How to turn your staff into brand ambassadors.
It’s one thing to hire an employee, it’s another to keep that employee satisfied. And still another to make him or her a good brand ambassador! How can you make that happen?
For starters, as an owner, you cannot build a good brand ambassador if you’re not a good brand ambassador yourself. It works from the top down. It doesn’t matter who you put in place. You need to lead by example, and if you can’t, maybe you should stop reading from this point on!
There’s no question that you have to start with the basics. In the last column, we talked about the best ways to hire the type of candidates that have the right personality and skills to represent your brand and your dealership. A big part of that includes harnessing the cool technology that has been developed to make your job easier. That includes human resources software, which can even reduce how many HR managers you need in your organization.
Basically, most HR software is an efficient and effective way of communicating with anywhere from 10 or more employees. These are very scalable. Here’s an example of the modules that most HR software provides:
- Core HR: Includes an employee database and essential HR information.
- Time and Attendance: Scheduling, time tracking and various time monitoring functions.
- Payroll: Salary tracking and other employee financial calculations and reporting.
- Employee Self-Service: Provides employee access to information such as benefits, time off, etc.
- Benefits Administration: Everything from insurance information to wellness programs.
- Performance Review: As well as annual reviews, includes competencies, goal setting and related data.
- Applicant Tracking: Job requisitions and postings, candidate database, functions as a job board and more.
- Learning Management: Certification and e-learning centre, plus administration and other related tools.
Those systems are not only scalable, but also flexible—you can tailor them to your needs. Many companies will have customer service representatives to help you modify and make improvements. How do you choose an HR system? Use the same methods that you would for any vendor for your dealership. Maybe start with a referral—or does your manufacturer have any approved vendors for HR software? Talk to your association or performance group. Naturally, you’ll want to make sure they’re Canadian.
You may ask for a trial period, for anywhere from one to two months. Get all your managers, your controller, and everybody who’s going to be involved at the initial presentation. And then hold regular performance reviews of the HR software. What is it doing for you? How is it being integrated? How is the communication working? What about the guy with no email—how is he being included?
You need to find the right fit in terms of distribution, accessibility, and so on. Once you’re there, you should be discussing the performance of the software, making sure that you’re being proactive, that you’re getting the full support both from the program and their support team.
Giving employees a voice
So once you’ve got a good system in place, how does that help you develop the type of employee you can be proud of? You might want to share some of the tools in your dealership so they can broadcast how well the dealership is doing, such as a Facebook page, responding to reviews, giving their two cents on marketing initiatives, and access to other things that excite them.
For example, give someone like your lot manager a voice. Find out what’s working and not working at a bi-monthly or monthly “reflection” meeting. How was their month? What did they like? What did they not like? Did they see anything out of the norm? Give them about 10 minutes to talk freely. If you have 20 people under you, that’s all the time you may need to touch base and have a one-on-one with your team members.
And take note of what’s going on, to keep the conversation consistent. If you talked about some items one month, ask about them the next month to see if there have been changes or improvements. Keep the meetings structured. And make it personal; ask about the family or other related topics.
To have a good brand ambassador, you need to have a good, collaborative team. Have some onsite and off-site events, like a barbecue or staff appreciation night. Or, do something for the community, like a food drive. Maybe some of your staff are into bicycling—you can rent some cargo bikes, fill them with food and bicycle them over to a local food bank. Make an event out of a great cause.
Bring an improvement to someone’s life, like a worthy cause or charity that helps the marginalized or people in need. A good example was the Humboldt tragedy, where many dealers contributed. It was uplifting to see how the country came together and everyone participated. It also showed that it’s not always about money—when you see dealerships putting hockey sticks in front of their store, that’s the kind of message you want to send. Everyone feels good about what they’re doing, through a heartfelt collaborative effort.
Everything matters, from a clean and positive work environment to the name tag on your employees’ shirts. Are the names spelled correctly? Are their uniforms presentable? Is there a mission statement in the centre of the sales floor? All those things need to be in place. It’s not just customer experience, but employee experience that is crucial if you want good brand ambassadors!