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When you think about the elements that are most important to your dealership, what comes to mind?

Surely you thought of profit-margins and closing big deals. While yes, these are both valuable assets to your dealership, let’s not forget about how impactful boosting strong company culture can be to an organization. Company culture should be at the heart of everything your dealership does and it’s one of the most important parts of any successful workforce recruitment and retention strategy.

What is Company Culture?

Company culture is often defined as the set of shared values and goals that are established within an organization. It also encompasses the attitude and practices a company upholds.
Company culture is oftentimes reflected in the attitude and behavior of a dealership and its employees. You’ll get a good first impression of a dealership’s culture based on how people interact with one another, the values they uphold, and the decisions they make regarding their dealership.

Plus, creating a winning culture within your dealership improves your recruitment marketing efforts and leads to higher retention rates, while also leaving your current employees with a sense of empowerment.

Why is company culture important?

Because company culture is essentially your dealership’s personality, it’s important to build one that is strong and accurately reflects your dealership. Candidates interested in joining your team will pay special attention to the salary and benefits that are being offered, but they’ll notice culture, too. Your dealership’s culture will set the tone and expectations for the work environment and is a key factor in how employees feel about working for a business.

77% of adults would evaluate a company’s culture before applying to an open position.
Source: Glassdoor

Kevin Clark, President and CEO of AKRS Equipment, one of the largest John Deere dealers in the country, said AKRS wants to ensure the benefits it offers to employees extend beyond health insurance and retirement plans. By offering flex scheduling, AKRS is allowing employees to work hours that fit into their schedules without sacrificing the quality of customer service—and so far, the response from technicians in their test pilot program has been very positive.

“The pandemic has fast-forwarded the momentum of the need for flexibility,” Clark said. “There’s a common misunderstanding that flexiblity equals poor work ethic. As a family-oriented company, we want parents to be able to attend their kids’ baseball games without fear of negative consequences—which also then reinforces community spirit.”

The four types of company culture

The four types of company culture were developed by Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. After investigating the qualities that make businesses effective, and listing out 39 attributes, they were able to narrow the types of company culture to four that are the most popular and widely accepted across varying industries.

1. Team culture

Having team culture means that your company or dealership’s primary focus is all about mentorship and teamwork. Your company motto is probably something similar to “we’re all in this together” as team culture is very people-focused in the sense that your dealership wants everyone to feel like they’re one big happy family.

In team culture, the work environment is extremely collaborative, every individual is highly valued, and communication is a top priority.

A clear benefit of establishing team culture at your workplace is that it often leads to high employee engagement. However, the flip side is that this “family-style” culture is difficult to maintain as your company grows and hires more people. Because of this, it’s often found in startups and smaller companies.

“It’s very important to AKRS that we don’t lose our identity as we continue to grow,” Clark said. “We want to maintain the the family-oriented feel and trust of a small company while providing the excellent benefits, scalability, and efficiency of a large corportation. We like our stores to be engaged in their local communities and don’t want customers to feel like they’re in a corporate-dictated environment when they come into one of our stores.”

As a dealership evolves from a mom-and-pop shop to a multi-store organization, maintaining a team culture can be difficult. One way AKRS reinforces community spirit among its 27 locations is by allocating a marketing budget for each store manager to spend within their local community—sponsoring a local youth baseball team or hosting a booth at the county fair, for example.

2. Adhocracy culture

Adhocracy culture is centered around taking risks and being innovative. Dealerships that exhibit adhocracy culture are always looking to come up with the next big thing. They value individuality in the sense that they encourage their team to think outside the box and exhibit creativity with every idea they bring to the table.

A benefit of having this type of company culture is that it often leads to high-profit margins as employees are always motivated to achieve sky-high goals. However, taking risks is always going to be, well, risky. There’s always a chance that one of these ideas won’t work as planned and could hurt the business in the long run.

