Panellists of a recent automotive aftermarket conference agreed that they believe the most in-person and face-to-face engagement but it’s finding the right balance with employee preferences that is tricky.
As many industries continue to grapple with implementing remote work and hybrid work policies, the automotive aftermarket is no exception.
Cal Ganda, head of Americas automotive aftermarket at ContiTech Power Transmission Group, noted that the ‘great resignation,’ current economic conditions and the desire for companies to get the most out of in-person human interaction are all factors.
One strategy the company undertook was identifying certain events that should bring people together in the office.
“And for those, we highly encourage teammates and leaders for those teams to arrange such events on-site with their own teams,” Ganda said during the MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers Vision Conference.
But a leader telling them to show up on a particular day doesn’t generally work as well. Give employees the power to choose, he recommended.
“Allowing them to formulate the events and the occasions where they truly believe that this works [is important],” he said in the Supplier Pain Points: A CEO Panel session.
He did note that picking one day of the week for people to be in the office is usually fine; they will generally accept that. But then leave it to them to choose the other day — or days — they come in that works best with their projects.
“People enjoy doing that,” he said. “But it’s clear that it’s always a balancing act.”
For John Lerner, chief commercial officer at Gojo, he admitted that his company hasn’t figured this out just yet. It’s a constant evolution, he told attendees.
The need to come into the office is based on the nature of the engagement. “Clearly, most of the supply chain needs to be on-site and most or all the time. That’s obvious. Some of the other functions were already virtual or remote. And then high touch parts of the teams like product management, which touches every part of the organization and is highly collaborative, more frequently on site [but] doesn’t need to be there all the time,” Lerner explained. “It forced us to become much more deliberate about stewarding culture.”
The challenge is to maintain high and varying degrees of connectedness. Leaders want to keep the benefits of working together and collaboration that existed when everyone was in the office full time.
“At the same time, it’s important to have a lot of flexibility for us to bring talent into the organization,” Lerner pointed out.