Let Them Eat Cake: Good Rules to Keep Happy Employees - BodyShop Business
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Let Them Eat Cake: Good Rules to Keep Happy Employees

Keeping your employees happy is key to retaining them and satisfying customers. How do you tailor a rewards program to fit your employees needs? It’s not as complicated or as costly as you may think. With a little ingenuity – such as celebrating birthdays – you can have your cake and eat it too.

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Rule #1 – A successful company can only be built one satisfied customer at a time.

Rule #2 – Rule #1 can only be done with happy and motivated employees.

How do you create happy and motivated employees?

Look at the following list:
1. Good wages.
2. Job security.
3. Promotion.
4. Good working conditions.
5. Interesting work.
6. Personal loyalty to workers.
7. Tactful discipline.
8. Full appreciation for work done.
9. Sympathetic to personal problems.
10. Feeling “in” on things.

Please rank the above items, as you think your employees perceive them, with No. 1 being the most important and No. 10 the least.

Bob Nelson, author of “1001 Ways to Reward Your Employees,” gave the same list to owners and managers of several companies and asked them to rank the items they thought were most important to employee satisfaction. Then he gave the list to the employees. You may not be surprised to learn that the lists differed. What may surprise you is the employees ranking. At the top of the list was full appreciation, followed by feeling “in” on things, sympathetic to personal problems, job security and good wages.

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As you’re well aware, keeping your front office staff, your estimators and your technicians happy is key to retaining them and increasing productivity. But how can you tailor a rewards or motivation program if you don’t fully understand what makes employees happy? Even the most earnest attempt will fail if your focus is misdirected.

Start With Yourself
To make your business one where employees feel valued, appreciated and like a member of the team, you have to set an example.

  • You must be honest.
  • You must follow through on promises.
  • You must be consistent and fair.
  • You must establish a supportive environment where your employees can be their best.
  • You must set goals that are measurable, achievable and specific.
  • Most importantly, you must be sincere.

Once you’re in the right frame of mind, setting up a realistic rewards program will be a piece of cake. The ideas I’m going to discuss are easy, reliable and won’t send you to the poor house. I know because I’ve implemented many of the same things at the shops I’ve worked at over the years.

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Happy Birthday!
At the beginning of the year, I mark all of my employees’ birthdays on my calendar. On each person’s birthday, I purchase a cake, and everyone at the shop signs a card. Sometime during the day, we stop what we’re doing to sing “Happy Birthday,” blow out the candles and present the now older employee with the card.

Just last month, we had an employee birthday and threw a surprise party for him because he’d never had one. Boy, was he surprised – and grateful. Just so you know, nobody – and I mean nobody – in my facility can sing on key. But don’t let a lack of harmony hold you back. It may be pure torture to the ears, but it’s all in good fun.

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Employee of the Month
At the beginning of each month, I select an employee to award. I purchased a software program from Successories to create personalized award certificates. I put the employee’s name on it, frame it and then present it to the employee at one of our daily release meetings. I also include a gift certificate for $25 from an area retailer. As employee of the month, that person gives tours of the facility. A couple of months ago, our employee of that month – a 22-year-old detailer – gave a tour to two executives from a major insurance carrier. I was a little nervous, to say the least, but he did a great job. Plus the praise from those two gentlemen made him feel like a million dollars. Everyone likes to be recognized and appreciated.

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As part of the recognition program, I also had an employee of the month plaque made on which each recipient’s name is engraved. One of my employee’s wife and parents came to the shop to pick him up. What was the first thing he did? He showed them his name on the plaque. It may sound a little corny, but it works.

A Good Listener
Would you say listening to your employees is a way of recognizing them? You bet it is.

As managers and owners we can get more from our employees if we really listen to them. I know it’s tough, but you must commit to them if you want to be successful.

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1. First, bite your tongue. You’re not listening while you’re talking. Allow your employee to speak and don’t interrupt until you’re sure he or she is finished.

