- In this article, Michele Blondheim, Executive Director of Community Relations for Cox Automotive, shares 8 best practices gleaned from Cox Automotive and successful dealerships.
- Companies with engaged employees enjoy less personnel turnover and experience better employee performance.
- Taking action to demonstrate a thoughtful commitment to social responsibility is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a powerful tool to achieve and maintain high levels of engagement among your workforce.
Successful dealerships make community relations part of their DNA. That’s because the right community relations program can promote employee satisfaction, which is a component of your success. Engaged employees are more involved in their work, sincerely enthused about their jobs and act in ways that promote and further their dealership’s business objectives.
Studies from The Corporate Leadership Council, Tower Watson and Gallup show a meaningful relationship between engaged employees and community relations. Companies with engaged employees enjoy less personnel turnover and experience better employee performance. So taking action to demonstrate a thoughtful commitment to social responsibility is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a powerful tool to achieve and maintain high levels of engagement among your workforce.
Many employees now want to work for employers who take community relations seriously. Michele Blondheim, Executive Director of Community Relations for Cox Automotive, explains, “In today’s world, employees think companies should have a role and a responsibility to make a difference in the local community. And employees want to be a part of it.”
Community giving is an extension of corporate culture and exemplifies the humanity of a company. This can be a compelling recruitment advantage for job candidates. And it’s not just employees who are paying attention. According to Blondheim, “Customers are more willing to patronize a business and even pay more if they see a company committed to good causes.”
Dealerships have unique features with the layout of their showrooms and the consumer traffic that they generate. For example, by leveraging floor space for a coat drive during winter months, customers see and experience it. They can emotionally connect to a salesperson inviting them to participate in such a charitable cause.
But how do you get employees to buy into your community initiatives and become a workforce for good? Blondheim shares best practices from Cox Automotive and successful dealerships:
1. Not Just a One-Time Thing At Cox Automotive, community relations are more than just a one-time occurrence or a one-off project. Blondheim explains, “We engage our employees by making community relations ongoing, a holistic approach embedded in our company culture, a part of our corporate philosophy.”
2. Give Employees a Say Simply instituting a community activity is not enough. Employees need to be personally invested. You can facilitate this personal connection by giving them a say when it comes to choosing which causes or organizations will benefit from the dealership’s community relations efforts. Is there the opportunity to work with more than one cause this year?
If the cause has already been predetermined, empower employees to provide feedback and direction to management on community relations goals. Look at your current community involvement and ask, is still working? Does it need tweaking? Giving your team a say in the way your community relations program operates is a powerful way to encourage employee engagement.
3. Flexibility Community relations programs are comprised of volunteerism and fundraising, that is, time and money. There is a need for both in the community. Blondheim says, “At Cox, we ask our employees to give more than money; we ask that they donate their time.”
4. Dealership Skin in the Game Blondheim points out that dealership employees work a lot of weekend and evening hours, which are not always conducive to hands-on volunteering. “The most successful organizations in terms of employee engagement allow their employee time off for volunteer activities during business hours,” she says.
5. Titles are Out the Door Volunteerism is a great equalizer. Employees feel more personally connected to their managers and to each other when the vice president is working alongside the receptionist in a volunteer capacity.
6. Friends & Family Involvement Employees already work long hours and don’t want to take more time away from family. If they can include their family, children, friends, in community giving, then they are more incentivized to participate and there are many more hands to get the job done.
7. Opportunities for Employee Leadership When you focus on the strength of your employees, the odds of being engaged soar. Directly involve employees in leadership opportunities, where they get to participate in both community relations decision-making and implementation. “Perhaps a project or cause can tap specialized employee skills or talents,” Blondheim advises.
8. Exploring New Community Partners If you are considering a new community partner, invite the organization to come to your offices for a robust discussion: How can we partner together? What can we achieve together? Beware of making assumptions or dictating terms of support since their need could lie elsewhere.
A strong community relations approach can improve employee productivity, retention and morale, as well as encourage consumers to step up their purchases. Bottom line, community relations create value for the community at large as well as your employees—and your business.