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Human Resources: Growing Great Employees

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Interviewing prospective employees is something every business owner must do. Good interviewing skills can go a long way to picking out the cream of the employee crop.

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A successful interview begins long before the actual interview takes place. First, make sure both you and the interviewee agree on an acceptable time for the interview. Next, gather all the necessary materials together – proposed wages, benefits, working conditions and hours, etc.

Don’t have vague goals when it comes to the interview. Make sure you know going in what it is that you want to accomplish. Make a list of specific questions you’d like to address – that way you won’t forget something important. The questions should be designed to tell you everything you want to learn about your potential new employee. But make sure your questions stay within legal parameters.

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At the start of the interview, take some time to chat. This way, both of you can unwind and develop a little rapport before the interview takes place. Once you get into the formal interview, ask for specific information – the correct spelling of the individual’s name, the length of time he or she’s been with his or her current company, etc.

Then go through the list of questions and topics you’ve prepared. Don’t rush through them. Speak precisely enough so the interviewee can understand the questions. And give the person time to formulate an answer to your question. Try not to interrupt interviewees when they are answering your questions, as some people can become flustered when interrupted too often. However, if the person is rambling, you’ll need to break in to keep the interview focused.

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Generally speaking, it’s best to keep the interview more of a conversation than a formal question-and-answer session. Break up the questions once in a while by asking about something regarding the person’s job that is not too far off the topic being discussed. These kinds of secondary questions can help you uncover other valuable information.

Make sure you keep a record of the answers – either by writing them down on paper or recording them. Some people feel nervous about being recorded, so assure them the tape is confidential and will only be used for critiquing the interview. And if you are going to record, make sure the recorder won’t run out of power or tape midway through the interview.

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When the interview is over, write down any notes you want to make. Try and do this as soon as possible after the meeting so they are fresh in your mind.

Rewards Program
Every employee will, at one time or another, come to expect a bonus. Be it a yearly bonus, a performance reward, a holiday gift or some other form of extra compensation, most companies pass out something extra.

However, you have to watch out that your type of “rewards program” doesn’t become commonplace and demotivating for the employees. The last thing you want is for employees to simply expect bonuses and not work to earn them. Employees shouldn’t feel like they deserve a 4% raise every year. They should feel like they earned a 7% raise because of the excellent work they put in during the year.

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The last thing a dealer needs is an unproductive employee who’s angry because he or she only got a standard year-end bonus. That employee has come to think of the bonus as simply part of his yearly pay – not the incentive it’s supposed to be.

If employees understand that bonuses will be given based on performance, they’ll work harder to earn the extra money.

However you structure your bonus program – year-end, performance, profit goals – make sure every employee understands the program. Tell them they have to earn it. Explain that they have to meet criteria, and establish clear reward levels. That way they’ll know exactly where they stand. After all, if your employees come to expect a bonus no matter what, isn’t that your fault?

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The Good, Bad and Unable
Before a car even gets to the bay, the customer has to be won over in the retail showroom. Here are some basic skills and traits that good salespeople should have to get a customer’s vehicle into the bay and keep profits coming through your door.

oEvery employee should know every square inch of your shop. They should know everything about the contents, the location of all merchandise, even how long it takes the coffee maker to brew coffee. Following a confused employee around their own store can be one of the most infuriating things to a customer.

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oEmployees should also know everything about every tire and auto part within your shop’s walls. And, it wouldn’t hurt it they were familiar with the products you don’t carry.

oOftentimes, selling comes down to people skills. Employees should listen to customers, understand what they need, and be able to read body language. Simple conversations instead of heavy selling will win trust. And most importantly, employees should know when to stop talking. Nothing kills a sale faster than an employee who can’t stop talking long enough to hear what the customer is saying.

oSome retail employees don’t understand basic sales techniques. All your employees should be trained through books or classes by a trained manager. Employees should be able to evaluate a customer’s buying level, help select merchandise, overcome objections and, most importantly, close the sale.

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oMotivation is key for all employees, especially those working the front desk. Unmotivated employees bring down your shop’s image, which will bring down sales. But here’s the trick: Employee enthusiasm isn’t something that’s taught, it’s something your employees have. And that’s a reflection on your management.

Fair Market Value
Every shop knows that finding qualified help these days is a problem. And once you find that help, you’ve got to keep it. One of the best ways to keep your well-trained technicians is to keep them financially happy. However, one of the most difficult tasks is determining fair compensation for employees.

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Every two years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics produces an Occupational Outlook Handbook, which profiles hundreds of jobs in the U.S. The book can be used as a reference for employers looking to benchmark salary levels.

For an example, if your shop is big enough to need an office manager, what should the salary be?

Your city’s standard of living and salary threshold must be taken into account. The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s website (www.stats.bls.gov) can provide you with specific information about your city, state and region.

Words Can Be Weapons – So Watch What You Say
What you say to your employees can have as much effect on their job performance as how much money you pay them. Most people in any job environment tend to focus more on negative words, even going so far as to hear things that aren’t there. But if you choose your words carefully, what you say can brighten your employees’ day and create a more profitable work atmosphere for everyone.

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Like it or not, you and your managers set the office tone. Bad verbal habits can lead to employee unrest, higher turnover and deteriorating job satisfaction. How often do you hear your management staff say:

  • “I’ll take care of it right away.”

  • “You always have great ideas.”

  • “Don’t worry about it.”

  • “I always have time for you.”

  • “I understand.”

  • “You’ve been working pretty hard. Take a break.”

  • “Good job.”

You probably hear that sometimes. But, do you hear these comments as well:

  • “Don’t let anyone see it until I check your work.”

  • “I don’t have time to talk about it.”

  • “I’d like to see that finished before you go to lunch.”

  • “Was that your idea?”

  • “Keep your personal problems at home.”

  • “Personally, I never take a break.”

  • “How long have you been working on that?”

Yes, both sets of these comments will work their way into your shop every day. The question is, which set of comments do your employees hear more? Not everything that comes out of your mouth has to be positive and upbeat, but if your staff is as great as you think it is, shouldn’t they hear you say things like that more often?

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