EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth of six stories that take a look at what makes a dealership one of Automotive News Canada’s 25 Best Dealerships to Work For. You can read previous stories here.
Keeping staff apprised of the latest developments at work is a priority for many of Automotive News Canada’s 25 Best Dealerships to Work For. And seldom has an open line of communication been as valuable as it has been during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Click here to see profiles of all 25 Best Dealerships To Work For.
“There’s nothing more important than communication,” said Adam Lally, vice-president of Lally Auto Group. “It gives everyone the peace of mind that we’re doing the right things and we’re making progress, and [it] keeps everyone on the same page and focused on that.”
For years, Lally Ford in Tilbury — near Windsor, Ont. — has distributed online and print newsletters to staff. As the pandemic took hold in early 2020, the dealership increased the frequency to as often as once a week, using the memos to disseminate information about both the company and changes to local health and safety regulations. Lally Ford also added Zoom meetings for management and other teams while stepping up its one-on-one interactions, Lally said.
“Those types of communications to everybody, I think, have helped get everyone through it,” he said.
The results of Automotive News Canada’s 2021 Best Dealerships survey found that communications played a role in separating the top dealerships from the rest, with 93 per cent of employees at winning dealers saying the corporate updates they received were frequent enough, compared with 83 per cent of employees at non-winners.
STAFF WANT TO BE IN THE LOOP
The division is even greater for updates on changes that could affect staff. Ninety per cent of workers at winning dealerships said they received adequate communication on topics that could affect them, compared with 78 per cent of employees at nonwinning dealerships.
Top dealers also ensure the flow of information is going in both directions.
Craig Cowling, general manager of Roadsport Honda in Scarborough, Ont., 30 kilometres east of downtown Toronto, said his dealership has always actively sought out input from staff over the years.
“During this pandemic, it became even more critical to be even more empathetic,” Cowling said. The dealership has used much of the feedback during the pandemic to boost its on-site safety protocols for staff and customers.
Chris Gauthier, president of Roadsport Auto Group, which also operates Toronto’s Roadsport Chrysler, said that between the company’s human resources department and its health and safety committees, staff have been kept up to date on COVID-19 developments.
At Policaro Acura in Brampton, Ont., General Manager Fortune Policaro and his leadership team had “open and honest conversations” with staff about changes to job roles and consolidating positions.
This gave employees “a sense of contribution to this ‘new’ set-up of the dealership,” Policaro said in an Automotive News Canada survey.
Policaro said he and his management team also had to take on new roles and responsibilities.
“In doing so, it allowed the employees to see that everyone was doing what they could in order to keep our doors open and our customers satisfied.”
A SHOT AND A SHOUTOUT
Communication has also played a key role in inching Roadsport Auto back toward normalcy. Since COVID19 vaccines became available, the dealership has used its direct line to employees to encourage staff to get the jab and to celebrate those who have, Gauthier said.
Early on, Roadsport Auto gave staff members a $50 gas card for each dose.
“Whether they did that on their own time or whether they did that on our time, it didn’t matter,” Gauthier said.
The company also held cross-dealership drawings every Friday this summer for $200 Amazon gift cards, open to employees who were vaccinated. After each draw, the winner would be publicized across the company, helping push some of the “fence-sitters” toward getting the vaccine, Gauthier said.
“I think as the momentum started to grow... the attitude toward it kind of became much more positive,” he said.
Though Gauthier could not measure exactly how effective the incentives and ongoing communication about getting the vaccine have been, he said vaccination rates at both Roadsport Chrysler and Honda exceed the average across the Greater Toronto Area.
Lally Ford is also encouraging staff by offering an additional vacation day with proof of vaccination. Beyond that, however, Lally said the company has aimed to keep communication about the touchy topic to a minimum.
“We’re trying to balance privacy and everyone’s right to a personal decision,” he said.
As with Gauthier, Lally could not point to a precise metric for how effective the vaccine incentive has been but said more than 90 per cent of staff at the Tilbury dealership have received at least one shot.