In an effort to motivate employees, managers talk about team building but not all of them walk the talk. The reality is, most auto dealership cultures were established on rewarding individual performance rather than rewarding the efforts of a team.
Yet there are many reasons to promote team building in the workplace. Employees who function as a team:
- Motivate each other and hold one another accountable
- Learn to better identify their own and others’ strengths and weaknesses, and adjust responsibilities accordingly to maximize productivity
- Report higher levels of employee satisfaction, morale and happiness
- Work together to achieve organizational objectives
- Prevent rogue employees from doing things their own way
If you’d like to cultivate a strong team environment in your dealership, follow these steps:
Step 1: Define Organizational Goals
Every human being desires purpose. Every great organization has a mission statement or vision that inspires purpose. Where do you want your dealership to be in five years? Do you want to be number one in sales volume in your region? Do you want to be recognized as one of the best places to work in your community?
Create a mission statement and share your vision with your employees. Sharing helps to create a team mentality. You need the team’s help to get you where you want to be.
Step 2: Define Team Goals
In auto dealerships, it makes the most sense to define teams by department. Then define goals for each team. Some dealers might find it difficult to break away from thinking of revenue as their only goal. But revenue goals do not inspire teams.
Instead, create goals that encourage team efforts. In sales, this could be assigning the sales team to achieve certain KPIs. In service, this could be implementing a new technology such as auto dispatch or mobile tablets.
For cues on how a department should operate as a team, look to accounting. The accounting department usually operates as a cohesive team. If one person is out sick, another steps in to fill their role. Everyone in accounting knows there are certain deadlines every month and everyone does their part to ensure those deadlines are met.
Step 3: Rethink Your Reward System
Most salespeople make commission on the gross profit of units sold. In service, bonuses are based on gross. The problem with pay plans that reward individual performance is that they set up a culture of “What’s in it for me?”
Many large auto groups are blazing new trails with pay plans that promote teams. Commissions and bonuses are based on achieving group goals, such as improving CSI or NPS, increasing adherence to processes and achieving Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Recognize and reward employees based on how well they contribute to the team, not individual performance.
Step 4: Promote Competition Between Teams
Imagine if there were no winners or losers in sports. Why would team members be motivated to work together? There would be no fans because there would be nobody to root for.
In business, friendly competition solidifies team relationships, motivates members to work together and encourages them to root for each other. Competitions can be friendly and don’t have to be based on business goals.
Engage your teams in fun, competitive activities. If your culture includes a health and wellness component, have teams compete in events like local bike races and walk-a-thons.
Step 5: Organize Social Activities Outside of Work
A study conducted by MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory analyzed communication behavior among dozens of teams in different industries. It found that the best predictors of productivity were a team’s engagement outside of formal meetings.
In fact, the degree to which team members socialized away from their workstations contributed to as much as a 35 percent improvement in team performance.
Encourage team members to take coffee breaks or eat lunch together. Organize lunchtime power walks, happy hours and volunteer projects where team members can get to know each other.
Step 6: Form Cross-Functional Teams
Once you have created a team atmosphere in your dealership, the next step is to form cross-functional teams. These teams include employees from different departments, and their purpose is to accomplish specific organizational goals that are unrelated to department goals.
In auto dealerships, examples of goals for cross-functional teams include:
- Improve customer and employee experience
- Vet new technology solutions
- Create new processes based on pre-existing problems
- Interview and hire new employees
One of the primary benefits of cross-functional teams is that you get a variety of viewpoints and fresh perspectives. For example, requiring all job candidates to interview with several team members from different departments is a best practice if you want to identify candidates who will fit your culture.
Or let’s say that you want to develop a new “We Owe” process. If you leave it up to the sales and F&I team, they may create a process that creates problems for accounting or service. Having a cross-functional team ensures you end up with a solution that everyone can live with.
Other benefits of cross-functional teams are giving employees a chance to learn about other departments and processes and developing new skills.
Step 7: Train Managers
Team building is a top-down activity. It isn’t enough for a principal or GM to promote a team building philosophy. Department managers must buy in and offer structure and support; in short, they must be willing team members.
This can present a particular challenge if, for instance, one of your managers was promoted into that position because he or she was a top performer. If your sales director is a former top producer and is naturally self-motivated, he or she might not understand the need for team building, and therefore, might not support your efforts.
Is there a department in your dealership that suffers from low morale, low productivity, infighting, failure to follow processes and/or rule breaking? If so, that department manager may need to be trained on how to build and manage a team.
Consider sending department managers to a team building program or workshop.
Team building is a proven way to create a profitable, dynamic workplace. These tips should help you build cohesive teams in your dealership. If you need additional help, ask your team! You’ll be amazed at what team effort can accomplish.
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Mike Esposito is President & CEO of Auto/Mate Dealership Systems. During his tenure at Auto/Mate, Mike has grown the company's auto dealer client base to more than 1,000 rooftops.