The best dealerships attract and keep the best people. To move from good to great, you must strive to be the employer of choice. Do you want good people to work for you or your competitor?

This spoke of the Good to Great Dealership Flywheel is building a performance culture, and it involves processes and people. Processes was part 1 of this spoke and here we’ll expand to people or being the employer of choice. In both, performance means discipline, rigor, consistency and willpower to succeed.

The people part of this has two sides:

A performance culture helps attract and keep the best people.

The best people contribute to a performance culture.

We used the term employer of choice 9 years ago in an April 2011 article (Are you the Employer of Choice or of Last Resort?) Because you are now hiring Gen Y and Gen Z, we’ll update those earlier lessons.

The 4 lessons to be the employer of choice are:

  1. Motivate around your vision
  2. Expect the best 
  3. Measure — then communicate the measures constantly 
  4. Recognize — the right way

Motivate Around Your Vision

As the leader, it’s your responsibility to establish and communicate your vision so it motivates your employees. This is especially important for Gen Y/Z who want to work for a company that does good things. When you show that your company cares and is part of an essential, honorable industry, your vision will resonate positively with employees.  

Communicating your vision once is not enough. As the leader, you must communicate what you want for your business frequently and in various ways. Employees need to know where your business is going and how they’re a part of that journey. When they know how they can contribute to your vision to be a great dealership, they’ll be motivated to perform. It’s a powerful motivator to know you’re part of a winning team.

Expect the Best

Experience shows people respond to their leader’s expectations of them. In our dealer best practice groups, we set the target at the top 25% of all dealers, not the average. Performance targets are aggressive but achievable.

With this approach to set targets, you may be asking your employees to stretch themselves. And that’s OK. That’s the point of expecting the best.

For example, if your service technicians currently bill 60% of their paid hours, then you should expect no less than 85%. Why? Because an 85% bill rate is the benchmark for service departments in our industry. Don’t split the difference and accept 70% because it’s convenient or more easily achievable.

Setting expectations is not the employee’s responsibility. It’s yours. By setting high expectations, you’re making a statement about the performance culture at your dealership.  Your behavior in doing this will attract the best people. 

For Gen Y/Z, their experience with collaboration and communication may require a little more time to explain why your expectations are high. Factor that into your thinking.

Measure, Then Communicate

Gen Y and Gen Z need to know what counts as success. This is exactly in line with “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Find meaningful, yet simple and understandable ways to calculate and communicate progress. A traditional way of communicating is to post charts or graphs that show actual performance vs. goals. More modern ways may be through short blogs, videos or messages. 

 Recently, we saw large white posters in each service bay of a dealership that identified the machine, date it came in and committed fix date. Every day the service manager updated the number of days in the shop. Everyone involved got a progress report by walking through the shop.

Whatever you do, repeat it over and over. Make the communication part of your performance culture. 

Recognize the Right Way

After doing these 3 things, you become an employer of choice by how you recognize and appreciate progress. Personal recognition is the most powerful incentive you can give an individual. And it doesn’t have to cost much, if done the right way for each person.

Some dealers recognize with money. Some by giving plaques to star achievers. Others by simple and personal words of appreciation — a pat on the back. Some even recognize by an occasional kick in the butt.

You need to determine what fits. Being a great leader isn’t only about knowing benchmarks and expectations, but it’s also about reading people. Because values in an organization start at the top, being the employer of choice starts with you, your vision, your expectations, your communication and your connection to your people.