Carwashes are being erected and refurbished at a staggering rate these days. While new investors are looking to capitalize on a business opportunity, veteran carwashers are noticing their competition radiuses are shrinking. And with increased competition in the area, as well as a recovering unemployment status in the U.S., the competition for quality employees is becoming as intense as the battle for local customers.

In order to prevail in the fight for steady business, carwashes must hire and retain high-performing employees. We reached out to two prominent carwash professionals to understand how their companies keep their managers and frontline employees motivated and satisfied. While each carwash location, type and situation is different, we believe the following tips can be universally implemented for the betterment of your carwash and its workers.

Reasons to motivate

Your carwash needs motivated employees to remain successful and grow. Motivated managers and frontline workers are more creative when troubleshooting issues, attentive to details and productive. Additionally, the more you can motivate your workforce, the lower your turnover rate will be.

However, managers who do not have the ability to recognize your wash’s quality and motivated workers might be an even bigger threat to the business. Quality employees who are disgruntled will not settle for their current situation and may be motivated to bring their resumes to your local competition, possibly improving the quality of that wash.

In last month’s issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing, we wrote an article on the importance of hiring and retaining carwash managers. This topic simply cannot be overstated. A recent article, “Motivation Of Your Employees │ The Best Way To Do It,” published in Entrepreneurial Insights, provides some telling reasons why you need to invest in high-performing carwash managers. According to the article, which cited several studies and research on the topic of employee engagement, the following trends are evident:

  • Highly engaged employees were 87 percent less likely to leave their companies than their disengaged counterparts.
  • Three out of every four people who leave their jobs of their own will, aren’t quitting the jobs but are quitting on their bosses instead.
  • Less than half of the workforce (40 percent) are aware of their companies’ goals, tactics and strategies.
  • Organizations with greatly engaged employees accomplish double the annual net income compared to those with employees that are not so well engaged (as per an analysis of 64 organizations).

Talking the talk

In carwashing, hands-on and present managers are more impactful to the location versus managers who sit in an office and delegate behind the scenes. According to Carl Howard, who is the chief operating officer and vice president for Autobell Carwash Inc., good managers “not only talk the talk, but they also walk the talk.”

“To me, the biggest factor in success is having quality management at the carwash,” adds Howard. “Having managers with a willingness to demonstrate by example regarding what they expect out of their crews [is crucial]. In my opinion, the manager needs to spend about 70-80 percent of his or her time with the employees; and the lower that percentage drops, the higher the struggle becomes to maintain [workforce] morale and employee performance.”

Carwash managers might be spread thin nowadays, but their biggest contribution to the business is how they interact, treat and train your frontline employees. Not only do a carwash manager’s responsibilities require regular meetings and constant communication, but they also should include providing demonstrations on new equipment and wash techniques as well as jumping in to help on busy or shorthanded days. These actions are commonly known as leading by example.

“Communication is key to keeping our finger on the pulse of employee satisfaction,” says Abbe M. Goncharsky, Esq., vice president human resources and associate counsel for Mister Car Wash. “We encourage our managers — at all levels — to develop and maintain open lines of communication with employees. We have also started conducting formal surveys of our employees, encouraging them to give feedback through that system and also through our HR helpline.”

Quality managers can positively impact your business in many ways, especially your turnover rate. Howard concurs and adds that managers should conduct assessments of staff performance regularly throughout the year. But, the “quickest way to [gauge employees’ levels of satisfaction] is to be among them; it is amazing what you will learn,” he explains, adding that employee and customer surveys can also pay off to determine your crew’s productivity and performance.

Worth more than money

Once identified, retaining your best-performing employees is critical. A manager that stays in touch and communicates regularly with staff is one key retention tool; but, of course, several other methods are also effective. Smart, experienced managers already know that money is important, but often it is not the most important aspect for some workers.

According to Goncharsky, employee retention begins all the way back at the interview stage. “[It] starts at the interview when we have the opportunity not only to learn about the candidate, but also to tell the candidate our company’s story,” she says.

As noted in the aforementioned Entrepreneurial Insights article, many employees lose interest in their positions when goals and objectives are not set or clear. Therefore, at many carwashes, such as Goncharsky’s, proactive managers are making sure to include their employees in more decisions that affect the business.

“For [us], setting goals starts before we even consider hiring a new employee for a store. It is important that our managers know what attributes they are seeking in a new employee before they begin the interview process. Our managers are tasked with setting both store goals — for the whole team — as well as individual goals,” asserts Goncharsky, noting that this could be considered a full-time job in itself. “Our managers communicate goals in a variety of ways, starting from the job interview, so that everyone knows the goals and can work to be on the same page.”

And while money may not be the only factor in job satisfaction, financial compensation and other perks do still impact employee retention and satisfaction. Raises, bonuses, holiday parties, free wash days for employees and their families as well as employee awards are some of the ways you can invest financially in your workers to encourage morale and productivity.

Still, as cited by both experts we interviewed for this article, rewarding employee performance with money is only part of the equation. “For instance, particularly millennials, employees want to feel like they are making a difference,” concludes Howard.

No employee retention strategy universally works across the board for all employees. Make sure your manager(s) stays in touch with each worker, and you should tailor your blueprint accordingly.