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On Employee Engagment: Improving Dealership Productivity, Part 2 of 3 - Employee Engagement

  • Improving Dealership Productivity –  Part 2 of 3: Employee Engagement

It's great when employees and management are thoroughly connected with one another through an effective employee communication solution. So, what does it all mean? What does it benefit the dealership or any of its employees?

When people know why their jobs exist, why their products and services function a certain way, and where they personally fit within the big picture of their place of employment, they simply do better work. There isn’t a research study that would deny that conclusion.

The quality of everything they touch improves, and that directly affects the company's bottom line. No big surprise there. But how does an employee communication solution affect an employee's attitude towards colleagues, customers, their employer and everything associated with their place of employment? The answer is, in every way imaginable.

What is Employee Engagement?

When an employee is engaged in their place of work:

  • They perform better at every level.
  • They pay more attention to customers, product quality, colleagues and their employer's interests.
  • They are healthier, take fewer sick days, arrive for work on time more often, and spend less time looking at the clock, and instead, focus more on getting good work done.
  • They enjoy their work more often, are more likely to recommend their place of employment to their friends, get more work done on any given day, and are more likely to stay with their employer longer.
  •  They approach their work with a more positive attitude, and are less likely to drag fellow employees down with gossip and rumormongering.

Engaged employees are much better for everyone.

Engagement is Contagious!

Studies have also shown — although you and I might already consider it to be obvious — engaged employees have a positive effect on their colleagues. Just as misery loves company, the positive energy of an engaged employee rubs off on the people around them.

Imagine how hard it would be if you hated to come to work every day, to suffer the positive thoughts of engaged colleagues all around you! You would likely have to find a new job, or get on board the happy train.

Just as engagement is contagious, so too is disengagement. And especially when managers get disengaged. Behavioral research has revealed that an employee reporting to a disengaged manager is four times more likely to be disengaged than if he were working for an engaged manager. That, too, is all but obvious to most people who have worked in a dysfunctional work environment, but it's affirming to know that research confirms the conclusion.

Keeping employees in the dark is asking for trouble

Every healthy human wants to belong. Belong to a family, a team, a country, a village or a marriage. Few people on the planet prefer to leave a completely isolated life. Even the most solitary among us will, after a few days alone, will reach out to others for that sense of belonging. In post-Industrial Revolution society, the most common place of connecting with other humans and belonging to something larger than one's self is the work place.

We come to work with an appetite for that sense of belonging, and — if we reasonably healthy and functional — we also satisfy that same need in the people around us. We evolved over millions of years to work together in teams. The village with superior levels of belonging, all else being equal, outlived the villages with less of it.

When an employee is kept in the dark about what the dealership is doing, where it is going, and where that employee fits into the big picture, they become more isolated, less enthusiastic about their work and their employer, and they develop a reduced sense of belonging generally. That translates into lowered levels of engagement and all the resulting consequences.

It's not so hard to enable a 'culture of belonging'. Sharing information is one of the easiest and most effective ways of building trust, and from there, employees will indeed become engaged. Axiomatically, secrecy is a way of reducing levels of trust. That's why an effective employee communications solution breaks down the barriers to employee engagement and takes the organization through a process of continued productivity improvements.

Aligning interests

"I need employees who want to make a difference, not employees who want a paycheck", a dealer principal friend of mine told me in a moment of candor.

He went on to tell me, he had all but given up hope of finding a single employee who would commit to the work as much as he, the business owner, would. I responded to him with my own point of view: It would indeed be hard to find such an employee, because the level of commitment required of a business owner is extraordinary. While that level of commitment might now be possible, a very achievable goal of having a team of fully engaged employees is quite doable. Perhaps my friend, as the head honcho in his own business, could begin by showing a level of engagement himself initially.

From an employee's perspective, a dealer principal might seem out of reach. Most employees have never had the experience of owning their own company and "commanding from on high". The reality is, every business owner is just as human as every employee, with the same emotions, fears, needs and sensibilities. The problem is, an employee might only see the owner from afar, perhaps as a busy-looking figure silently moving about in an office overlooking the sales floor or service drive.

Over time, that distance can have a chilling effect on the level of belonging an employee feels, and with that, an erosion of employee engagement. It's up to the dealer principal — or manager, if that is the case — to reach out to the employees at all levels of the dealership. That's where employee engagement begins: with the leader.

The moment the leader, dealer principal or "head honcho" walks to the front line employees for that first handshake is the moment employee engagement has a chance to take root. For the longer term, an effective employee communications solution is the way to institutionalize employee communication and engagement into the DNA of the company, but the first — and did I mention free — step is face-to-face contact with employees. It's the essential first step of aligning interests of the company, its owners and leaders with those of the front line employees who take care of customers, products and services.

Belonging, Alignment, Engagement

While the employee communication solution is the vehicle for all of these forces to come into effect, the goal of PDPAuto is to raise employee engagement levels in the organization.


Tom McQueen is PDP's automotive industry expert and has consulted with over 400 dealerships on performance improvement and employee engagement.

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