Jeremy Ostrander, CEO of AgriVision Equipment Group, said part of the culture AgriVision strives to promote is giving its employees the autonomy to take risks and learn from any mistakes. “We encourage our team to use our guiding principles to make their own decisions and move forward but not be afraid to make mistakes,” Ostrander said.

3. Market culture

Dealerships that exhibit market culture are centered around competition and growth. Being profitable is front and center as a top priority and everything is evaluated with the bottom line in mind. The main objective of these companies is centered around meeting a quota, reaching a specific target, and getting results.

A clear benefit of having market culture is that they are often profitable and achieve success. This is because the entire dealership is laser-focused and everyone is working toward the same objectives. However, a downside is that the focus is never on internal satisfaction, so it can be difficult for employees to have a sense of purpose outside of being a cog in a machine.

Companies with a market culture have the goal of being the best of the best, meaning you’ll find it at larger dealerships where well-known leaders are at the top of the pack.

4. Hierarchy culture

Last but not least, hierarchy culture is centered around structure and stability. Dealerships within this culture adhere to traditional corporate culture, meaning there’s a clear chain of command with various tiers of management that separate employees from leadership.

A benefit of having hierarchy culture in the workplace is that they often have a clear and well-defined process that keeps the main objectives of the dealership top of mind. However, because this culture is so rigid, it leaves little room for employees to be creative and employee feedback often slips through the cracks.

How to build or improve company culture

Regardless of which type your dealership is looking to build—or which type you have that you’d like to improve upon—creating a positive work culture isn’t easy.

Establish and implement core values

When you’re hiring for open roles at your dealership, candidates will always look to see what your core values are, so it’s important that you take the time to make them stand out.

Keep in mind that your values are just words unless you take the time to put them to action. If one of your values is that your dealership values loyalty, curiosity, and integrity, how do you plan to back them up?

“As we merge and grow, one thing that happens if we’re not intentional about creating the kind of culture we want is we’ll end up with a melting pot of cultures that are not desired,” Ostrander said of AgriVision. “It’s not a single event or short-term—it’s a living, breathing, ongoing, every day effort. If it’s not something talked about and lived out in every meeting and every conversation, it drifts.”

When put into practice, your core values become more than words. They become what healthy company culture is built on.

Set realistic company culture goals

The goals you set in regard to your dealership’s culture are going to be a little different than your usual KPIs. The goals centered around culture will pertain to the fundamental ideals behind your company.

Think about why the dealership was founded in the first place. Your company culture should reflect that while showing what the dealership is working toward. It should have an almost inspirational message behind it or feel like the dealership’s overall mission statement.

“We both hire and fire based on culture and values,” Ostrander said. “You can teach the rest of the business. When you watch employers compromise on culture, then you will watch their business struggle.”

Get everyone involved

The element about company culture that can be a little tricky is that it’s hard to measure and track the effectiveness of your company culture initiatives.

In order to help nail this down and improve company culture, always involve your employees in the process. You should stay in constant communication with your staff and ask for their opinion of their success through an employee engagement survey or tracking system.

“People attract people who are highly aligned with their own core values and guiding principles,” Ostrander said. “The team has to be willing to call someone out when they’re not aligned with our values and reward them when they are.”

One way AgriVision recognizes employees who exemplify its guiding principles (integrity, results, servant leadership, innovation, and commitment) is with a coin that can be handed out on the spot to recognize an employee for doing something special. The company also rewards a few employees who are living out its guiding principles each year by giving away trips for two to Mexico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas.  “These are fun ways to acknowledge people that stand out in their alignment with our culture,” Ostrander said.

Make diversity a priority

A top priority for any dealership should be taking the time to invest in creating a team that accurately reflects the culture of your community. Too often people get caught up in finding candidates that remind them of themselves or have the exact same qualifications that they do.

Having a diverse workforce does more than improve your company culture—it pays in the long run. The advantages of having people from different walks of life working for your dealership are abundant. They offer a different perspective, fresh ideas, a variety of skills, and they bring something new to the dealership’s culture.

