A great place to work



If we exclude products purchased for resale, people make up 70 percent of the cost of operating a dealership. To get the most out of them, you need to look after them, says Barry Coyle at Solomon Coyle…


Hiring and retaining the right people is the key to a dealer’s success, yet for many staffing is a constant struggle.


And it is about to get worse. Demographics indicate that US workforce growth is slowing. Within the next six to ten years the baby boomer generation will begin to retire, shrinking the workforce further and adding to the staffing crunch.


To make matters even more difficult, we are asking our staff to do more for the same dollar of sales. Office products manufacturers have continued to bring out new products with lower price points, since real product differentiation has become harder to achieve. Increased competition has also made it more difficult to achieve higher margins. Since we are selling more units for the same dollar of revenue, our people have to work smarter and harder.


So what is the solution? It isn’t just higher wages. To retain and compete for the best staff, you need to create a great place to work — a work environment with low employee turnover and high employee satisfaction.


Here’s how:


• Budget for fun. Go beyond the traditional summer picnic and holiday dinner and establish an employee "fun committee". Give them a small budget to be used throughout the year on team activities such as birthday celebrations, ice cream Fridays or pizza lunches.


• Make work challenging for your staff and not just dull repetition eight hours a day. Review and design your jobs to give staff challenges that make them stretch their talents and skills.


• Provide new opportunities to learn. Personal growth is important, especially to the newer generations coming into the workforce. Cross training offers employees a way to learn how other jobs are done, and exposes them to other possible internal career paths. Offer outside training and clear inside career path opportunities to keep your staff motivated and committed.


• Be flexible and family-friendly. A convenient place to work provides flexible working hours or the ability to take care of family business occasionally, even if that means coming in late or leaving early (and making it up later). Dealerships that succeed as great places to work are often described as family-oriented firms. Generation Y employees look for a balance between work and family, and value convenience in the workplace.


• Communicate often and effectively. Employees want to know what is going on, that their jobs are secure, and that the firm is stable and has a future. Regularly hold staff meetings to discuss your firm’s successes such as new clients or projects won, how the industry is doing overall, where the firm is going and the vision to stay competitive, and the status of the firm’s goals. For example, are you hitting sales goals or profitability, or meeting the operational goals you set for this year?


• Reward staff for a job well done. Incorporate creative incentives that go beyond standard wage increases to motivate staff. How about offering a paid day off for warehouse staff when they have a month with no mistakes receiving or pulling, or any damage?


• Recognise staff for a job well done. All employees crave recognition and want to feel that their contributions are noticed and valued. Instead of waiting for the annual performance evaluation or employee of the month award, regularly recognise your staff’s achievements. Make it a part of your daily management philosophy and encourage your managers to let employees know when they are doing a great job. Recognition is especially important to your younger staff members.


Creating a great place to work has other benefits as well. When you are out promoting your firm as the best place to buy office products and services, incorporate your "great people" and "great place to work" message into your overall company story.


Your people and workplace environment can become a competitive advantage and part of your branding strategy. You’ll impress clients who understand that your great people are their great customer service agents. Spreading this message will also help with recruitment — potential great employees will think of your company first when seeking employment and this makes future hiring that much easier.


Barry Coyle is a well-known consultant to contract furniture management and installation businesses in the US. His areas of expertise include business economics and management; furniture services standards or performance; furniture services outsourcing; professional services operations; marketing communications; training; career development; account and project management; and proposals and contracts. He is also the executive director of the Facilities Services Network. For more information, visitwww.solomoncoyle.com