Your lead tech is not performing up to expectations. Shop production is slipping and you’re not sure why. You hear through the grapevine that some of your employees are wondering when they will get their next pay raise. After a few agonizing weeks of pouring through reports, you make the decision to give across-the-board pay raises. Almost immediately, you see a boost in production. The shop is more upbeat and all is well. Your decision appears to be correct. Three months later, your shop is once again struggling to meet its sales and production goals—and morale has slipped, too.
I have seen this scenario all too often. And, while there are times that we need to give pay raises, if your shop is struggling to meet its sales and production goals, increasing pay to improve business is not the answer. The reality is you have deeper issues.
Let’s address employee compensation first. You must pay people a competitive wage with the opportunity to earn more. There should be incentives in place to reward your employees for reaching their personal and team goals. And, there needs to be a process in place where your employees understand how and when they will get a pay raise.
However, in terms of long-term company growth, a focus on pay alone will never be the formula for success. In other words, throwing money at a problem is a short-term fix. It’s putting a Ban-Aid on a more serious injury that requires much more care and attention.
About 10 years ago, Mercedes-Benz was struggling with its customer experience at many of its dealerships. In response to this, Mercedes decided to increase pay incentives, implement new policies and training programs. No improvements were realized. Mercedes top executives could not understand why customer service was not up to company expectations. After all, this is Mercedes, a car company that represents quality and sophistication. Why were their dealer employees so indifferent?
A senior leader at Mercedes recognized the problem and stated, “Pride in the brand was not quite as strong as we thought, the level of engagement with work was not as deep as we thought.” Mercedes finally realized that until the employees at Mercedes genuinely cared more, no amount of money, policies or training would make a difference.
Understanding the need to get front-line people more engaged and take pride in their work, Mercedes began to invite its dealer employees to spend 48 hours with the model of their choice. To experience not only the amazing performance and mechanical attributes of the vehicle, but also that they can turn heads as they drive through their neighborhoods or when they drive into the little league parking lot.
Mercedes also built its Brand Immersion Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2014, where hundreds of employees go each year to spend time getting to know how the cars are built, gain a deeper understanding of the brand, the history of Mercedes and experience the legacy of the company. According to Philippa Green, brand immersion trainer for Mercedes-Benz, “The ultimate goal is to engage their hearts and minds around the brand. We’re teaching them about our legacy.”
As business owners, we track KPIs, set goals, work on marketing and refine our business plans. We also ensure that we provide our employees with adequate training and a well-equipped environment. These are the essentials of our business. However, we must never overlook the importance of your employees taking pride in their work. And, pride comes from employees knowing who you are, what you stand for, what you do for your community and for the industry.
Giving people pay raises can motivate them. But the bounce you get from that is short-lived. Once people have gotten over the excitement of the raise and made the financial adjustments to their lifestyles, the raise is long forgotten. If there are no other intrinsic motivators, then shop morale, production and employee engagement will fall right back to where it was before the raise.
Anyone who knows me and has read my articles, knows how much I preach about leadership. The theme of this article also has its roots in effective leadership. You, the leader of your company, have the power to transform the people around you. Focus on the person, not the position. Recognize when your employees do things that are from the heart. Promote your company’s brand, vision and legacy. These are the keys to a long-lasting company. This is what will improve morale, not a pay raise.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on March 1st, 2020