Diversity within a team is something more and more employees are saying is important to them when looking at company culture.

67% of employees say that diversity is an important factor when they look for a job.
Source: Glassdoor

As an HR professional, recruiter, or hiring manager, if you’re struggling with your company culture and looking for a quick way to improve, take some time to reexamine your hiring structure and process. Make it a priority to hire qualified people different from those who already work for your dealership while still finding the right cultural fit for long term success.

Clearly define and encourage career development

This is especially important when dealing with young recruits who are just starting out in their careers. Many employees will only stay in a job long enough for them to learn everything there is to learn before moving on and taking their skills elsewhere. Are you offering your employees room and space to grow?

If not, you could be inadvertently pushing them out the door. In fact, the number one reason employees leave a job is due to lack of development and career growth.

Career development is more than just offering someone a raise. There are several options you can give employees that go beyond the more traditional way of thinking about career development.

  • Create a mentorship program to pair newer employees with more senior staff.
  • Reimburse employees for attending work-related conferences and training sessions.
  • Create a tuition reimbursement program.
  • Put an ambitious employee in charge of a new project.
  • Encourage cross-departmental collaboration.
  • Start a lunch-and-learn program where employees can learn from each other.

You can start small by offering one or two of these programs before expanding to something more complex. Remember that when it comes to company culture, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You need to decide what works for your dealership’s budget, time, and resources.

Encourage innovation and spontaneity

As you implement cultural changes to your dealership, you’re going to have employees who are excited and want to get involved. It’s in your best interest to not only listen to these employees, but also to engage them in the process.

These employees can act as ambassadors of your new company culture initiatives and provide feedback from fellow employees as you try new things. You may even consider designating them a special role for new company culture ideas that you roll out in the future, which will help maintain a competitive advantage when recruiting new individuals to join your company. This will help engage them and make them feel valued.

Looking for ways to accomplish this? Here are five ideas you can do to encourage innovation:

  • Hold a contest for the best new idea in the dealership every quarter.
  • Create a suggestion box that anyone can submit ideas to.
  • Have a team brainstorming session once a quarter to get new ideas flowing.
  • Dedicate a whiteboard space for people to write and share new ideas.
  • Create a culture committee where employees can plan potlucks, luncheons, holiday parties, and more.

It’s important to provide people a way to suggest their ideas anonymously. It’s common that some of your teammates or employees may not be motivated by recognition and would rather quietly offer their suggestions without the fuss and fanfare. Be careful not to alienate those people when you’re creating your company culture initiative.

Be transparent as things change

As dealerships grow, so do their policies. A dealership with 30 employees might not be able to afford the same resources when they grow to 200 people. For example, frequent office lunches and snacks may become a financial strain, and you may decide this is no longer in the budget. Or perhaps company outings have become too expensive and it’s time to reevaluate if they should continue.

These changes aren’t necessarily negative. They’re a natural reaction to company growth and change. One way to avoid trouble or discontentment with these changes is by communicating them clearly, honestly, and making them true for everyone.

Failing to communicate these changes in a clear way with your team can leave your employees with mixed messages. Veteran employees will be upset that new rules and changes are unclear, and new hires will be upset that they’re following rules other employees are exempt from. Various managers, depending on their personal convictions, may enforce the rules differently among their teams, leaving employees feeling unfairly treated.

The best way to avoid this is to enact changes across the board, holding every employee or team member to the same standard. Your team members should never feel like they have to guess what’s okay or feel like they may be punished for disobeying rules they don’t fully understand. Bypass some of the tension associated with rule development by remaining open and honest with your employees about why these changes are necessary.

Building strong company culture at your dealership is easier said than done. Once you gather your HR department to work together and get the leadership on board, and the extra care and attention you give to improving the culture for your employees will be worth it in the end.

Source: Mara Calvello, G2