Are your detail employees motivated?

Dealers: It is possible to get extraordinary results from ordinary people with motivation.

The unfortunate attitude that some dealers may have about their detail employees is “that they’re not very

This attitude is usually held by dealer-principals and/or their managers that are saddled with detail employees who:

• Don't come to work

• Show up late

• Aren’t well groomed

• Are unstable

• Have difficulty staying focused on the work to be done

What is worse is when dealers and their managers accept this behavior as the "norm," and it results in less than average levels of detail work on in-house vehicles, and even more problematic, on customer details. 

The reasoning seems to be that the pool of detail workers is just not good enough for the dealers to expect more.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are potential detail employees out there dying to work for your dealership who are capable of outstanding job performance. You just have to take some time to find them; rather than continuing to hire the same old people  you have always hired,  and getting the same results.

It really comes down to understanding some simple, but often universally overlooked psychological "buttons" that all employees share.

The first "button" is the employee's motivation. Are your detail employees motivated to do a good job? Or are they simply shuffling through the day, watching the clock, waiting to go home? If you have “shufflers,” you have probably said, "They just aren't motivated."

Yes, they are motivated, but not to do the things that are important to you. It is written that there is no such thing as an "unmotivated" person. Everybody is motivated to do something. The only reason anybody ever does anything is because they are motivated to do so.

Having a motivated detail employee who will do the things that benefit your dealership and your customers, including themselves, is your goal. Sometimes, such a person might walk through your door looking for a job. This employee is one who “makes things happen." The phrase used to describe this type of employee is a "self-starter."

The reality is that buttons that seem to coincide with your business’ needs motivate these “self-starters”.

When you find one of these employees, count yourself lucky! Far more frequently, you find yourselves with detail employees who do not share your goals.

Money is not the answer

Before discussing employees' motivational "hot buttons," let me point out one thing that is not a motivator, even though you might think it is – MONEY!

That is right; I believe that money is not the primary motivating factor in any employee's decision to do a good job. Most management personnel assume that the paycheck is the ultimate motivating factor for the detail employee. The fact is that money offers absolutely no "emotional satisfaction."

Money is simply a means to an end. It will pay the employee’s rent, put gas in the cars, and allow the employee to take the spouse or loved one out on Friday night, etc.

Follow this logic: Most detail employees get the same paycheck, or almost the same paycheck, every week regardless of their job performance, as long as that performance is “good enough.”

Therefore, if the only motivation you give the detail employee is his or her paycheck, there is nothing to make the employee do an exemplary job — for the results of the work will be the same regardless: the paycheck.

I find that the thinking, most of the time on a subconscious level, is "Why do extra work and get the same pay? Since my pay will not change significantly no matter how well or poorly I do my job, I may as well do the least amount of work possible to get by." 

Honestly, isn’t that the attitude you see with most of your detail employees?

As frustrating as this might be, it is a logical thought process. The employee using this logic is actually practicing great efficiency and economy: Get the most return (pay) for the least amount of investment (effort). Isn't that what you try to do in operating your dealership business, getting the most you can while keeping your expenses low?

While some employees might tell you that they would do a better job if they were paid more, the effects of a pay raise can be short-lived, if there is any noticeable improvement at all.

How many times have you given out raises to your detail employees in the misguided attempt to make a poor performer a "decent" one? The results are usually a top-heavy payroll for mediocre employee performance.

Reach out and touch ...

To get the best performance from your detail employees, you have to find, and utilize these employees' emotional "hot buttons."

Recognizing that money is not a particularly effective motivator, what then is a good motivator? Without question, the No. 1 motivating factor in most employees is the feeling of a "job well done.” Or, in another word, “respect.” This stems from the human need to feel accepted and appreciated for our accomplishments.

This is where effective employee training comes in. Training is more than simply telling someone how to do something, and then leaving them to do it, hoping for the best. This will set the employee up for emotional distress, because they believe a satisfactory outcome for the new task will not be achieved and the fear of resulting negative back for their effort. If no constructive back is given near the beginning of training, the assumption by the employee is that they are doing the job well, or at least adequately.

Then, later, they are reprimanded for some specific aspect of the job they have been doing the same way all along; they don't see why they should be motivated to do a better job.

Coaching your people on a day-by-day and car-by-car basis also shows them that you are interested in everything they do not just the mistakes they may make.

You and your managers need to motivate your detail employees by demonstrating to them that the things they like come to them when they do a better job. Things like a complimentary pat on the back, or a friendly "Hey! Good job today! I'll see ya' tomorrow!"

By using the emotional "buttons" that an employee reacts to most effectively, the employee then feels that their better efforts at doing an exemplary job will result in a more favorable outcome for themselves. You have then, given them another form of motivation. Most importantly, this "hot button" is easily and repeatedly useful to you in developing the motivation with your detail employees to want to do the best job they can.

This eliminates the need to continually try to use money, or the hope and promise of a big raise to try for some extra motivation in your detail crew. Besides, how long can you dangle that carrot before they get wise to you and go back to their mediocre performance?

Positive reinforcement is necessary when it comes to properly motivating your detail staff, but it is not the only tool in the box, nor will it work all alone. Just as a nail is useless without a hammer, positive reinforcement alone is useless unless tempered with a realistic yet fair and respectful measure of good old-fashioned discipline to help your crew members achieve their highest levels of accomplishment.

The correct methods for disciplining any detail employee are much the same as for doling out praise. It must be applied based on the employee's performance, never on their ability. Focus any disciplinary action upon the fact that an employee will not do something – not that he cannot do something.

Discipline must also be utilized based on behavior only, not attitude. You can easily effect a change in someone's behavior, but it is nearly impossible to demand a positive change in someone's attitude. By motivating a detail employee to want to change their behavior, their attitude will naturally change along with it.

To do this is really far easier to master than you might believe. When you discover the real benefits to be derived from this type of management, you will decrease the stress associated with the problems you have with the detail department.

Be fair, be open and be honest with your employees about what you expect from them. Your reward? Success! How is that for motivation?

If I can help you with motivating your detail employees, me [email protected].