2. Second, smile and lean forward. This small gesture will send a message that you want to listen.

3. Third, put away your work. In other words, stop what you’re doing and give the person your undivided attention.

4. Finally, ask some questions. This shows you’ve been listening and are truly committed to helping resolve the issue.

What’s In a Name?
Can a job title be a way of recognizing an employee? You bet. How many of you use the term “porter”? Why not change the title to “vehicle facilitator”? It sounds more important, and we all like to feel like we’re important.

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Let’s assume you have four estimators working for you. Why not give the title of “senior estimator” to the person who’s been at your shop the longest? Or if an estimator has taken all his I-CAR classes and has passed the ASE estimator exam, call him a senior estimator. You can recognize the abilities of your bodymen and painters simply by referring to them as refinish or body technicians. Everyone who works for me – from the detailer to the vehicle facilitator to the senior estimator – also has his or her own business cards with their name and title printed on them.

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Thank You Kindly
How many of you send thank-you cards to your customers? Do you realize we all have two kinds of customers? The first is the one who brings his or her vehicle into the shop. The second is our employees. Yes, employees. They need to be treated in the same manner as an external customer. Why not give a thank-you card to an employee who does something a little extraordinary?

Last month, my assistant manager and my office manager stayed until 9:30 p.m. to close some files so the shop would accomplish its goal for the month. (If the shop makes its monthly sales goal, I buy lunch for everyone.) It wasn’t necessary for them to stay, but they have pride in our team and they both wanted to help meet our goal. When I arrived at the shop the next morning and saw the completed figures, I gave each of them a thank-you card, stating how much I appreciated their commitment to our team and to me. That simple gesture meant a lot to them.

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Goal!
I previously mentioned that we need measurable and specific goals. If you set a specific goal for each of your employees or your team and they meet or exceed that goal, you should reward them.

I have two reward programs at my shop. The first one is for meeting our sales goal for the month. If the team makes the sales goal I set, I buy lunch for everyone during the following month. (The only negative with that is my wallet gets a lot lighter once a month! My employees must have hollow legs.) One month we didn’t make it. I didn’t buy lunch, but I still assembled everyone to thank them for their collective effort.

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The second reward program is for safety and cleanliness. Once a month, an independent safety-compliance company inspects the facility. And let me tell you, our designated inspector is tough. (He once found a metal tech’s respirator out of its container and deducted a point from the 100-point checklist.) I’ve told my team that if we score a 99 or better, I’ll buy lunch. Their goal is 99 (specific and measurable), and they’ve achieved it for the last seven months.

By giving them a goal and a reward, I can tell you that I have one of the cleanest and safest shops in Los Angeles – and all it costs is lunch. Is that $50 tab worth it? You be the judge.

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A Little Goes a Long Way
On the spur of the moment, I’ll bring in bagels, donuts, cookies or ice cream, stop production and relax with the team for a little while. It’s a great way to build team spirit and recognize the need for everyone to take a break. I value my employees, and I want them to know it.

I value their input as well. All potential hires must interview with two team members besides myself. When the applicant leaves, we meet and discuss our impressions. If my employees have reservations, I won’t hire that person. I’ve found my employees are just as good at interviewing and analyzing a potential hire as I am, and the responsibility sure raises their self-esteem.

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In his book, Nelson says, “You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.” It’s through recognition and appreciation that you build that fire. And that fire will fuel your business.

Contributing editor Toby Chess, AAM, is director of technical training for Caliber Collision Centers. He’s also the Los Angeles I-CAR chairman, an I-CAR instructor and a certified ASE Master Technician.

The Praise Sandwich

If you’re going to shower your employees with praises, make sure you’re doing it right. For instance, don’t use the “sandwich technique” – coupling a piece of praise with criticism. It rarely sounds sincere, and the employee is left with negative feelings. Also, be specific. Saying, “Good job for completing five jobs this week,” proves two things: You weren’t vague with your praise, and you paid enough attention to know what the person did.

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Get Mad!

If you want to improve morale and increase productivity, try this: Instead of a suggestion box, ask workers, “What made you mad today?” This will help you spot inefficient and wasteful policies and procedures, and employees will know that management cares about their opinions.

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