team management

8 Management Techniques to Maximize Employee Engagement

by Fleming Ford

Is Your Team Engaged? 

Employee engagement is a critical issue for most dealerships. Engagement is the level of involvement, enthusiasm and commitment and employee feels toward their job and workplace. Today’s atmosphere offers so many distractions that can keep your team from focusing on the works that is before them. 

There are three types of employees – the engaged, the unengaged, and the discontented. According to our last poll of 130,000 dealership employees, about 24% of employees are engaged in their work, meaning that they’re emotionally committed to getting the job done well and putting in the full effort. 

That same poll shows that about 38% of employees are unengaged, meaning that they are satisfied with their positions, but aren’t really invested in the dealership’s vision or goals. These employees do just enough to meet the minimum requirements of their job. The remaining 38% of the workforce is discontented and disengaged, meaning they may be sabotaging your success. 



To ensure that their team is happy and challenged, my best advice is to keep an open mind, an empathetic ear, and clear channels of communication. The level of engagement that an individual exhibits is often tied to how much they feel empowered, trusted, inspired and valued by their leader.  

Let’s look at eight techniques for maximizing engagement: 

1) Set challenging but realistic goals

Allowing people to work within their comfort zone leads to complacency that kills engagement. Get creative and inspire them to take on new projects, set new goals, or learn new skills. More importantly, get them to let go of “the way we always did it”. 

Leaders must challenge individuals and teams to see a new vision and push them whenever possible to do and be better Employees who are challenged with new projects, new goals and new skills need more coaching and cheerleading to make them realize they are truly capable of achieving more!

2) Everyone wants to be recognized for what they bring to the table!

Recognize good work and praise people in front of the rest of the team with a shoutout in a team meeting, text, email, or on your dealership Facebook or LinkedIn page. A pat on the back makes individuals feel good about themselves and encourages others to step up if they know they’ll be rewarded with social recognition. BONUS – It also promotes your employment brand, helping recruit new candidates.  

3) Track productivity but empower employees and avoid micromanaging

Empowering individuals tells them you trust them, which increases engagement and performance. It is a powerful thing when employees believe in their manager, it is even more powerful when a manager believes in their people. Trust is the core of all high-performance cultures.  

4) Make it easy and comfortable for your team to communicate

Keep lines of communication open and encourage team members to come to you with concerns or roadblocks. When team members don’t feel comfortable speaking openly and honestly with one another, issues don’t get resolved and tension can lead to problematic outcomes. A sobering discussion I have when coaching leaders is when they score poorly on our employee engagement question “Departments in this dealership communicate well and work together as a team”. Avoid all of this by checking in with your employees regularly and giving them an outlet to voice their issues.

5) Prove that employees have a voice 

It’s one thing to talk the talk, but when claiming that their feedback is important, you have to walk the walk, too! Send out anonymous surveys and polls. To get a better idea of how your team is responding to company culture, workload, and the direction that you’re headed. This allow employees to voice concerns without fear of retribution. I also encourage you to ask for feedback from small groups or one-on-one. I provide my managers with a list of questions that we use for “Coffee and Convos” to start meaningful conversations and uncover new solutions and ideas to improve both culture and processes.

6) Respect that different people have different learning styles

Not everyone can sit through online manufacturer training and get the information they need to work with our customers with confidence. Some people need one-on-one instruction; others need visuals; others need to just jump in and get started. Provide a hybrid of learning opportunities and upgrade your skills at coaching and teaching.

7) Take time to really check-in

Workdays get hectic in the dealership and everyone has a tight schedule. It’s critical that teams make time to catch up and check-in with one another. Even if it’s just a quick five-minute huddle to share progress, learn a new skill or tip, or review a company value. Communication fuels connectivity and fosters a sense of togetherness, so don’t let it slip!

8) Embrace change

If this last year has taught us anything, you must foster a team culture prepared to roll with the punches by being open to change. If someone leaves your team, how will you move forward? If a customer wants to take delivery at home, how will you make that happen? If anyone is too invested in how things should be, you might be missing out on how great things could be!

Employee engagement is built on growth, communication, purpose, relationships, integrity, two-way commitment and trust. When done well, it improves the dealership and individual performance, increases the chance of success for managers, drives retention, and dramatically increases productivity. 


Fleming Ford

Fleming Ford is President of ESI Retail Leadership Academy. Fleming cares deeply about creating progressive automotive leaders who can embrace challenges because they have the tools, mindsets and emotional skills to grow and engage all-star teams that achieve remarkable results. With 20+ years of experience coaching retail automotive leaders and HR Execs, she ignites positive transformational change with concrete ways for leaders to enhance the employee experience and drive better business outcomes.


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