Fair, even-handed policies may be the cheapest, most effective motivational tools a tire dealer or service shop operator could wield. Fairness also reduces employee stress by boosting morale.
Creating and applying fair shop and personnel policies is a massive topic so I'll just cite some common examples of fair-mindedness that improve a boss' ability to inspire and motivate his or her team. Try these techniques and let me know if they don't make a big improvement in morale at your dealership or service shop.
First, try leading by example. Exude fairness by demonstrating that you'll do the same things you ask your staff to do-like always arrive early and sometimes stay late. You see, an ongoing gripe I've heard from owners and managers over the years is that some very capable workers are chronically late for work. When they do show up, they work like demons and excel at their particular tasks or specialties.
Many bosses tolerate the lateness because these workers are so talented, and good help is so hard to find. Unfortunately, this situation always breeds resentment from good workers who are consistently on time.
All too often, I find the boss isn't helping the situation because he believes it's good to be king, and the king comes and goes as he pleases. Sometimes problematic employees pick up on this attitude and decide that if promptness and attendance isn't important to the boss, then it can't be very important to them, either.
On the other hand, it's extremely difficult to argue with a boss who sets the example of being the first one on site in the morning and the last-or one of the last-to leave in the evening. At the very least, get in early and get things going because workers love a boss who's got good coffee and rolls waiting for them when they arrive. That alone is a great incentive to roll in early!
Some bosses I know who have used this technique successfully never actually confront the tardy worker with a comment such as, ``Fair is fair. If I'm in early, you should be too.'' No, coworkers-the employee's peers-will do the job for you and do it in spades. It's amazing what a little peer pressure can do to forward your cause: ``Joe, you shoulda been in early enough to get some of the boss's Starbucks and the sweet rolls. You'd be awake by now if you had!''
But coffee or no coffee, your early arrival conveys that what's fair for one is fair for all.
The second example of fairness that seems grossly undervalued today is making each technician responsible for the work as well as the work area. When I first entered a repair shop in the 1960s, the simple rules were that you cover your own mistakes and clean up you own mess. What ever happened to that rationale of fairness?
The big hangup I encounter personally and hear about from dozens of conscientious techs is the ``exempt'' top producer. In other words, bosses are often reluctant to slow down the top-producing tech to make him shoulder his share of the responsibilities.
Entirely too often I've seen the top producer's work area and its immediate environs dangerously filthy. There are puddles of old coolant on which co-workers can slip, discarded parts over which people can trip and fuel spills that constitute a fire hazard. But the manager never reprimands him for fear of slowing him down. After all, ultimately this tech's volume affects the manager's bonuses.
Unfortunately, exempting Mr. Top Producer from the rules often hampers overall productivity by angering and distracting fellow technicians. Get with it, readers. The several minutes it takes to tidy up a bay in between jobs won't break this tech or your service department. Plus, it will earn twentyfold in respect from the entire crew.
Last but not least, emphasize fairness by always requiring Hot-shot Top Producer to make good on his mistakes that cause comebacks. Suppose a job comes back because Hot-shot didn't bleed the brakes correctly. Don't foist the comeback on some salaried, junior-level tech. Instead, require Hot-shot to bleed the brakes correctly this time because it's his mistake and no one else's. He'll never learn and never improve himself until you make him totally responsible for his own work.
Morale and productivity will increase when coworkers realize that Hot-shot is held to the same standards as everyone else in the service department.
Dan can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]