Top Canadian dealers make everyone feel valued

For Volvo of Edmonton’s Norris, a big part of creating that culture has been reworking compensation so the staff is involved in the profits of the entire dealership rather than their individual departments.

“We decided we were going to pool the gross [revenue] from used, new, parts and service, and finance,” he said. “It has worked out fantastic. Instead of having these silos, we found everybody started to work together. It made no sense to lose a new-car sale because the used-car manager wouldn’t put an extra $200 into a trade.”

Aside from compensation, Norris also finds ways to reward staff that go beyond monetary, such as treat days, staff lunches and encouragements to balance work and life. Employees also are mentored in ways to progress in their careers.

Most importantly, the dealership provides support for staff facing personal issues, including providing both performance psychologists and a chaplain. Volvo of Edmonton now has a team of psychologists on standby and pays $200 per hour for psychological counselling.

If those issues, such as substance abuse, become serious, help is also provided.

“We don’t fire someone,” Norris said. “We get to the root of the problem, get them into a program and get them the help they need.”

The result is little staff turnover, which has another benefit.

“We are not just profitable, we are incredibly profitable,” Norris said.


Wellness has also become a key part of Birchwood Hyundai’s human resources program. The pandemic spurred a renewed emphasis on worklife balance, said Mike Dobush, general manager of the Winnipeg dealership.

The store provides extra consideration for staff to help with family health care needs. It also partnered with a local company, Pure Lifestyle, to offer staff the opportunity for one-on-one consultations to develop a personal wellness plan. Birchwood covers the cost of the initial consultation and coordinates other services — such as physiotherapy, nutrition and massage therapy — with its benefits provider, Dobush said.

The dealership has modified several of its compensation plans, specifically for commissioned staff, to help manage the reduction in vehicle sales, Dobush said.

It also pays higher amounts for other key performance indicators in customer service, training, inventory acquisition, repairs done correctly the first time and productivity.

At South Trail Chrysler in Calgary, part of its culture is built through regular “dealership walks” by the dealer principal and general manager, said Helena Byrne, human resources manager for the 19-store McManes Group.

“When a dealer principal or general manager walks the dealership to say hello to staff and inquire on how they are, how their families are,” Byrne said, “it displays a great sense of value and shows our employees that no matter our roles, everyone is appreciated and valued.”

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