Disengaged employees at dealerships

When purchasing an RV, your customers are making a huge investment, beyond the initial purchase price, an investment that requires time, money, care and commitment. The RV lifestyle doesn’t always come easily or cheaply. There are many factors, and additional costs, to consider when buying an RV. Among those, learning how to drive such a mammoth vehicle, figuring out how and where to store it when it’s not in use, understanding what it takes to maintain your RV (inside and out) for peak performance, and recognizing necessary repairs to avoid costly problems on the road. You likely encourage your customers to commit to a regular, comprehensive maintenance schedule. So, what does this have to do with employees?

Employees are a huge investment, beyond the initial job offer, an investment that requires time, money, care and commitment. And, there are many factors to consider as you hire dealership staff and manage your team for peak performance, such as job fit, culture fit, technical expertise, work ethic, salary requirements, commission, incentives, and training.  You also want to understand how they naturally perform. For example, do they boldly show initiative or shy away from conflict? Do they multitask with ease or stick to a predictable routine? Do they talk to everyone or prefer to work quietly on intricate tasks? After you find the perfect fit, we encourage you to commit to a regular, comprehensive employee maintenance plan, and learn how to spot problems early to avoid costly problems stemming from disengagement.

Staffing experts say that 33% of employees are actively engaged in what they are doing on a daily basis. So, what are the other 67% doing exactly? Well, 17% are actively disengaged (that’s bad), and the other 50% are conditionally disengaged (that’s bad but fixable). That 50% typically has a situation of concern that can either be addressed, moving them into the engaged column, or ignored, moving them to completely disengaged. The top and the bottom of that graph are often easy to spot, but what do you do to retain and encourage those in that middle 50%?

The first step is learning who each employee is. There are as many different types of employees as there are classes of recreational vehicles. You want to:

A) uncover their unique motivators and work styles

B) learn all you can about how to communicate with each person

C) understand the right buttons to push as you craft incentive programs.

Sound like a lot work?

It can be, especially if you aren’t using a behavioral assessment. Behavioral assessments cut the “figuring out who they are” phase down significantly. Often, managers have to work with an employee for months before really getting a feel for the intrinsic motivators and workplace preferences of that individual. There’s also a lot of trial and error along the way. And, unfortunately, so much can go wrong in a relatively short amount of time. A behavioral assessment eliminates most of that learning curve and literally provides you with an employee manual. And before you shove that manual into the glove compartment, you can use it to craft a performance management strategy that will head off conditional disengagement, and maybe even prevent it altogether.

Every behavioral assessment is going to be a little different, but the best ones break the results down into specific character traits. While you see these traits every day, you might not always stop and consider how they shape the decisions and work styles of each employee whether they work on the sales floor or in the repair bay. Think of these traits as employee features, with each feature bringing extra value to overall job performance:

Feature 1 – Assertiveness. What motivates them? Some people respond to individual incentives, and need to have significant control over their career and financial situation.  You might call them the “risk takers.” They want to do more if they have a chance to get more out of it.  You most likely will find these people in sales and working for commission, or in leadership where they can shape outcomes. Others respond to security. They are team oriented and excel at finding that common ground that promotes harmony within a group. What they want is stability in their jobs as well as their lives. These are often your service and support team members.

Maintenance and Repair 1 – Make sure you are properly incentivizing each type. Salespeople, for example, thrive on the opportunity to make more based on their own effort and they love to compete, so commission, sales contest and individual goals are a hit. Service people thrive on security, so they appreciate incentives that are tied to their team contribution and that do not put their base salary at risk.

Feature 2Sociability. What recharges them? Often we think of this as extroversion vs introversion, but there’s more to it than that. There are some people who have literally never met a stranger; they can strike up a conversation with anyone. Social interaction is what they need, and they can often be swayed by an emotional appeal. Others are emotionally exhausted by too much of that, and need to have that quality “me time” in order to be productive. They are driven by logic, and any appeal would need to be well-crafted on an intellectual level for them to fully appreciate it. The first group feels a burst of pride from hearing someone say “Great job!” whereas someone in the second group wants concrete feedback, such as “You did a great job on that presentation. You really explained how we can use that technique to improve productivity.”

