent conversation has been squarely centered on the shift of customer expectations, and you’re acting to deliver the digital experience fixed ops customers now prefer. While we’re rethinking experience, there is one group you can’t afford to overlook — your employees.
In a recent Dealer Forward episode Re-Engaging the Workforce hosted by Cox Automotive’s Lori Wittman, SVP Dealer Software Solution, and James Maynard, SVP Product and Engineering, Wittman laid the groundwork for the conversation by sharing findings from a dedicated Cox Automotive team that develops dealer leadership programming through Cox Automotive University, “Leaders need to convey a single mindset of where we’re going and why it matters to help employees focus, align, and feel inspired. Engagement in a remote or socially distant environment is no different than engaging them at any other time. It’s about building upon four key competencies.”
The 4 Key Competencies
- Clarity – Focus, Single Mindset
- Communication – Frequency, Direct and Open Dialogue
- Connection – The “Why”, Understand Different Roles and Needs
- Collaboration – Coaching, Feedback, Share Ideas
Show guests Jeremy Beaver, President of Del Grande Dealer Group and Liza Borches, CEO at Carter Myers Automotive went on to react to what their dealership is doing to address each of these four points at their dealership.
As the group started their discussion with the importance of clarity, they zeroed in on their purpose as a company to set their compass. Borches underscored the fact that their organization existed to do more than sell and service cars, “There’s so much more that our company and our industry gives back every day.” The established purpose of Carter Myers Automotive is to move lives forward — for their customers, associates, and community.
The organization’s defined purpose gave them a solid heading that was in place well before the challenges 2020 brought. Borches felt like it gave them direction for the more recent decisions they’ve made and dialogue they had to have as they faced social distancing. They made choices as leaders by asking themselves if they were moving lives forward as they had delineated for the company. “We’ve gone back to our values more than ever putting people first, always progressing forward, and creating win–win partnerships,” stated Borches.
Clarity of purpose has also helped to keep their employees engaged. Borches detailed how their team has rallied behind their purpose — from shuttle drivers delivering meals to elderly or less fortunate community members to hourly technicians offering to paint the service shops. Their people have continued to feel like what they do matters. They have continued to move lives forward.
Commenting on the idea that transparency and strong communication is part of any great culture, Beaver discussed the open, honest, direct communication tactics his team has put into place to make sure information cascades to the entire team.
From day one of shelter-in-place, Del Grande Dealer Group instituted a daily Zoom meeting for the leadership team. Every day they meet to discuss the day as well as strategy as they move forward with genuine dialogue. Beaver acknowledged it wasn’t always a good news discussion, sometimes they faced tough decisions, but there were also days where they could celebrate.
Beyond leadership, they felt the importance of getting information out to their entire team, to the people in the stores, and looked for innovative ways to do so. Beaver posed, “When the general managers go back in the stores, how do they make sure that the team understands what we’re doing, where we’re going, and how we’re going to do it?”
Email was not feasible for everyone since the entire team doesn’t look at their inbox on a frequent, regular basis. Technicians, for example, may not be by a computer. So they got creative and started creating video messages, then adopted text messaging. Now all team members are alerted by text when companywide communication has been deployed. Everyone is aware they can go read more about it in their email or check out the bulletins posted in the shops or break rooms. This way the entire team knows leadership is listening, there is a plan to get through today’s challenges, and they are preparing the organization to be stronger when they come out the other side.
Borches added to the outside–the–box internal communication ideas sharing that her company is using social media to communicate. Through a closed Facebook group, her team can view videos from leadership, the latest information from general managers, and updates from other team members.
Through the lens of social distancing, the biggest shift in behavior at work, and on a personal front, is quite possibly how we connect. The group went on to discuss how they are helping their people stay connected to business strategy and enabling connection between team members.
Borches touched on the importance of staying connected, especially with team members still working from home. The ability to feel like you are in close contact, digitally, starts with the right technology. Her organization made sure employees were set up with the right technology in their home to facilitate the ability to connect, with leadership challenging themselves to think about all of the channels they can use to communicate.
Beyond their private Facebook group, Borches shared, “They get a video message from me every couple days, at minimum, giving [all employees] an update on what’s going on business wise so those who are at home can get a flavor for what’s happening in the dealerships. Then sometimes it’s asking the people at home what are you all going through? What are your challenges?” They also created access to the intranet for remote employees.
While sometimes Carter Myers Automotive feels they may be over–communicating, Borches believes they have an opportunity right now. Their teams can get to know the company in a whole new way. “Before, they used to just come into work, get their job done and leave, and now they’re learning about who we really are in the company they are a part of.”
Beaver discussed the use of technology, a foundational item for Del Grande Dealer group. Doubling down on the use of tools like Xtime in their service department helped their people to be confident, knowing their company is going to be there and thrive in the future.
The last of the 4 key competencies centers on how you, as a leader, can coach and give feedback to your team. Something not easily done when you’re not in the same room. Beaver described how Del Grande Dealer Group decided to take control and define exactly what their new normal would be. He talked about how his organization looks at this challenge as an opening to create exactly what they want collaboration in their dealership to look like.
“How do we help really coach and guide? We use [the phrase], ‘being a player’s coach’. How do we help guide the people that are coming to work every day to be the best at their job not only today, but in the future?” Beaver went on to describe the training they’ve been able to accelerate. While video chat and training was available before, the preferred to be together, in-person, to share ideas. With that option off the table, they’re doing it virtually. Through video meetings, they are ensuring their team members are prepared for the day and working to build future leaders. As the world reopens, they plan to be playing their A game.
Borches agreed and indicated they also went all in on training. She tells her team, “This is our opportunity to become the best we can be.” Borches indicated the amount of available free resources right now is extraordinary, which helps in putting emphasis on training.
Carter Myers Automotive has also worked on cross training, with the intent of becoming more efficient as we return to the dealership. Borches shared, “We’ve been cross training every sales manager to be able to deliver a car, and F&I managers need to be able to desk deals. We’ve taken sales associates further into the F&I process because if they’re chatting with someone online and they get to a point where there’s questions about products, we don’t want them to have to say, ‘Hold on a second I’m not allowed to talk about that.’”
The four key competencies are important to understand. As a leader, you’re looking to keep your team engaged and drive your business forward.
To fully discern the impact of today’s environment on your team and implement an actionable plan that addresses the employee experience, download the Fixed Ops Playbook.