Are you communicating effectively with your employees?


It’s a time-honoured dealership tradition: Managers regularly hustle their salespeople into a room for a “pump-up” meeting that can involve sales figures, sales leaders, sales targets, sales bonuses and sales sales sales, and then finishes up with fist-pumps and cheers.

It’s been done that way forever, but is the best way to communicate with your employees? Rather than rely on that one regular meeting, a wide range of communication methods could be a far better way to get your message across, as well as help to avoid the dreaded “meeting fatigue.”

How often you communicate and how you do it depends on a number of factors. Finding the right methods and the right balance can help keep everyone informed and attentive.

Many companies are actually reducing the number of employee meetings they hold. In many cases, it’s because of that fatigue, made worse by the fact that so many firms had to switch to the dreaded squares of the digital meeting during COVID. Many are also reporting that attitudes have improved with this “softer” schedule – that people are paying more attention because they’re not burned out by more frequent get-togethers.

Look at your schedule objectively to see if there’s room for improvement. If you’re repeating the same things over and over at each weekly/twice-weekly/even-more-frequently meeting, are your employees really getting anything out of it? They may leave the meeting pumped-up and ready to take on customers, but is there a chance that time might have been better spent on reaching out to contacts, or reading up on the latest vehicle features?

When you hold a meeting, do your employees participate, or is it just a lecture? People want to feel they’re a vital part of a team, not just a warm body in the chair. Engaging them can go a long way towards that. In addition to telling them what you want from them, ask them what they think everyone can do to improve the dealership. Even if it doesn’t sound doable, there may be a germ of an idea that is. Don’t single anyone out to speak, and accept if people don’t want to participate publicly. Later on, you can send everyone a text telling them that if they come up with ideas outside of the meetings to send them along to you.

Every few months, you might consider including other departments to participate in a meeting. All of them operate independently, but at their core, they’re all entwined in the store’s operations, and everything goes smoother if they’re working together. It’s not so much for airing grievances, but for finding better ways for everyone to interact. The service department may be more open to salespeople coming back to greet customers if advisors realize it’s about leases coming due or new models to show; while salespeople might better understand why parts aren’t in or a customer’s car can’t get into the shop right away.

While it’s not always easy to pull off successful group meetings, it can often be tougher to communicate effectively one-on-one. Everyone reacts differently to speaking directly with “the boss.”

Texts and emails are quick and easy, and of course they’re invaluable when getting a message across that needs attention right now. Keep them short-and-sweet, even using bullet points if that will make everything clearer and straight to what you’re trying to say. That said, when an issue gets complicated, texts can sometimes bog everything down. If that happens, a phone call can usually sort it out much faster and with a lot less trouble.

When you tell people your “door is always open,” it must be, whenever anyone wants to talk. They’ll be more willing to do that if you’ve already shown that it’s a two-way street.

Not everyone is good at face-to-face, especially when there’s a power imbalance of supervisor and employee. There’s a fine art to putting people at ease. If you have to deliver discipline or criticism, do it in private, never during the meetings. Make it constructive, rather than just a judgement on the person’s performance, by showing what was done incorrectly and then walking the employee through the way you expect it to be done. Work together with that person to come up with a solution. It may be something as simple as a lack of up-to-date information, and perhaps some training videos or working closer with others can solve the problem.

Conversely, if praise is due, say so without going over-the-top. In group meetings, that means walking the fine line between recognizing an employee for a job well done, without making others feel that their work is inferior.

If you find it’s tough to get your employees to engage in meetings, to talk to you, to keep you in the loop, then in addition to looking at them, have a look in the mirror. Is there something you could be doing better? Are you making the meetings interesting? Do you glance at your phone during one-on-one, or are you giving them your full attention? If you fully engage with them, chances are good they’ll fully engage with you in return.