Dealer Takeaways

  1. Having employees who are energized helps the dealership in a number of ways including improving ROI, increasing productivity and creating higher customer satisfaction.
  2. Don’t hesitate to try new ideas but be able to acknowledge when they don’t work out so you can move on to something else.
  3. Spreading the wealth in terms of work and praise is an important aspect to keeping all employees happy and productive.
  4. Working with employees in their environment and providing them with recognition is important.

Keeping your employees energized is an important part of running an organization. Palm says there’s a number of reasons why it is important, including:

  • Improving ROI
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved retention
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Better quality of work
  • Higher customer satisfaction

Happy employees lead to happy customers, so it important that dealership leaders are keeping their workforce happy and motivated. Palm shares 10 ideas for how to keep employees energized. While he does not see them as groundbreaking ideas, they are important ones that have worked for him and 21st Century Equipment.

#1 Focus on what matters
The first idea that Palm presents is the importance of focusing on what matters to leaders and managers of the dealership. This is about painting a picture of what success can look like for employees. Included in this are ideas such as like setting goals and targets for them to reach.

Many managers and leaders may be reluctant to share their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or financial information with employees, but Palm explains, employees cannot be expected to improve if they are not aware of these scores. “Sharing company performance, however you want to do it, is an extremely important concept,” he says.

#2 M-B-W-A
Manage by Walking Around (M-B-W-A) is about getting away from the desk, out of the office and onto the floor where things are happening. Doing this allows managers and leaders to see the working environment they are running and to meet employees, he says.

For Palm, the most important aspect of this idea is that it shows that the manager/leader is accessible to the employees and that they are willing to come and learn things at the ground level.

#3 Avoid Pushing Initiatives that Don’t Matter
With this idea, Palm talks about creating a “what not to do” list. Everyone will have new ideas and try new things and some of these will work while others will fail. “Don’t hesitate to try new ideas, but if they don’t work out, stop doing it and move on.”

“Sharing company performance, however you want to do it, is an extremely important concept …”
– Owen Palm

#4 Fail Fast!
At 21st Century Equipment, they have a saying: “Fail fast!” The goal is to treat their setbacks as learning experiences because not everything works out in the ways one may expect. It is beneficial to constantly reflect back on what is working and what is not.

#5 Meetings are Inevitable
In order to run an effective organization, conducting meetings is a must. What Palm suggests in order to keep employees energized is to keep the meetings on the shorter side and to have them with as small of a group as possible. Provide an agenda for meetings in advance so everyone is prepared, he says.

“If you are expecting any kind of good input, you owe it to the people that are going to be in that meeting to tell them what you are going to be talking about.”

#6 Keep Workloads Realistic
Every dealership has that employee who can be given anything you want done and that employee gets it done. What Palm cautions is to spread the wealth a bit; don’t burn those employees out. It is important to be mindful of the amount of time each is putting into their jobs and to send them home when they are overwhelmed.

“No one has ever quite a job for receiving too much praise,” says Palm.

At 21st Century Equipment, there are a few programs that are used to recognize personal achievements of employees. One of these programs is “Deeds Make a Difference.” It’s an instant program where any employee or customer can recognize an employee for an act that is considered beyond the call of duty. This act can be anything from working late to coming in to help a customer even though they were not on call.

The second program is the “Circle of Excellence.” With this program, the senior management team gets together before the company Christmas parties and picks a handful of employees who have excelled. These are employees who have made a difference to the company and the community, so they have been chosen for special recognition. These select few employees receive a plaque and then their names on plaques outside the corporate office and in the conference room.

“When it comes to employee engagement, there is just no stronger tool than recognition,” stresses Palm.

“Energized and engaged employees are just like farming; If conditions are favorable, production flourishes …”
– Owen Palm

#7 It’s Not About the Money But…
At the end of the day, it is about money, Palm says. One surefire way to upset an employee is in making mistakes with payroll and sending out late paychecks. “We all realize that many of our employees work from paycheck to paycheck. There’s nothing worse that you can do to create dissatisfaction within your organization.”

#8 Don’t Play Favorites
It is important to try to not play favorites. Everyone has that go-to person that can do it all. Constantly piling on praise for that employee can wear on other employees so it is important to spread the wealth when passing out praise, he says.

#9 Break Bread Together
One of Palm’s favorite ways to keep employees energized is in breaking bread together. This includes doing things like hosting potlucks near the holidays for employees to take part in. 21st Century Equipment has a number of stores that have adopted a Thirsty Thursday program where once a quarter, employees and their families can get together in the evening for food and drinks.

Another program is what Palm calls Family Steak Night and it started with a bet he made with location managers a number of years ago. For each location that went the whole year without lost injury time, senior staff would come and cook steaks for those locations. Each year the bet continues with the inclusion of new foods with the steak such as lobster.

“It sounds like an expensive program, but you can imagine what having 13 stores going without a lost time injury for 3 years has done to our workers comp,” says Palm. “It’s amazing what spending a little money on food and getting families energized can do for turning an organization around.”

#10 Personally Model Enthusiasm
Enthusiasm is said to be contagious and it starts at the top, so it is crucial to Palm that all of the 21st Century Equipment leaders model enthusiasm. Through all the adversities managers face, they still need to exemplify positivity when working with employees because it is their job to present positivity and passion for the business, he says.

“Energized and engaged employees are just like farming; If conditions are favorable, production flourishes,” says Palm.

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April/May 2019 Issue Contents