Uncovering the hidden motivators behind sales and F&I production is the first step toward redeeming underperforming staffers. Photo by Klimkin via Pixabay

Uncovering the hidden motivators behind sales and F&I production is the first step toward redeeming underperforming staffers. Photo by Klimkin via Pixabay

Do employees at your dealership consistently struggle to meet the goals set for them? Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum; your employees must be motivated to succeed. So what drives employee motivation?

In the book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” Daniel Pink identifies three primary human motivators:

• Mastery: the desire to be good at something.

• Autonomy: the desire to be self-directed, in control.

• Purpose: the desire to be part of something bigger than yourself.

I’ll add a fourth item to Pink’s list: appreciation and recognition, because I believe the first three don’t work without the last.

At many dealerships, employees are given minimal information on how to do their jobs, but they are expected to produce wonderful results. When that doesn’t happen, excuses are made instead of improvements.

Many employees are taught how to do a task but they’re never taught the “Why” behind what they are doing, or allowed the freedom to try a different way. They are expected to follow process without purpose, or perhaps the stated purpose does not inspire them.

Then we wonder why we have low employee morale and high employee turnover.

The good news is that you can break this management paradigm and rev up your employees’ motivation by giving them the training they need and empowering them to succeed on their own terms. Here are two key steps:

1. Rethink Your Training Plan.

Most dealers focus on training only when things are slow. Unfortunately, if you’re always busy, there’s never a focus on training. As a result, most employees receive very minimal training on how to do their jobs.

When they do receive training, the focus is typically on how to use the software, how to do a task or how to follow a process. Rarely are employees taught the “Why” behind what they’re doing. Yet the “Why” is the most important part of anyone’s job.

When you complete a task, how does it impact other employees and what they are trying to accomplish? Why is it important to do something this way, not that way? How does what you do on a daily basis affect your customer experience? How does your job contribute toward the company’s stated goal or vision?

In my experience working with dealerships, I have encountered numerous accounting staff who write things off and post items to different accounts because they were taught to do it that way. Yet they have no idea what the implications are if something is posted to the wrong account, other than they might get in trouble.

How can you expect an employee to achieve mastery of their position if they aren’t trained properly to begin with? How can you reprimand a person for doing something wrong when you haven’t explained the importance of doing it right?

I realize that in many dealerships, people are overworked and training just can’t be a top priority. That’s why I recommend developing a training playbook for every department in your dealership.

A playbook will list every process in each department and provide detailed guidance on the following:

• What needs to be done.

• Why it needs to be done.

• How to do it.

• Who is responsible.

• When it needs to be done.

Additionally, expectations need to be clearly defined. What level of performance do you expect your employees to achieve? Putting together a playbook might take some time upfront, but it’s an incredibly effective training tool for both new and current employees.

When you sit down to create your playbook, involve all of your team members. The process of creating a playbook is very illuminating and you’ll probably make some process improvements before you’re finished.

A playbook is also an effective cross-training tool. If one of your employees is out sick or leaves unexpectedly, the rest of your team shouldn’t have to scramble to figure out how to do their jobs.

2. Nurture a Culture of Empowerment.

A culture of empowerment needs to come from the top, with an understanding that empowering your employees is a necessary precursor for autonomy, which is a necessary precursor for motivation.

Empowerment is not about letting your employees do anything they want. It’s about holding them responsible and accountable for the outcomes of their actions but giving them the authority to make their own decisions and solve their own — or your customers’ — problems.

It’s also about caring. You have to get to know your employees on an individual basis so you know what will motivate them best.

In a culture of empowerment, leaders:

• Share information and are transparent with employees about the company’s vision and challenges.

• Create clear goals and objectives for everyone in the organization.

• Teach that it’s OK to make mistakes.

• Know that every challenge is a learning opportunity.

• Support a learning environment.

• Realize that sharing power yields better results than exerting it.

• Appreciate and recognize employees.

If you’re not sure whether your employees feel empowered to make their own decisions, try asking them. Conduct an anonymous survey or encourage contributions to a suggestion box.

With appropriate training and a sense of empowerment, your employees will feel more confident and motivated to succeed.

Melissa Maldonado is director of support services at Auto/Mate, where she oversees teams providing training and support to dealerships nationwide.

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