If you spend time with your employees, it doesn’t take long to sense when the clouds start rolling in and dampening company morale. And if you ignore those clouds for too long, it can start to feel like the norm. Like that’s just The Way Things Are. The good news is if you take the right steps, you can change the forecast.
1. Gather Honest Feedback
Even if you think you know the source of the dissatisfaction in your shop, it’s important to ask for feedback from your collision repair techs and the rest of the team for a couple of reasons. For starters, you might be wrong about what’s wrong. Even if you’re in-tune with your staff members, there could be plenty going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about. They might be interpreting a business move incorrectly and are afraid to voice their concerns, unhappy with the pace of jobs or even just dissatisfied with a co-worker. The point is, there’s a lot that could be going on, and unless you ask, you won’t know what it is.
Here’s the second part of this: Asking is, in itself, important. Soliciting feedback is the first step in acknowledging that something’s wrong, and the first indication that you’re going to address it. Programs like SurveyMonkey can help you gather responses anonymously, which could help prompt honesty. The takeaway here is to start a dialog and be receptive to the answers you get.
2. Be Open About Changes (or The Plan)
Once you’ve gathered feedback, the next logical step is to make a plan to address any issues you’ve uncovered. And it’s important to communicate that plan, or as much of it as you can. Naturally, you don’t want this to devolve into a “gotcha” situation where you call anyone out or use people’s feedback against them, but you do want people to know that you’re making an effort. This is the first signal that sunnier days are coming, that you’ve taken their feedback to heart and that you’re acting on it.
What should your plan be? Well that depends on the issue, of course. If it’s personnel-related, you may have to do some individual managing to improve the situation. If people are simply burnt out, it may be time to add a new bay and a new technician. Not seeing enough jobs come through can be damaging too. Do you need to increase or adjust advertising? Think strategically about what’s best for your situation.
3. Focus on the Positive
No matter what issues you uncover and what plan you put in place, it’s a good idea to supplement it with a dose of positivity. Emphasizing the good will help morale in nearly any situation, so start recognizing those achievements. Your employees will feel valued and appreciate that someone is noticing their hard work. Celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, accomplishments and more.
Tie it into your plan, too, if you can. Are there safety concerns? Reward your most safety-conscious employee with a gift card. Are people tired of working long hours? Bring lunch in as a thank-you. Even when attitudes start to turn around, it’s good practice to keep this sort of thing going. Make rewards part of your culture, and it’ll be harder for the doldrums to sneak in.
4. Provide a Path Up
This one applies to just about any business, too, regardless of your particular hurdles. Stagnation is a morale damper. Most people want to know that they’re going somewhere in their careers and within your company. Show them that they have longevity in your shop by providing opportunities for advancement. One option is to offer to share the cost of classes for ongoing collision repair training. Along with shifting the mood, this will help increase safety in the shop and more.
Similarly, if you need to hire, make a point of opening it up to your existing staff. Their experience with your business may make them a better fit than a new person, and seeing the opportunities for advancement will help improve the mindset of your staff across the board.
In the end, most people want to work in a positive environment. No one likes to be in a place where morale is low. Show your team a path to better times, and they’re very likely to follow you.