Every dealership wants the company’s employees to be fully engaged. Why? Simple. Employee engagement is the path to optimal productivity, profitability, competitiveness, and perhaps even the survival of the business. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes commitment like any meaningful relationship does.
This morning I was looking for replacement wiper blades for my car. I went into a branded auto parts store and asked the employee behind the counter — he was scarcely eighteen years old — if he had them for my Camaro. He replied with, Yes, I am sure I have that exact brand, sir.
I chuckled a little because I was impressed with the level of ownership he took in his job. He worked for a national chain of auto part retailers, probably earning close to minimum wage, but he spoke of how he could help me with such a high sense of belonging. He was the perfect example of an engaged employee: empowered to speak on behalf of his employer, and with a strong sense of belonging to the nationwide chain he served. Setting aside the possible low level of training he must have (because he was so young), he was certainly working at a high rate of engagement. He is the kind of employee every employer wants.
Engaged employees take ownership of their work. They are proud of what they do, and of their contribution to their departmental team. Whether it’s an auto retailer or an airline pilot, the effect is the same. I would also say, the vast majority of employees everywhere have the capacity to be fully engaged. The choice of whether they are or not, however, is determined by their employer.
Engaged employees talk of “we” and “I” when they are connecting with the world outside of work. Disengaged employees, on the other hand, say “they”, revealing their core belief that they feel separate from the people they work with and for. They feel like outsiders, tolerating the work they’re obliged to do in order to meet their personal financial obligations and desires.
The day is a long one for the disengaged employee. They live for the weekend to arrive, or for the shift to end, so they can escape from the prison they find their workplace to be.
Does it really make any difference whether an employee is engaged or disengaged? Won’t the fear of punishment keep them on their toes and at optimal performance levels? Actually, it makes a huge difference and no, the fear of punishment will have a limited effect. Psychologists today know — it’s kind of obvious, really — that coercion only works for a very limited time. Once you use it to get work done, you can never return to motivation by intrinsic means. That means employees; once they have been shown the proverbial whip, rarely revert to levels of self-motivation characteristic of employees that are fully engaged.
Quick to destroy, slow to build
You can’t force someone to love you; you can’t force an oak tree to grow; you can’t force an employee to be engaged. What you can do is create an environment where that oak tree will flourish over time. It’s the same with employee engagement.
Create the environment one day and one action at a time, and you will have it. It’s easy to destroy engagement in a moment of anger or when an employee makes a misstep, but it takes a long time to build. Commit today to the long-term ambition to have engaged employees, and you are on your path to optimal productivity through all the benefits of fully engaged staff members. It’s easy, really. And we can help.
Tom McQueen has over 20 years experience in the automotive industry. He is PDPAuto’s automotive industry expert and has consulted with over 400 dealerships on performance improvement and employee engagement. Tom is also an award-winning author and executive coach.