AKRON (Feb. 14, 2005) — Any tire dealer committed to the long-term health of his or her service department should take employee departures very seriously.
This approach includes conducting a routine exit interview and, wherever appropriate, applying the results of that interview to improving the business.
Over the years, many bosses have astounded and befuddled me with their cavalier attitudes about why workers choose to leave. Far too many owners and managers I meet treat employee departures as an inevitable occurrence that just cannot and should not be challenged or investigated. They anticipate it like a rainy day; when it happens, they shrug their shoulders and nonchalantly tell you the sun will come up again tomorrow.
Well, unless you're Daddy Warbucks and can just cavalierly blow off the investments you've made in your employees, to me, most employee departures signify big failures. It could have been a failure to screen the individual correctly in the first place; perhaps a failure by the boss to recognize and deal with a serial malcontent early on; or a failure to identify and deal with laziness or personality problems in a timely manner. Or a failure to communicate with the employee effectively—including effectively motivating him or her.
Whatever the root cause of the worker's exit, I don't see the occasion as anything for the boss to crow about. Rather, this should prompt a manager or owner to reflect on his or her management skills. Yes, there are times when employees startle you with behavior you never expected. Yes, there are extenuating circumstances that require you to fire someone or quietly ask them to consider leaving before you fire them.
However, after observing countless worker-employer relationships, I'm convinced that the majority of worker departures are, first of all, very avoidable. Secondly, the departures are very preventable for a boss who has the will to tackle the issues in the case. But my experience has been that the last thing bosses want to consider or admit is that they have failed in any way. No sir, they almost always blame the employee.
I needn't remind a typical Tire Business reader of the dearth of good workers out there, especially good technicians. This blame-the-worker approach doesn't bode well for the long-term health of your business. The tire dealerships and service shops of the future must be businesses that sense and identify the need for change and recognize it quicker than the competition does. Then they must promptly improve and revise the “needy” areas of the business. Supposedly, one of the strengths of small or relatively small businesses is the ability to change course quickly.
Recently, I returned a phone call to a service shop operator I know who moaned he had lost two techs and a service writer within the last few months. Yet he shrugged off losing not one but three key people as if it was nothing—then changed the topic.
Isn't there the remotest chance this mass migration suggests something's very wrong with the way the shop's being run? Shouldn't he be just the slightest bit curious about losing these workers? (In the meantime, he's had to help out back in the bays!)
All tire dealerships and service shops should have an employee manual. If they do have one, it should contain an ironclad requirement that all employees sit for an exit interview if and when that time comes. At the very least, give each new hire a standard letter explaining the exit interview requirement and the reason for it. Like many other important parts of the business, the exit interview mandate should not come as a surprise to any worker.
Obviously, my greatest interest is the service department. Departing service personnel—from service writers to tire busters to technicians—should do an exit interview with the service manager. If you have a shop foreman, urge him to interview departing technicians, too.
Remember that the objective of the exit interview is to politely but professionally cull information that will help the business improve and grow. Glean feedback to help you lead, manage, motivate and build a stronger team in the future.
Some bosses I respect don't hesitate to ask departing workers point blank: How could we have done our jobs better? Then these owners and managers take the response to heart and improve themselves and their businesses as a result. This approach sure beats living in denial.