Maintenance and Repair 2  – Make sure you are motivating and communicating with each type in a way that will resonate with them. Social employees want recognition, they like the spotlight and they value face-to-face communication with their manager. Reserved employees want a more quiet recognition, such as an email of appreciation. They dislike the spotlight and are comfortable with nonverbal communication with their manager. If there is an engagement issue, however, you should be having one-on-one meetings with each type to diagnose the problem and work on an individual plan to move the employee back to engaged.

Feature 3Pace. What is their work pace?  Some folks were born multitasking. They might not even slow down from one task before grabbing another.  Others need to work on one thing at a time to ensure the highest quality. Both get the job done, but in two different styles.

Maintenance and Repair 3 – Assign work in a way that respects the working pace of each employee. The fast-paced multitaskers aren’t bothered by interruptions and will easily set aside one task to handle another; they crave action and variety. The patient, systematic processors can work quickly but they can also get flustered by the unexpected, so avoid springing last-minute surprises on them. Give them plenty of notice and don’t barge in on them mid-task to discuss something that is not urgent. If you see that a methodical mechanic, for example, is constantly being shifted from one job to another, sometimes in the middle of a job, it is likely that person is or will be conditionally disengaged.

Feature 4Structure. Are they big picture or meticulous? There are times when you really need someone who is going to go with their gut and just get something done, even if it might not be completely the “right way” to accomplish the task. They have their way of doing things and you just step back and let them do it. For other tasks though, like working on a customer’s brakes, you need someone who is going to go over every detail to make sure everything is precisely correct.

Maintenance and Repair 4 – Provide structure to those who need it and give autonomy to those who don’t. Big-picture thinkers want to innovate and they like having decision-making authority. Avoid micro-managing this group. On the flip side, be sure you provide specific instructions to your detailed employees. They can feel frustrated and directionless when new tasks are assigned without any guidance from their supervisor.

Feature 5Judgement. You really just want people who use good judgement, it’s super helpful no matter what job they are in. Take my word for that one.

Maintenance and Repair 5 – Don’t hire people with bad judgement. A behavioral assessment that measures that can help.

One of the biggest problems supervisors face is trying to take these very different people and applying a “one-size-fits-all” solution. If you don’t understand who it is you are trying to motivate, you can ultimately create “conditional disengagements” and will likely have difficulties with employee retention.  These are easily avoidable mistakes managers continue to make: putting the wrong personnel into the wrong situations.  It creates a difficult environment for employees to succeed, and supervisors don’t know how to deal with it.

Once you have an idea who you’re working with, it should be easier to determine who it is you want for future hires.  What kind of person naturally excels at each kind of job? Using top performers as the template for your hiring decisions will increase the likelihood of finding that next superstar. It can also help you understand where some might be struggling, or where potential candidates may need extra guidance. None of those traits mean that someone with the right experience cannot perform a task. It merely shows where they might need some extra guidance and support from their leadership to be an engaged, A-player.

It’s not just the employees who should be benchmarked. Leadership should be involved with the process as well. Knowing how a manager works and makes decisions reveals quite a bit about their personal leadership style. And knowing where you and your employee complement each other, and where you don’t, increases engagement, morale and productivity across the board.

As a successful RV dealership manager, you naturally promote the care and maintenance of every RV sold with its new owner. Now you can use that same principle for managing, engaging and retaining your RV staff. Using a behavioral assessment is the best way to perform a full system check and put your conditionally disengaged employees back on the road to success.

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Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group. She offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, weaknesses and behaviors. For more information about employee behavioral assessments, call Carletta at 813-280-3026 or email: Carletta@omniagroup.com

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