Team meals can boost teamwork, camaraderie, morale
By Dan Marinucci, Special to Tire Business
AKRON – Routine staff meals often enhance employee camaraderie which, in turn, promotes teamwork and boosts worker loyalty.
Experience shows that traits such as teamwork and loyalty are reflected in a stronger bottom line for any business – including tire dealerships and auto service shops. Simply put, a happy workforce usually outperforms a miserable one.
Regular Tire Business readers know that I've been reporting on the automotive repair industry for a long time. During my travels, I hear everyone from owners and managers to technicians and tire busters emphasizing a positive work atmosphere. More often than ever, it seems, they acknowledge that the workplace should be as pleasant as realistically possible. After all, employees spend more time at work than they do at home.
This is an unavoidable aspect of earning a living for people in service industries such as auto repair and tires. (You can't do this work at home.)
Some owners and managers I encounter have built traditions around events such as Christmas parties, summer picnics and gatherings tied to specialized local events. But others have established routine team meals. These are, for instance, monthly or twice-monthly events where workers and managers meet informally. Sometimes these are dinners at a private dining room in a local restaurant. Or the meals may be deli-style buffets set up in the break room of the repair shop or tire dealership.
The concept is to encourage workers to get to know each other better in a casual, relaxed setting. The better co-workers get to know each other, the more likely they are to look out for each other – share solutions and ideas as well as resolve problems as a team.
As one manager explained it to me, team meals help foster the theme that overall, “we” is more-successful and less-stressful than “I.”
Make no mistake, as the old saying goes: You can lead a horse to water but it may not drink. Some workers may not warm up right away to group events such as team meals. Still, experience suggests that these meals are as good an opportunity as any for less-outgoing employees to feel more involved with the entire team.
As a rule, the more involved workers think they are, the more valuable they feel to the business as a whole. It's much tougher to motivate the troops when they don't believe they're valuable to the business.
Recently I received an additional, heartfelt endorsement of the team meal approach. My colleague Jimmy is a capable, well-respected technician at a repair shop on the East Coast of the U.S. Although we had worked together many times, I didn't know that he had been the lead technician at a local new-car dealership. However, I did know that this dealership had once thrived but then declined and closed its doors.
During my last visit, Jimmy broached the topic and noted how much the staff lunches benefitted the workforce at his old job. That's when I learned where he used to work. Informally but steadily, he said, the group meals because a quasi-think tank for this dealership's large service department.
“Once we got to know each other better – over the course of several group meals -- we fell into trading information and tips among each other,” he explained.” After a while, it became a matter of professional pride to offer a solution at the staff lunch.”
However, ownership changed the dealership's management team. Word spread throughout the facility that profits had to rise from good to great. Wherever possible, costs had to be cut.
When the boss stopped the team lunches, morale sank. “We tried our best to cope with the cost cutting. But it was surprising how much morale sank after he stopped the team meals,” Jimmy recalled. “We really didn't appreciate how much those lunches meant until they were canceled.”
Regular group meals are just one way to boost morale and cultivate employee loyalty. I welcome hearing your input on team-building ideas such as meals – as well as other ideas that have worked at your business.
Dan Marinucci is a free-lance automotive service writer and former editor of two automotive service magazines who writes a regular auto service column for Tire Business. He can be reached via email at [email protected]. His previous columns are available at www.tirebusiness.com.
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