What’s on Your Car Wash Employees’ Wish List?

                                                        By Steve Gaudreau

It’s the holiday season—time to deck the halls, wander the malls (and, perhaps, even bang your head on the walls with this pandemic) as you attempt to pick the perfect gifts for everyone on your list. Different people appreciate different things. You wouldn’t give your four-year-old niece a coffee maker, right? A gourmet espresso machine might be just the thing to delight your spouse, but your niece would, no doubt, prefer a toy.

Similarly, your car wash employees have different preferences and values. Have you considered the uniqueness of the people in your workplace? What motivates one may not motivate another. An exceptional manager takes the time to learn the interests, and aversions, of each employee.

Just like parents may need to learn new techniques to effectively lead and discipline their individual children, managers must learn to alter their approach as needed. Getting to know your employees will help you “speak their language”. When you invest in learning what motivates each individual on your team, your return will come in the form of employee retention.

The car wash business is not an easy business and this is true even with entry level employees. They are on their feet and moving all day, get dirty a lot with all the cleaning they do, and often have to deal with difficult customers which takes patience and some skill in communicating. Motivation of employees in a challenging environment like a car wash is a very important task for ownership and management to separate themselves from the competition.

Determining a Person’s Motivation

How do you find out what motivates your car wash employees? Just ask! Smart managers begin asking about motivators as early as the interview process. You can simply ask, “What are some of the things that motivate you at work?” Or conversely, “What kinds of things turn you off at work?” You can learn a lot about people just by asking.

Additionally, a keen manager will use observation to determine what motivates their employees. What tends to make them work harder? What frustrates them? Are they motivated more by praise or by challenges? Take notes on the motivations of each of your employees, and review these notes when considering how to approach an individual whose performance needs improvement.

Three Types of Motivational Groups

At the positive end of the spectrum are the self-starters. This group of self-motivated people is generally easy to manage. They may be motivated by a desire to do the right thing, the pleasure of performing a task well, the thrill of tackling a challenge, or the respect of their boss and peers. As long as they are working for the goals of the organization, self-starters do not require a lot of maintenance.

On the other end of the spectrum, you find the unmotivated. No matter what you say or do, these people do not want to perform their work as instructed. If all attempts to motivate fail, using both rewards and discipline, then the manager must let this type of employee go.

The good news is that most people do respond to proper motivators. The majority of employees want to do a good job, but may need external motivation to perform their best. Positive motivators could include praise from the boss, recognition among peers, and movement towards positions of responsibility. Additionally, people feel more motivated when they are assigned to tasks they like to do. An exceptional manager will learn what motivates individual employees and act accordingly.

The Bottom Line on Employee Motivation

When you start treating people as the individuals they are, it sets in motion a positive chain of events: Better morale leads to higher performance, which leads to pride in a job well done, and ultimately, to increased loyalty to the organization.

Retaining good employees starts with getting to know them as individuals. Only exceptional managers will invest the mental energy it takes to figure out what motivates each person. Are you ready to make this investment of your time to get the performance you want from your employees? After all, what you do determines to a great degree what they do.


Steve Gaudreau is President of Brink Results, a training and consulting firm serving the car wash industry, has worked with many of the top car wash companies in the last 30 years, and can be reached at steve.gaudreau@brinkresults.com