5 Tips for Creating a More Predictable Work Environment

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Most Monday mornings I find myself standing in NCM Institute’s beautiful training facility in Kansas City, welcoming a new class of dealership managers who come to us for formalized training specific to their job responsibilities. Even before introductions, sometimes I will ask the class some questions:

“How many of you, when you interviewed for your first job in the car business were shown a written job description and job objectives or expectations that you would be expected to perform?”

Typically, almost no hands are raised! Then I ask them if, in the dealerships they now are in management positions, if written job descriptions, objectives and written processes are regularly in use. And guess what… very few hands are raised!

Think back to your first interview for a job in a car dealership. What was the discussion like? What did they tell you you would be doing? Was that in writing? Were you coached and trained on that consistently? Now reflect on the organization or department that you now lead, manage or coach. What are your hiring discussions like? What is in writing? How consistently do you coach and train on these expectations?

At the NCM Institute we focus heavily on the Six Primary Elements of Accountability Management. Today  I’d like to focus on one of these:

Clearly Defining and Communicating Your Expectations

I am sure we have all heard something to that affect numerous times in our careers. But this element seems to get little focus, and therein lays a lot of, shall we say, “unrealized opportunities.” We believe this is such a big deal, we devote an entire training module just for this subject. We begin by identifying a number of tools any business can and should use to accomplish this. The first one being an Organizational Chart.

1. Implement an Organizational Chart

It is a rare dealership we work with that has a current, updated organizational chart in place that every associate has a copy of. In our General Manager Executive Program it is a requirement that one is created between the first and second class. We had a very experienced, hands-on General Manager return to class to proclaim he picked up 2.5 hours per day of productive time by putting this in place. He essentially said that he had made himself too available to everyone, spending much of his time out of his office doing hands on coaching. When the rest of the associates began to see how the organization was actually structured, they began going to their immediate supervisors as a first contact and he picked up more productive time for leading the organization.

2. Use Written Job Descriptions and Objectives

The next tool, which we have already talked about, is written job descriptions and job objectives. These tools are created with the associates so that there can be some feedback, which ultimately helps create buy-in. Again, almost none of the dealerships we work with have these in place and if they do they certainly are not current. Remember, we are looking for opportunities, not “gotchas!” So this is a really big deal.

3. Define the Parameters of Authority

Then we need to have well defined parameters of authority. Who is in charge? What do they do? How do they fit into the whole? How are they perceived by the organization?

4. Keep Track of Daily Tasks

Next, is a daily tasking enforcement. We call these tools, D.I.T. sheets or “Did It Today” sheets. These are daily recaps of associate’s daily responsibilities.  The primary things to focus on are:

  • These are the opportunities I had
  • These are the items I sold
  • These are the activities I performed
  • This is where and how I compared to my plan
  • This is how I “won” at work today
  • This is where I could have done better
  • I need your help with this

Note the last one: “I NEED YOU HELP WITH THIS.” Imagine the trusting relationship you could have with your associates if that was part of the daily discussion. These can and are created for every single associate in the dealership by some clients we work with.  The truly revolutionary part of this is each of these DIT sheets is handed in to their manager each day before the associate goes home. This gives the manager daily coaching opportunities they otherwise would not have.

5. Review Performance

The last tool is having a timely objective and subjective performance review process.These are sit-down, one-on-one meetings that are performed depending on the associated position: weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. These are very common in most corporate environments and almost unheard of in retail automotive dealerships.

We work with a number of very successful organizations who do none of these things and when they see this part of the class, they see how quickly their opportunities to improve would be and they get very excited. But how you clearly define and communicate these changes will absolutely be the determinant of their acceptance and therefore, success.

We believe the one thing we can control is the daily environment within each dealership department. There are a lot of your existing employees who are starving for more leadership, coaching, mentoring and structure in their work. If we want to have more predictable profitability, we are going to have to have a more predictable work environment for all our people.

This article was originally published on the NCM Institute Up to Speed blog

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