Editor’s Note: The following is a column by Jeff Hirsch, chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and owner of New Hampshire-based Campers Inn, focusing on how dealers can effectively engage employees following severe cutbacks during the recession. The column appears in the latest issue of RV Executive Today.
Few things are more enjoyable than providing a workplace where employees feel that they are important, empowered, and fulfilled. As an employer, being able to provide this environment is a reward in and of itself and, for me, is one of the great things about being in business.
However, I’m sure you remember how difficult it was to provide such an environment just a few years ago. The recession forced all of us to cut spending, including spending on employee training and incentives. We also took other extraordinary measures to ensure the continued existence of our dealerships. As we cut back on these expenses, we changed the spending habits – and sometimes even the culture – of our employees. Our employees learned how to be lean, make the dollars stretch, and be more productive.
Economic conditions created a new normal, and it seemed in a split second we were transformed into permanent survival mode.
Here’s the problem: Many of us owners have ramped up since the recession. We’ve begun to spend more, growing our businesses and casting off the scarcity mentality. But many of our employees are still operating with a mindset of scarcity.
Recently, one of my managers told me he was hesitant to spend, based on Campers Inn’s past policies. He let me know that he’s been told many times that business has ramped up and we need to increase personnel and once again invest some of our profits back into the business. It’s almost as if the recession caused a sort of permanent fear of spending among our employees, and it’s hard to break this mindset.
This is not an easy problem to fix. Our employees are trying to do what’s right for the business, but their outlooks may actually be holding us back. We need to get them reengaged and reenergized. According to an article in the November 2013 issue of Talent Management magazine, companies are reporting much higher turnover rates in 2013 than in 2012 as frustrated employees have started looking for new career opportunities. The article says that employee engagement at some companies is declining, along with productivity and profitability.
Various studies show that employees who are fully engaged can make a tremendous difference on a company’s financials, lifting profitability by 22%, productivity by 43%, and sales by 37%. So we need to continually foster engagement with good communication, support, and training. Now that we owners and general managers have changed our mindset, it’s our task to help respark our employees.