Editor’s note: Chris Travell is director, customer success automotive, Europe, at research firm MaritzCX, U.K. Scott Sparks is an automotive sales consultant. He is located in Detroit. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared under the title, “The importance of Onboarding in the Automotive Industry: Part 2.” 

In the last blog on the employee experience in the automotive industry we looked at the strategic importance and economic benefit of an effective onboarding process and focused on what should happen prior to the employee’s start date.

In this post, we’ll look at what happens when employees arrive on their first day. As before, we are focusing on the automotive industry, but the principles equally apply to other industries.

Creating a welcome kit

Once a new employee’s first day has arrived, you want to make it special and the best way to do that is to create an exceptional first impression. Ensure your receptionist is aware of the start date so the new employee is welcomed appropriately.

Consider creating a welcome kit that contains numerous positive first impression opportunities, such as branded accessories. Have a welcome letter from the dealer principal, or even from the OEM president, prepared and left at the new employee’s desk.

Person sitting at a desk

Items found in a welcome kit are often used daily and a new hire will feel an immediate attachment, so much so that they often continue to use them for years to come.

Provide desktop resources – desktop as in the physical desk space. Include print materials such as dealership newsletters, upcoming community involvement notices, employee recognition programs – anything that conveys positive dealership activity will help to make a new employee feel good about their decision to join the team.

From an online standpoint, consider adding a dedicated welcome page to your intranet or LMS. Creating a specific welcome starting point will be engaging and help direct a new hire to specific curriculum best suited for their role.

Be sure to include a welcome video or a step-by-step tutorial of where and when to access available training resources which, again, builds on that important first impression and helps to ease the potential training concerns people face with any new job.

As the day continues, ensure a dealership tour takes place and introduce the new hire to the various departments and team members. This is just as important for the existing team as positive introductions will help break the ice and hopefully lead to productive working relationships.

Engaging the new employee beyond the first day

After the tour, review any administrative processes and outline not only the orientation for the remainder of the day, but also for the week ahead. For example, if this is a sales role, you may want to suggest the new hire learn as much as possible about one specific model per day.

Encourage them to drive the vehicle and speak with other sales people. Have them talk to the service personnel to better understand the maintenance requirements of the vehicles they’ll be selling. Learning all the details of an entire product lineup can be daunting, so focus on small daily or weekly goals that are attainable.

To sustain this positive feeling past the first day, OEMs or even large dealer groups should consider conducting monthly webinar sessions for new hires. This is a great way to meet others, online at least, who are in a similar situation and allows for the moderator to run through the onboarding process once again to promote upcoming events, answer outstanding questions and receive important feedback.

This also could be a great opportunity for a short, anonymous employee survey to uncover any opportunities for improvement in the onboarding process.

Who should lead the onboarding?

While it is optimal for sales or service managers to lead onboarding, typically these managers are busy with other responsibilities.

As an alternative, consider creating a role for an onboarding champion, an individual whose responsibility it is to see that new employees are thoroughly walked through the onboarding process and are there to answer additional questions in the days and weeks ahead. 

This role would not take the place of a manager, but rather offer another level of support. It would likely be a secondary role for a peer in the new hire’s respective department. When developing this role, consider making it a precursor to a management position as it will involve people skills, accountability and guidance – all valuable traits for a future manager. 

Onboarding as an essential part of the employee experience

Onboarding is most effective when it is a consistent process. 

Turnover is costly and leads to lower employee and customer satisfaction, so ensure you take onboarding seriously and allocate the necessary resources to make a new hire feel comfortable, valued and welcome.

Onboarding is one of the most important processes a dealership can have, as it often predicates the longevity of a new hire. Not only will the implementation make a difference in the company, but it will also help individual employees feel valued and achieve their career goals.