Dealerships with a diverse staff can offer service to their customers unlike any other. Bringing different people together to work on the same team, however, can provide challenges to leaders. With this round of the Dealer Panel, we’ve asked our experts how they work to keep everyone satisfied and pulling in the same direction.
AutoSuccess: What are some steps your dealership takes on the management level to limit or eliminate feelings of non-inclusion when it comes to your staff?
Chris Saraceno, VP and Partner of Kelly Automotive Group: Constant communication is the key — making sure people feel that they are included in meetings, in memos, in text messages and in other ways. We also make it very clear that most of the positions in our dealership are performance based. We believe that there is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequals. The people with the best attitudes who perform the best, those are the people who will be recognized the most and rewarded.
Chris Lee, General Manager of McCarthy Chevrolet Lee’s Summit: We try to identify which member of the management team will have the greatest reach to an employee who is having feelings of non-inclusion, and then have them start the corrective action. From there, we add additional team members into the process. In all cases, letting something fester is never a best practice. We try to get out in front of whatever potential issues arise. All members of the management staff have “open doors.” Every plan we put in place we do with full transparency, with the hope of eliminating most potential feelings of non-inclusion and getting the team to buy in.
Kimberly Cardinal Piscatelli, Vice President and Partner of Cardinal Honda: Eliminating feelings of non-inclusion is simple: Include everyone! Our store may go overboard at times with daily mini-meetings, managers weekly meetings and monthly whole-house meetings, but we believe that the benefit is worth it.
At our weekly managers meetings, we have an interesting process of actually passing a baton to indicate who is the leader of that week’s meeting. The leader of the meeting serves as the moderator, is responsible for the agenda and keeps the meeting on task and on time. At the end of the meeting, the baton is passed to another manager, alphabetically, who will then be responsible for next week’s meeting. Monthly, we celebrate recognition of all kinds in our whole-house meeting. We celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, awards, life milestones and good news. We give a brief overview of our current focus topics and discuss monthly opportunities. Our strategy is not “all work and no play.” Socially, we celebrate together at our couple’s holiday party, and again, at the Fourth of July parade, where families are included. In the summer months, we offer a catered lunch for employees and their guests monthly. Children and spouses join workers as well as friends, extended families and customers. The grandmother of our reconditioning specialist enjoys lunch with the grandchildren of our comptroller. Ours is a family business with a strong measure of a business family.
Mike Good, GM of Street Toyota: Management is the persona and backbone of values and beliefs in a dealership. Every manager is responsible for associate inclusion. Respect and promoting an associate’s individual value are at the top of our core values. Those values are endorsed daily through management and staff interaction, even moment by moment. We highlight the caring component in what we call “Eyeballs and Oxygen” events. You demonstrate caring and interest by looking someone in the eye and breathing the same air. That event builds value and breeds culture while affirming individual and corporate purpose. It all births self-worth in every associate. Every associate embraces and respects every other employee’s contribution and inclusion.
AS: What can leaders do to ensure that a diverse team of individuals get along with each other? If there’s a grievance, how should it be handled?
CS: We have fewer grievances when we take the time to hire people and use the specific hiring process we have in place. The process we have is very detailed and very specific about the expectations, behaviors, actions, attitudes and performance that is expected as a Kelly team member. When these processes are followed, we find that we have very few grievances or issues. When we find a store or department that isn’t following the hiring or recruiting processes, that’s when the grievances occur, especially when the expectations are not discussed.
CL: Leading by example, setting the tone and not participating in anything that could lead to a feeling of non-inclusion are required qualities of our management team. When issues do arise, we encourage members of the leadership to consult others in addressing the issues to come up with the best action plan. Most importantly, any grievance needs to addressed with urgency.
KCP: Avoiding conflict and grievances in the first place is the best strategy. We avoid conflicts at our facility by adhering to processes and procedures. Over the past three decades we have added to our processes, always keeping our library current. The processes build rules. The rules are plain, uncomplicated, spelled out and kept in a place where every individual has access. It is rare that we have a conflict that can’t be handled by referring to the procedures already in place. No special treatment, no favoritism, no choosing sides — just the facts. Whose customer is this? Read our process to find the answer.
MG: Start with the foundations of excellence in business. Measure twice, then cut once. Knowing a prospective associate’s values, discipline, purpose, attitudes before engaging their services stops a lot before it ever starts. Next comes clarity in values, respect, expectations and accountability from Day One. Nothing is left to chance as you build a cohesive team with the right heart and attitudes. As any grievance surfaces, leadership must be cautious, considerate and respectful as they carefully sift through the facts and opinions remembering grief is emotional and very real. Discovering root causes of grievances takes time and patience. It is ultimately productive in eliminating painful sources of continuing grief.
Next month, we’ll conclude our look at increasing diversity in the dealership workplace by asking our panel what advice they’d have both for those looking to work in the automotive sales industry and for dealership leaders looking to make their organization more inviting and inclusive.
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