AKRON (Nov. 7, 2005) — All workers must understand that their relationship with an employer is and always will be a two-way street.
What's more, a little give-and-take always engenders a healthier long-term working relationship for workers as well as bosses.
I have been discussing aspects of work ethic in recent columns. Recent conversations with service personnel I know and respect relate directly to those columns. They also highlight the importance of old-fashioned give-and-take in working relationships.
The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that a give-and-take attitude has to be an integral part of a solid work ethic.
A large new-car dealership uses the team concept in its service department. If you aren't familiar with this format, it usually groups technicians into teams of five. Each week, the dealership totals the billable labor hours produced by this five-person team. Then each team member takes home one-fifth of that total.
Typically, the tech chosen as team leader is a respected, highly experienced person. The team leader I know at this car dealership has a stellar reputation for his workmanship, dedication and overall work ethic. For the sake of simplicity, I'll call him “Mr. Leader.”
According to Mr. Leader, the entire service department was alerted well in advance of a planned customer car care clinic. Like many other clinics of this kind that I have seen, the event was scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a Saturday.
Consumers are invited to bring that dealership's particular make of vehicle in for a free overall inspection. Predictably, the teams check each incoming vehicle as carefully as possible for legitimate potential repair work. Then the service sales staff tries to close these potential sales and schedule the work.
In the past, the return was two or three out of 10; so inspecting 10 cars at this kind of event yielded two or three extra repair jobs for the team. In all fairness, it's difficult to measure the kind of goodwill and trust these events create. After all, it does get people you may not have otherwise seen in to tour your facility and meet the crew.
Mr. Leader is an articulate, career technician in his mid-40s. In fact, his vocabulary is laced with the word career—as opposed to “job.” The rest of his team are 20-something guys. For the second year in a row, he told me, the younger fellows repeatedly griped out loud about having to forfeit a Saturday to support the dealership's car care clinic.
Whenever service sales slow down, the younger guys are the ones who are most anxious about when and how business will pick up again. “I have told them that clinics are important because they help keep us busy. These events help smooth out some of the inevitable peaks and valleys in our work,” Mr. Leader said.
Of course, it takes manpower—especially skilled manpower—to make these clinics work. Mr. Leader shared his frustration with me about trying to convince his teammates of the importance of ongoing promotions. Experience, which he has in abundance, shows that keeping the bays full is the biggest challenge a manager faces.
This isn't the first and I'm sure won't be the last time I hear a story such as this one. To me, this is just another example of overall worker immaturity and poor work ethic. Unfortunately, it's another reality with which we must cope. Therefore, I urge all bosses to alert em-ployees in writing well in advance of car clinics and similar events.
Furthermore, I believe the company's em-ployee manual should clarify that techs are expected to commit approximately some Saturday or evening hours to company events. If nothing else, have a written explanation prepared in a concise document.
Go over this document with new hires and require them to sign a copy, indicating that they have read the policy.
Then politely but firmly remind (not threaten) whining workers that the more cheerful and cooperative they are about company promotions, the more cooperative the boss can be when they want time off or want to change schedules.