As part of the Best Auto Auctions to Work For program, which is presented by CARS Recon, Auto Remarketing is provided with a wealth of data from the Best Companies Group, which manages the study and analyzes the data.
Among the information provided by BCG is employee response benchmark data across eight categories and multiple employee survey data points within each category.
This series of stories will take a look at some of those survey data points, while also including the perspective from several managers at auctions/auction companies who were among the 2019 Best Auto Auctions to Work For.
As it has been a topic dominating auction industry headlines in recent years, we begin with safety.
‘Top of mind and out in front’
“Safety is no longer an initiative. It’s really our culture,” says Danny Brawn, who called it the “most important thing.” (Brawn was general manager at Manheim Darlington, one of this year’s honorees, at the time of the interview. He is now general manager at Manheim Nevada).
And many throughout the industry would agree.
In the Employee Benchmark Report data, 92% of responses from employees from auctions making the list affirmed that “Safety is a top priority with this organization.” Meanwhile, 91% of responses indicated positively they “feel physically safe in my work environment.”
(NOTE: The numbers included in the Employee Benchmark Report data and used throughout this story “represent the percentage of respondents that answered ‘Agree Somewhat’ and ‘Agree Strongly,’” according to the Best Companies Group.)
At Manheim Darlington, meetings at the South Carolina auction begin by “taking two for safety,” where they spend at least two minutes discussing either safety incidents or near-misses, not just at that location, but throughout the industry. The point is to learn from it, Brawn said. There is also a safety team locally at the auction.
“I just think keeping it top of mind and out in front is really the best way to promote it,” he said.
A Manheim spokesperson confirmed that all of its auction locations in the U.S. participate in Lean Daily Management, a concept founded by Toyota as a manufacturing improvement, but adopted by other business sectors, including the likes of the New England Patriots.
At Manheim Central Florida (another honoree) general manager Dana Lowenthal said, “Every single day, our teams engage in daily stand ups together with their teams, and they measure, through Lean Daily Management, five metrics. The very first one is safety, because it’s the most important.”
One proactive measure that Manheim as a company has taken is with its Actively Care Today initiative, a $13 million investment over three years to promote the safety of clients and employees who come to the auto auction.
Through that initiative, Manheim launched a program to identify “near misses” at auction and put in place preventative measures to avoid those situations in the future.
“We don’t want to be reactive; we want to be proactive,” Lowenthal said. “Cox Automotive has made a tremendous investment already, and they plan to make a lot of future investment in safety programs.
“The near-miss program is a big piece of that. We are working to ensure that we have a culture of safety where people are comfortable with, ‘see something, say something,’ (to) speak up (and) let us know where you see things that aren’t right that could cause somebody to be potentially injured that we can go ahead and address,” she said.
“The team has really taken to that. We are one of the leaders right now in terms of reporting near misses, which is a good thing. It means that we’re identifying (where) something could have happened. And where we need to, we’re taking action to fix it.”
At IAA, which had four locations make the list, Scott Guenther said safety is a top-of-the-list discussion item at meetings, calling it “our top priority.” And it’s one that goes from the top of the organization down.
“We start every meeting with our safety topic,” said Guenther, who is senior vice president of U.S. branch operations at IAA.
“For instance, I just had a meeting with our regional vice presidents. The first agenda item we put on every meeting is safety. So, we go over a couple of safety items that have happened around the country, and they do that all the way down to the branch level. They understand the priority.”
That grassroots prioritization includes everything from informational posters to stressing the importance of safety vests, whether someone is outside on the lot or in the lane, he said.
“It shows you that everybody thinks ownership and safety,” Guenther said.
In fact, on a recent trip to one branch, a manager gave him a gentle reminder that, “we wear safety vests everywhere we go,” he said.
“They own that from the manager to the hourly employee,” Guenther said. “Everybody understands the importance of safety, and it just makes it a healthier work environment.”
Communication & feedback
Another important aspect of auction management is communication with employees. And sometimes that happens when employees are spread out.
Jennifer Linder is a territory manager for the Central New York region at ACV Auctions, which made this year's list. Her field team of vehicle condition inspectors are spread throughout what she described as an egg-shaped region of the state. In fact, one team member lives three hours north of Linder in a remote part of New York.
Being in different towns and ZIP codes means a lot of planning. But also, a lot of communication, which is key to keeping employees engaged and feeling like part of a team.
One way that happens? A friendly good-morning group text that goes out to the Central N.Y., field team first thing in the morning.
It’s a way to check in on the team, but also, it helps in planning the execution of goals that day.
“I do it just to get everybody on the same page,” Linder said. “And then we start discussing our day: who’s got a full schedule? We utilize that group text for organization during the day.
“If they show up (to a dealership) and somebody told them there was eight cars, and they get there and there’s 17 cars … we need to know that as a group, because we’re a team,” Linder said. “I’m not saying that nobody goes home until everybody’s done, but it’s pretty close to that.
“If somebody is stuck at a dealership because they have five more cars to write and it’s 4:30, then people drive there, and they help them and they leave together.”
Open lines of communication are crucial.
As far as how auctions making the list stacked up in terms of communication, 89% of responses from employees from auctions making the list affirmed that their “organization’s corporate communications are frequent enough,” with 87% saying they were “detailed enough,” according to the Employee Benchmark Report data.
On a more individual level, 94% affirmed they had “a clear understanding of my job role,” with 94% also saying they “understand the importance of my role to the success of the organization.”
Ninety percent said their “supervisor is open to hearing my opinion or feedback.”
And auctions put an importance on getting that feedback.
At Best Auto Auctions to Work For honoree Greenville Auto Auction, the leadership team meets in late fall to set goals and a plan to execute that strategy, while still remaining flexible to adjust to any changes. But the auction also sees the importance of individualized feedback.
“I think we pride ourselves on individual meetings, just pulling people aside, maybe going to grab a cup of coffee, (and asking) ‘How’s it going?’ said general manager Billy Willis. “And making sure that everybody on the team has a voice, where our voice is not in the loudest, but they have an opportunity to speak to us one-on-one or in a group or in smaller meetings.
“And we’ve always done that walking through the property, just chatting it up with our team and asking them how they feel about things,” he said. In addition to creating an open atmosphere for team members, Greenville has also opened itself to feedback and ideas from dealers attending its sales.
And a big part of communication is recognizing team members for their successes.
Recognition of a job well done
In the Employee Benchmark Report data, 86% of responses for employees of companies making the list said they felt valued by the organization, and 90% said their “supervisor acknowledges when I do my work well.”
At Manheim Darlington, Brawn talks about the use of the SPARK employee communication platform to give kudos for folks going the extra mile.
“But nothing beats simply talking to your people, patting them on the back and thanking them for what they do every day,” Brawn said. “We can’t succeed without every single one of them.
“And it’s important that they understand how important they are to the success of the auction,” he said. “So, we make a big deal out of that and we also make a big deal out of work anniversaries, because having experienced and tenured employees is really important to our success.”
Part II of this series covers how auctions find and train employees.
For more on the 2019 Best Auto Auctions to Work For, see the the Nov. 1 edition of Auto Remarketing.
Honorees will also be recognized during a Nov. 14 breakfast during the National Remarketing Conference segment of Used Car Week, which is being held Nov. 11-15 at Red Rock in Las Vegas.