How to motivate your shop floor team

Hispanic woman (30s) working in warehouse with shelves of tires, taking inventory on digital tablet.
Do your employees know where your business is going?

How to motivate your shop floor team

Your staff members do a tough, dirty job. Some of them will be passionate automotive people; others might just be buying time among the grease until something they find more interesting comes along. Some will be hard workers; others might suddenly be hard to find when you need to get a tire off a rim the old-fashioned way.

According to a Dale Carnegie Training survey, an amazing 23 percent of non-management workers in corporate workplaces are disengaged. That means three quarters of workers aren’t working to their full potential and are more likely to leave their employment, even for just a tiny pay increase.

It’s hardly rocket science to suggest any business would perform better if a team was as actively engaged and as passionate about a company’s success as its owners and managers. So, how do you motivate a team that’s not quite living up to its potential?

1. Lead by example

Think about the culture you want your workplace to have and make a list. This has a lot to do with the goals and values of your business. To some extent it might come down to size. Are you a very small shop with a small customer base? Perhaps you want to focus on outstanding customer service. If you’re a bigger shop perhaps you want to have the widest range and most knowledgeable staff. Whatever your goals, you as manager need to embody them. Show your staff the right way to behave. Work as hard as you can yourself and go above and beyond when you can. What you do demonstrates where the standards are set on your shop floor. If you’re enthusiastic, it will encourage them to be enthusiastic, too.

2. Communication is key

One of the best ways to motivate staff is also one of the cheapest and easiest—praise. For some of us, this might not come naturally. But hey, everyone likes to be told they’ve done a good job from time to time. Make sure you are vocal about the employees who have done a great job. Don’t assume they already know it and don’t assume it doesn’t need saying. Not only does the employee you’re praising feel proud, but it also demonstrates for the rest of the team what’s expected.

This form of motivation is dependent on communication — which is one of the most important skills for any leader. Making sure people know they are appreciated, and that you recognize them and their efforts, is an important part of running your business well. Having a good rapport with your team, and being approachable, means it will be easier to discuss problems in the workplace – and find ways to fix them.

3. Build understanding with your employees

Develop a shared understanding of the state of the business. Let them join you in celebrating your successes; they’re their successes, too. Let them in on your goals for the future. Nothing will help your team feel more invested in the success of your business than if they know how many bookings a week constitute a profit. If a technician knows how each job he does contributes to the business overall, he will be that much more determined to make each job count. Empowering employees in this way can fundamentally change the culture of your business, and according to the Economic Policy Institute, this kind of thinking has helped improve the entire U.S. auto industry.

This is a two-way street. You need to understand your employees’ needs, goals and dreams, too. What are they working towards, personally? What are their career goals? Take some time to get to know your employees; understand what contributes to their working day and what could be improved.

4. Incentives aren’t just about cash bonuses

Cash is usually the first thing a business owner turns to when trying to motivate a workforce. But unless you have the above elements in place first it’s possible your incentives will miss the mark.

If you’ve shared with your team how many bookings you need per week, and you surpass that by a considerable amount, offering bonuses to those who have up-sold their hearts out or offered exceptional customer service to customers is a nice thing to do. But there are other kinds of bonuses, too. Executive director of the American Car Rental Association Sharon Faulkner says she introduced a 10-hour, four-day, workweek for some of her best-performing staff—thereby giving her best-performing staff a three-day weekend.

Additional training can also be a great boost to an employee. It shows them you value them because you’re investing in them and has the double benefit of providing you with more skilled staff. Consider sending outstanding employees away to trade events like the SEMA Show if you can. Not only will they enjoy it, the experience they bring back will make them more enthusiastic and knowledgeable team members. What’s more, knowing that a trip to Las Vegas is up for grabs is a great motivator for other staff throughout the year.

5. Business values, goals and structures

Reward effort. Simple tweaks in pay and conditions can make staff happier, so long as it is separate from what they are already earning. Add more breaks, create a dedicated lunchroom, offer a clear career path, and offer opportunities to become involved in the wider business operation. Seemingly minor changes and small incentives can make a huge difference to the culture and contribution of your team.

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