In this new world of Automotive Digital Retailing. How do car dealerships attract and retain the best of the best employees. Leadership is hard, especially now, in this period of lockdown where many people are losing their jobs. The positive is that there is now a bigger pool of talent for really good businesses to choose from. Highly skilled, highly motivated employees can now be picky.

Whilst car dealership and automotive industry people and pay plans are known very well to be focused on being commission driven, maybe this way of thinking needs to be challenged to ensure that car dealerships first have the right people working on board.

Over the years, I have learnt a few lessons which may be able to help car dealerships attract and retain the RIGHT people and leadership:

1. Define & build your car dealership culture and leadership

Defining and building your car dealership culture in a way means that whoever joins the business is trained and knows how things are done in your business. Building a culture is not defined by a day that involves standing on a stage and falling backwards, or having “team building days”, it goes far beyond that. The car dealership culture needs to be woven into the day to day behaviours and activities of your car dealership and even in staff meetings, hallway encounters and coffee / smoke breaks.

I have learnt that trying to change people is mostly a waste of time instead. Hiring people who have a similar way of doing things and thinking in the first place, is what makes the difference to culture. All of which take time to develop and maintain. Most businesses focus on the skills on the CV ever too often, culture and attitude come second. I say – Hire for culture (attitude), train for skill.

I have learned that sitting behind a desk in a corner office doesn’t define who we are and how people perceive us. With the transition of our business from print to digital, we had to start embracing a “new culture” that would help us as we moved into a new world. After all, it’s those same ivory towers that make leadership inaccessible. Why not join everyone on the floor and see how that impacts how engagement levels.

The concept of organisational culture cannot be executed by one person alone, a supportive management team that believes in the businesses values and culture is what you need as they help filter and execute. Car dealerships need management teams that want to be there. It all starts with the leader and very closely follows with the management team, and then hiring people and the nurturing them to grow is important. It can’t be done back to front.

2. Hire people and leadership who have “intrinsic motivational will”

When it comes to hiring people I believe in 2 principles:

Money does NOT motivate people. The lack of money is a de-motivator but it is not a motivator.If money is not there, it’s a big problem, but more of it doesn’t motivate you leadership or people.

And that’s quite a big statement in this industry, especially car dealerships, knowing that it’s traditionally driven by commission.

Money as a de-motivator. – If you consider money in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if money is not there, it’s a problem. Another example is, f my chair’s broken, it’s a problem. But if the chair is not broken, I’m not thinking about it. So, therefore there is no problem.

Money is exactly the same. I’m not saying that you can go about paying your people as little as possible or nothing at all, because that would fall into the “bucket” of the lack of money being a de-motivator. You just can’t use money to motivate people or leadership. You however, need to pay good people above “market” or they will leave you. Too often good people leave good businesses for the “lack of money” and think the grass is greener. Stop this from happening by taking the de-motivator off the table for people you want to keep.

So as you can see, we don’t remunerate people to motivate them, we remunerate them so that they are not “de-motivated”. Once those hygiene factors are out of the way, then you, as car dealerships, can focus on the next principle:

Hire people that have intrinsic motivational will to do stuff; they wake up in the morning, and you don’t have to motivate them to make a difference every day.

People shouldn’t be “working for money” they should be working to do great work. When they come to work, they come to work because they want to, they want to be there. They love the people, they want to get stuff done. They want to make a difference, they want to collaborate. All those sentences contain the word WANT TO. They need to WANT TO. If you can establish whether someone WANTS TO, then you are well on your way to building your car dealership culture.

3.Embrace trust & transparency as a car dealership

Though building a culture in theory is great, car dealerships may ask, but how? Build trust. And how do you build trust – in two ways:

Vulnerability based Trust: Vulnerability based trust means your employees are vulnerable with each other and with the leadership of the business, they feel like they’re not going to get stabbed in the back for being vulnerable. It takes a long time to build.

Behavioural Trust: Being able to disagree knowing that the person you are disagreeing with won’t character assassinate you in the argument or down the line. Another term I like to use in behavioural trust is predictive trust. I know how someone will act and react in any given situation. I am able to disagree. After all, disagreements are all about ideas and about disagreeing on things to get to the right answer.

If you can build these between individuals and leadership within the car dealership and within teams, we can then add another key ingredient.

Transparency inside car dealerships

Create transparency about how your business is really doing. Get real feedback about how your people are feeling.

For example, we had an iPad which was at the entry/exit point of the business that had a couple of blocks on it. Each block was a feeling, like MOTIVATED; POSITIVE; ANGRY; SAD; Etc. Above the blocks, the question read: “How you’re feeling today?”. Staff would walk past it and tap it and yes people used it and we were able to get feedback on how people were feeling.

Only use 1/3 of your staff meetings to talk about KPI’s and numbers, but, be able to be transparent about how your car dealership is really performing in your staff meetings

Then for 2/3’s, add to that the other stuff, the real life stuff, things happening in your car dealership, things that are happening in the world of your people both in and outside of your business. Really care about them. Instead of it always being about targets, KPI’s and the numbers. Whilst they (the numbers) are important, they are not everything. Because people are people, not machines.

I think a lot of leaders are scared of the non KPI stuff. Why? It’s hard to measure. When a team members does something against the culture set, it’s hard to call them on it. It’s hard to have a conversation about it because there’s no number attached to it.

4. Car dealerships can also do the unconventional

Car dealerships need to start doing the unconventional, implementing forward thinking ideas that not only separate them from their competition but also make their environments dynamic and exciting for their employees. You’d be amazed on how inspiring you can be to your employees.

Challenge the status quo, get your employees involved, that way you’re not always chasing numbers but also having fun whilst at work, making a real difference to the lives of the most important thing on this planet, people.