Getting workers involved and keeping them involved in a business breeds self-esteem, confidence and loyalty—traits that, in turn, reduce the risk of employee turnover.
Minimizing worker turnover improves continuity and that builds profitability.
Some tire dealers and service shop operators tell me these things are so self-evident that they should be obvious to their colleagues. Let me emphasize the word should in that last sentence because my field experience indicates the opposite is true. Many dealers and shop owners I encounter appear clueless about the value of an involved workforce.
Too often, I find that the leadership philosophy at a business is simply, “It's my way or the highway!”
Go back over the years and review the studies of why employees leave their jobs. Lack of recognition is one of the reasons—if not the main reason—people leave. Some bosses tell me they can't come up with the awards and/or money with which to reward and recognize workers.
This outlook completely misses the point that ongoing worker involvement is the most valuable recognition a boss can create. In fact, some savvy bosses say, “Show me a content worker and I'll show an involved employee.”
Simply put, workers spend more time at your tire dealership or service shop than they spend at home. Since that's the case, why not make the atmosphere as friendly, inviting and stress-free as possible? Part of creating this positive atmosphere is making employees responsible for the success of the endeavor. Politely but firmly remind them that the sum of their individual efforts bring success or failure. They're either committed to the business or they aren't.
Job security is a particularly important issue today. Successful businesses can provide workers with greater job security.
I happened to have a boss who drummed these points into us in a very blunt, non-diplomatic way. But he made his point and I still remember the message to this day.
This was during the heyday of the large, full-service gas stations. One week we all found the same note in our pay envelope. “Whenever you are not fixing cars or pumping gas, each and every one of you is responsible for making this place sparkle. Each of you is responsible for making this place successful,” the note stated.
The theme of worker involvement ran through that note in our pay envelopes. From then on, there was no excuse for apathy or disinterest in any aspect of the business. When a particularly nasty “leaker” left a big oil stain on the concrete pad near the gas pumps, we had to acknowledge it and then promptly scrub it away. When the floor drain in a bay drained slowly, we had to call professionals when our quickie cleaning methods didn't clear it.
When a wheel alignment head broke, there were no deliberations. The first guy to notice it had to alert the manager and/or telephone the equipment supplier for a repair.
Ultimately, the property did sparkle inside and out. We enjoyed the cleaner work atmosphere—no slipping on slimy floors or tracking oil throughout the station. We enjoyed the fact that motorists recognized the standout cleanliness and flocked to our bays. The entire experience boosted our pride and self-confidence.
But our involvement in this service station also went to another level that I don't encounter often enough today. That is, we were encouraged to recommend any improvement that would boost productivity and efficiency. For example, if we realized that the tire changer ought to be in a more centralized location, it was moved. If we found that we could service certain ignition distributors more efficiently on a distributor machine, then that's where we serviced them.
The bottom line is that we felt more important because our input mattered to the boss and the business.
The participation of an involved, committed workforce can be worth the weight of multiple efficiency experts and consultants. However, you can't reap this harvest of ideas unless you ask for and then cultivate those ideas. Otherwise, this knowledge is wasted.
At the same time, you could be wasting opportunities to both motivate workers and help bond them for the betterment of the business.