Returning your car dealership staff after furlough

COVID secure car dealershipThe National Franchised Dealer’s Association (NFDA) recently published some of the findings from its latest post-lockdown automotive retail survey which showed that only 35% of dealerships had completed the return of all their staff to work following the COVID-19 lockdown period.

With the end to the Government furlough scheme in sight, the time is fast approaching for the remaining 65% of dealerships to make a decision on the future of their remaining furloughed staff, and for those lucky enough to have a job to return to, how best to reintegrate them after a lengthy absence.

It is vitally important that you develop a return to work strategy for everyone returning.

Some people will be itching to get back to work after a prolonged absence, others will be less enthusiastic with Covid19 still very much around. In general, dealers have responded well to the new challenges of creating a socially distanced environment which is safe for both customers and colleagues. However, a CIPD survey has shown that two out of five workers in Britain are anxious about a return to work, and not just because of the risk of the virus.

So, what’s behind worker anxiety?

In these uncertain times many dealers have operated in survival mode, making redundancies and utilising the furlough scheme to reduce costs. With dealers operating on a skeleton staff, they have invariably relied on the remaining team members to fill the gaps. As such, the work environment in some dealerships is very different now to the one furloughed staff left pre-lockdown. This causes understandable uncertainty regarding:

– The changes made to the roles and responsibilities of the returning worker.
– The impact on those about to return to work of changing roles and responsibilities of colleagues who returned to work earlier, or who were never furloughed.
– The long- and short-term stability of the dealership business and job security.

Let’s also consider those who were never furloughed or returned much earlier.

The additional responsibilities placed on those who filled the gaps left by redundancies or furloughed staff has tended to come with no additional remuneration.

I know of one example where a dealer has reduced the sales exec headcount by 50%. The current sales team are now managing significantly increased enquiry numbers, spending significantly longer hours at work but earning 50% less commission than before lockdown.  Management claim this is justified on the basis that the existing team enjoy significantly more sales opportunities. This attitude that people should ’just be happy to have a job’ has led to a real sense of injustice and resentment. Whilst these people will stay in their currently secure position, they will show no loyalty when any normality returns to the employment market.

Remember, your people are your most valuable asset, and treat them as such.

People who feel undervalued and unfairly put upon are unlikely to deliver the levels of service you will need to attract your fair share of the available market. The return to work situation requires a re-engagement with your teams to provide clarity for them in terms of short- and longer-term expectations.

– Have a one to one conversation with all staff detailing all the changes you feel are necessary in your ‘new normal’.
– Explain your expectations and ask for their support.
– Explain why additional responsibilities need to be shared.
– Emphasise the importance of the people who have been asked to return to work in helping to maximise all opportunities for the benefit of the business.
– Offer support and training if a colleague is being asked to undertake additional responsibilities.
– Look for ways to reward strong performance.
– Be sure to thank them for their acceptance and understanding.

If you would like any help in developing a return to work strategy, please call MotorVise for free of charge advice.

LEAVE A COMMENT

You comment will be published within 24 hours.