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How Many of Your Employees Are Really Engaged?

by Garry House

Several years ago I had the privilege of teaching the NCMi classes that are totally focused on leadership. We usually began this 1½-day class talking about “employee engagement,” and the general managers attending this session always began to positively nod their heads, when I started this discussion with, “Surveys show that

  1. Less than one in four American workers says that they work at their full potential.

  2. One-half say they work only hard enough to hold on to their jobs.

  3. Three in four say they can be significantly more effective on the job.”

Why should this be? We work in one of the most potentially rewarding and technologically advanced industries on the planet. I believe the answer to this dilemma has less to do with the level of potential income, enjoyment, our facilities, technology, and processes, and more to do with the quality of the leadership in our stores. Ask yourself how well you and the other managers in your dealership(s) have tapped into the full potential of your employees. If the answer is “not very much” (and you value accountability), then you may want to examine the leadership style of your management team. The effort to examine your style and change it could be well worth the effort it will take. Dealerships with high levels of accountability enjoy much higher levels of profitability than those that are not accountable.

Image of Employee Engagement

Employee engagement (which includes, and is closely related to, accountability) has been studied extensively. An engaged employee is defined by most dealers and GMs as an individual who is committed to and believes in the value of the dealership, feels pride in working for his employer, is accountable for his results, and is motivated to go the extra mile.

In many respects, dealership accountability begins with a state of mind. It is the commitment of the employee to deliver the value expected by his department manager. The manager must create the conditions for accountability and commitment to happen. Barriers to employees being accountable often include the style of leaders, who, in many subtle (and not so subtle) ways, actually stifle accountable behavior. Lack of accountability can also stem from structural or process issues. These may include lack of formal business planning, failure to communicate goals, little or no follow up, poor hiring decisions, and/or inadequate delegation. Building an accountable dealership takes time and effort; there is no quick fix. But the results can be ground-breaking and sometimes earth-shaking.

Word cloud describing the elements of Employee Engagement

Remember this well! Employees leave managers, not dealerships! Depending on the quality of the work environment, impacted mostly by the employee’s direct manager, an employee chooses to become engaged, to “quit and leave” or to “quit and stay!” The development of sound people management and leadership skills will help move the employee toward “full engagement” and discourage “quitting.” Employee engagement provides a distinct competitive advantage for dealerships in today’s automotive retail world.

Managers must remember that one size does not fit all. Each employee has different needs, interests, and motivations which drive how they work. The sooner the manager understands (or “connects with”) the employee, the more effective the engagement will be. Everyone knows that motivating employees to perform to their highest potential is important and is the responsibility of the dealership’s leaders. Once managers begin practicing the necessary elements of employee engagement, they will increase the efficiency and productivity of their respective departments.

Our primary mission at Garry House & Associates is to inspire, challenge, and equip dealership senior executives. Our approach is simple, however, it demands commitment and discipline from you. But that's why you've come to this develop the leader within.


As long as you fulfill our expectations, we will accomplish our primary mission.

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