How to Build a Better Dealership Culture

Your Dealership Staff Wants a Culture of Appreciation

Written By Carol Marshall

A dealership is often a high-stress environment. And if you don’t have a viable dealership culture of appreciation, you’re going to have to hire over and over again.

So how do you typically show your employees that you appreciate them for their work? The money. You give your team monetary incentives in return for their excellent skills, which helps them feed their families while creating success for your store.

However, some employees are motivated by something other than monetary gain. Some employees, no matter how much you pay them, are looking for you to show your appreciation through your dealership culture and other resources.

Let’s put this in perspective. Your employees spend 8 hours (often more) of their life each day at your dealership. That’s one-third of their existence. They are taking time away from their immediate families to be with you and work for you. And if you want them to continue to spend their precious time with you, if you want real loyalty from your employees, you have to help them create a sense of belonging and show them that you value them as people.

So how do you create a dealership culture of appreciation and belonging?

How to create a dealership culture of appreciation:

Trusted Leadership

Without leaders, there are no followers. How often does the Dealership Principal, Owner, or General Manager (YOU?) speak to the staff about the work they are doing?

How often does he or she convey gratitude for the people who have chosen to be a part of the team? (Remember, work is voluntary, even if people really need it). If it’s not very often, or at all, then your staff is working for the Great and Powerful Oz. A figure that everyone knows about, but no one feels as if that person cares to take the time to be an active presence. You want to be a private figure who shows appreciation for the individuals who keep the gears of the machine (your business) running smoothly.

You need to make an effort to show people who they are working for and why. You need to show them that you're someone they can trust and that you're all working together toward a common goal. One great way to do this is to have a 10-minute meeting with each department (depending on how large your dealership is). Ten minutes is all you need to tell people that you are united in a common goal and that you appreciate their efforts in working together toward that common purpose.

Try having this meeting weekly or monthly. Remind people why YOU are there, and why THEY should continue to be a part of your mission, and that you are thankful for them being there. Sometimes people just need to see the passion in their leaders to mirror that passion in their own work.

To your customers, you need to sell cars. To your employees, you need to sell the dream. It’s the people who believe in your company’s dream who will be most likely to stay, and those are the people you want working for you the most. Remember to thank them often for being a part of your dream.

Wellness Benefits

Now that you’ve gotten them to believe in you, let’s talk about keeping your team alive and well.

Maybe you gave employees an excellent benefits package that includes healthcare, vision, and dental at a discounted rate. Your employees are set in the event that anything goes wrong with their health. However, could you be doing more to prevent health-related issues?

Remember - I said a dealership is a high-stress environment.

So, how can you get your team to relax a little bit? How can you help them breathe and recharge (possibly during the workday) to help manage their stress levels?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Hire an on-site licensed massage therapist and/or chiropractor
  • Provide a free or discounted gym membership
  • Create a “Nap Room.”
  • Keep a stock of free and healthy snacks in the break room

All of these perks will improve your dealership culture.  Help your employees manage their stress, and they'll be happier working at YOUR dealership rather than someone else’s.

Share Their Interests

Every employee in your dealership has individual interests and things they care about outside of work. If you really want to show your employees that you care, make an effort to learn what THEY care about. Then see how your dealership can be a part of their interests.

I advise you to have your employees take a survey with questions about their interests and personal goals. (You can also stalk their profiles on Facebook, but the survey method is less creepy and more accurate).

Once you’ve collected the surveys, go through them and see what kind of little things you can do.

  • Can you offer your employees an hour off of work once a week to volunteer in the community?
  • Can you donate to a cause that one of your employees is very passionate about?
  • Can you create awareness of something one of your employees is passionate about and get the rest of your team involved in making a difference?
  • Can you create a meetup group on weekends to go out and have fun doing an activity that a lot of your team enjoys?

Once you know what they care about, you can use it to show that you care about them. Gauge your employees’ interests by offering your time, money, or resources to help them achieve their own goals and pursue their own passions. By doing so, they will feel more connected to your dealership culture and will be less likely to leave.

Looking for more tips for building a top-tier dealership culture?

You can find more helpful advice on building an awesome dealership culture in the ActivEngage blog! Here are a few helpful articles:


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