Retaining staff in your dealership

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Think you might have a staff retention issue in your dealership? Whether you’re operating a farm machinery or truck dealership, the issues surrounding staff retention are generally quite similar.
 
If you need a few tips and strategies that will encourage well-performing employees to want to stay with your dealership longer, here’s what we’d suggest you do.

Staff retention: what’s good and what’s not

What’s your idea of ‘good staff tenure’? To be able to assess how well your dealership is performing from a staff retention perspective, you first need to establish what your benchmark target is, and that starts by understanding what the tenure of the average worker looks like.
 
According to a recent study conducted by the Australian Department of Education, Skills, and Employment, the average tenure of employees in Australia in 2019 was 3 years and 4 months. When this was broken down by age group, it was no surprise that the younger cohort of employees was less likely to stick around this long, while older employees were more likely to stay longer.
 
While it may be easy to assume you have a major staff retention problem if staff tend to leave after three years with the dealership, it’s actually in line with the industry average. But there is always room for improvement, as great dealerships that offer opportunities for progression and development may be able to attract staff to stay for five years or more.

Understanding the company culture

We know it’s an overused buzzword; but ensuring the company culture is aligned to your employees’ values is important if you want to retain good staff.
 
While it can be difficult to define exactly what company culture is, it generally relates to the way work gets done in your dealership and how you operate on a day-to-day basis. It’s also far bigger than just the ‘fun things’ you might see some companies doing; it’s about how people feel doing their jobs, how the environment impacts their ability to perform their role, how supported or unsupported they feel, and whether they’re encouraged to increase performance.
 
Is everyone expected to work 12-hour days plus a few hours on the weekends for no extra pay, or do most staff simply get by doing the bare minimum? Does your dealership have a team spirit where everyone works together to overcome problems, or are individuals left to manage problems on their own?
 
Whatever the culture is like in your dealership, it’s up to business leaders to set the standard for what they want to see. It can also help to assign responsibility to someone to hold both leaders and employees accountable for upholding company values and standards.

Keeping staff ‘in the loop’

While it seems obvious, the easiest way to lose good staff members is to neglect to communicate with them regularly and effectively.
 
We’ve seen a big shift in mentality compared to 20 years ago. It used to be a matter of ‘us and them’, with most bosses believing that important information simply wasn’t for employees to know. With a lack of good job prospects around, most employees had no option but to accept it and stick around anyway.
 
Now, leaders need to communicate a lot more. Employees need to understand and buy into the company vision, or they’ll just go elsewhere.
 
The good news is that instant messaging tools and communication boards have made internal communication very easy. Messaging platforms are a great way for dealerships to provide timely and relevant updates to entire teams of employees, as well as making it easy for employees to communicate with each other in a quick and simple format. Internal communication platforms can also help you reduce reliance on email, freeing it up to act as a more client-focused communication channel.

Setting KPIs and offering incentives

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) help employees understand what’s expected of them and provide a benchmark to help them assess if they’re doing well or if they need to improve.
 
KPIs probably aren’t as common in the dealership industry as they should be. While some dealerships use them well (particularly in service and sales departments), they should be applied across every area of the business.
retainingstaff | Teamrecruit
It’s also important to incentivise KPIs where possible. It’s essentially the carrot and stick metaphor; while employees traditionally view KPIs as a negative thing (i.e. if I don’t reach my targets, I’ll get fired), incentivising them flips the concept by offering a reward for hard work.
 
KPIs not only need to be developed based on things that will generate a good return for the business and motivate the employee, they also need to be based on things the employee can control. Unrealistic or unachievable KPIs won’t motivate staff, but instead will make them think the company is out of touch.
 
A good approach when setting KPIs is to take a couple of months to analyse current performance without staff knowing. This will help you understand what targets are realistically achievable to provide a far more enticing opportunity for employees.

Providing opportunity internally

The opportunity for internal promotion can be a great employee motivator. In fact, a 2019 report published by the Australian Business Insider identified a ‘lack of opportunity for career progression’ as the second most common reason cited by people who left a job (with pay rate being the number one reason).
 
If you have a culture of sourcing every role externally, existing staff members will simply think they won’t be considered for promotions. On the other hand, if the last parts manager, the last service manager, and the last sales manager were all internal promotions; it sets a standard for other employees that if they knuckle down, consistently perform well, and hit their targets, they’ll be next in line.
 
Even if an internal applicant doesn’t have all the technical knowledge required for a role, it’s often worth giving them a go. If they have a great attitude, they’ll most likely pick up the additional knowledge quickly; and if it doesn’t work out, they can always move back to their previous role.

Offering regular feedback

Gone are the days where a yearly performance review was considered as sufficient feedback for most staff. Today’s workers are used to receiving regular and frequent feedback about their work, and many thrive on the instant gratification derived from hearing positive comments about a job well done.
 
Generally, a good approach to ensure employees remain engaged and motivated is to conduct monthly one-on-one chats where you can discuss their performance, assess the impact they’ve had on the business, and set a plan for the road ahead. You should also try to provide continual feedback throughout the month to ensure your comments are timely and relevant.
 
This approach makes good workers want to stay with the business as they feel recognised and appreciated for their hard work, while underperforming employees will usually want to leave to avoid having their poor performance put under the spotlight.
 
Teamrecruit is Australia’s most established recruitment agency specialising in truck, earthmoving and agricultural machinery dealerships in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. Find out more about Teamrecruit and how we support employers and candidates in the dealership industry.

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