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How to Build a Team-Oriented Culture

By Melissa Maldonado, Director of Customer Support

During tough times, it can be difficult for employees to stay positive and motivated. But if your dealership has a team-oriented culture, employees will have the attitude, “We’re in it together.” As Steve Jobs once said, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”

Team-building is a leadership philosophy that views and treats employees as members of interdependent teams, rather than as individual workers. For leaders, a team-oriented culture makes it a whole lot easier to motivate employees to achieve organizational objectives.

Being part of a team also increases employee engagement, which has numerous positive effects on your bottom line. But how do you build a team?

Many auto dealers face inherent challenges when they try to build teams because of the way their dealerships are managed. Traditionally dealerships are set up to reward individual performance, rather than rewarding the efforts of a team.

A change in management practices may be necessary. Follow these steps to create an organizational structure that supports team building.

Define Organizational Goals

Everyone desires purpose, and every great organization has a mission statement that inspires purpose. Where do you want your dealership to be in five years? Do you want to be No. 1 in sales volume in your region? Do you want to be recognized as one of the best places to work in your community?

Create a mission statement and share your vision with employees. Sharing a purpose creates a team mentality. You need the team’s help to get you where you want to be. Without the buy in and combined efforts of your employees, you will go nowhere.

Define Team Goals

In auto dealerships, it makes the most sense to define teams by department. Then define goals for each team. Some dealers may find it difficult to break away from thinking of revenue as their only goal. But revenue goals do not inspire teams.

Instead, create goals that encourage team efforts. Revenue can still be the end goal, but break that down into micro goals. In sales, this could be assigning the entire sales team to achieve certain KPIs. In service, this could be implementing a new technology such as auto dispatch or mobile tablets.

For cues on how a department should operate as a team, look to accounting. The accounting department already operates as a cohesive team. If one person is out sick, another person steps in to fill their role. Everyone in accounting knows the deadlines and does their part to ensure the deadlines are met. Office employees are often cross-trained so they can do one another’s jobs.

Rethink your Reward System

Many large auto groups are blazing new trails with pay plans that reward team performance. Commissions and bonuses are based on achieving group goals, such as improving CSI or Net Promoter Scores, increasing adherence to processes and achieving Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Recognize and reward employees based on how well they contribute to the team, rather than their individual performance.

Promote Friendly Competition

In business, friendly competition solidifies team relationships, motivates members to work together and encourages them to root for each other. Competitions can be friendly and don’t have to be based on business goals.

For example, you could set up team competitions to raise funds for an outside charity.

If your culture includes a health and wellness component, have teams compete in local bike races and walk-a-thons.

Organize Social Activities Outside of Work

A study conducted by MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory analyzed communication behavior among dozens of teams in different industries. It found that the best predictors of productivity were a team’s energy and engagement outside of formal meetings.

In fact, the degree to which team members socialized away from their workstations contributed to as much as a 35 percent variance in team performance.

Encourage team members to take coffee breaks or eat lunch together. Organize lunchtime power walks, happy hours and volunteer projects. Host onsite professional development workshops for team members.

Train Managers

Last but not least, a critical step in the team-building process is to provide your managers with the necessary training to foster a team-oriented culture.

Team building is a top down activity. It isn’t enough for a dealership principal or GM to promote a team building philosophy. Department managers must buy in and offer structure and support; in short, they must be willing team members.

Is there a department in your dealership that suffers from low morale, low productivity, infighting, failure to follow processes and/or rule breaking? If so, that department manager may need to be trained on how to build and manage a team.

Consider sending department managers to a team-building program or workshop. Form a cross-functional team that includes all department managers to foster a team building environment that shares ideas and activities.

Building a team takes dedication, but the benefits are worth the effort. Members of a team communicate more effectively, motivate each other and hold each other accountable. Companies with a strong team culture also report higher levels of employee satisfaction, morale and happiness.

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