Studies show that one of the best ways for companies to become more profitable is to have engaged employees. An engaged employee exhibits high levels of job satisfaction as well as overall happiness. One of the keys to having happy employees is to create an environment that encourages a work-life balance.
Imagine a customer who comes in to buy a car, or brings their car in to be serviced at your dealership. Do they encounter a salesperson or service advisor who is energetic, happy and customer-focused? Or do they encounter someone who is burned out, frazzled and resentful?
Given a choice, customers choose to do business with people they like and trust, and perhaps even have something in common with. If your employees don’t have time for a life outside of work, they’re not going to have much in common with anyone.
Setting an expectation that all employees must step up and do “whatever it takes” is not bad, as long as it’s occasional. But if the expectation is there all the time, with no consideration for the toll it’s taking on employees, chances are your dealership has a high employee turnover rate and a low customer retention rate.
Many employees don’t feel like they can set boundaries to have a healthy work-life balance, so it’s up to the dealership principals and managers to develop this initiative and culture. Here are some ideas that can help:
Appreciate Lunchtime. Are there certain employees who routinely skip their lunch breaks when things get busy? Reach out and encourage them to take a break. If they don’t mind or if it’s not possible, show your appreciation by providing them with an occasional lunch. It’s difficult to keep energy levels up with a hungry belly, so have lunch delivered or arrange for food trucks to visit your dealership (which can be a fun diversion for both employees and customers). There are even healthy vending machines now that offer soups, salads and sandwiches.
Limit Overtime and Weekend Work. In the annual “Best Dealerships to Work For” list compiled by Automotive News, a common perk mentioned by dealers is limiting the amount of overtime hours or weekend hours that employees are allowed to work.
Require Vacations. Yes, seriously. Everyone needs a break now and then. Spending time with family and friends is important. If your employees aren’t taking their vacation days, encourage that they do. If they really don’t want to, give them a bonus equivalent to the paid time they didn’t take off.
Acknowledge Sacrifices. Occasionally your employees may have to miss important family events. When they do, acknowledge their sacrifice and express your appreciation with at least a sincere thank you, or with a gift card or other small perk.
Consider Profit Sharing. If your company culture is hard-working and all-encompassing, it’s important to show your appreciation where it really counts. Your company profits rise as a direct result of the effort that your employees put in every day, so sharing some of those profits in the form of a bonus is a great way to let them know they are valued.
Offer Part-Time, Flex-Time or Shared-Time Options. Sometimes life throws us curve balls that require extra attention. It could be a new baby, a child with special needs or an ill relative that requires care. If you have a valued employee who is struggling with work-life balance, let them know you’re willing to work with them. Offer part-time, flex-time or let them know you’re willing to hire someone to share their responsibilities with for as long as they need. Reassure them that their full-time position will be there again, if and when they want it.
Offer Time-Saving Perks. Some dealerships in the Automotive News “Best Dealerships to Work For” offer perks that save their employees time. Arrange for on-site services such as shoe shining, dry cleaning pick-up and drop-off or pedicures and manicures.
On-Site Seminars and Trainings. Another perk many employees appreciate is on-site seminars and trainings for topics such as personal development, stress management, meditation, health and wellness and financial education. A time management seminar might help dealership employees prioritize their time and appointments, which can reduce stress and customer wait times, while increasing efficiency and workload in the shop.
Encourage Health Initiatives. Healthy people are — for the most part — happier than people who are unhealthy. To keep employees physically healthy, consider running a fitness challenge where workers compete to lose weight and earn points they can use toward prizes. Pay for a trainer and/or nutritionist to come in on a regular basis to work with employees on fitness and eating plans. Offer to pay gym memberships. Form a company running group or walking group. Sponsor a smoking-cessation program. When companies make fitness fun and a priority, it’s easier for employees to accomplish health goals.
Encourage Employee Feedback. Ask managers and employees to meet on a regular basis to discuss their needs and challenges, including work-life issues. Ask employees for suggestions and make an effort to implement the better ideas.
If you are worried that offering a work-life balance to your employees will have a negative impact on your bottom line, remember this: When your employees are happy and engaged at work, they take better care of your customers. When your customers are taken care of, they are more likely to become loyal customers. Loyal customers lead to higher profits. Creating a work environment that fosters employee happiness will attract and retain high-quality employees.
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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.