“Inspect what you expect” is a well-known business phrase that I think is particularly applicable to the automotive industry today. That’s because many dealership employees have a LOT of time on their hands right now. Why not re-direct that time towards everyday tasks that you expect are getting done, but often don’t have the time to inspect?

Our unprecedented market, with virtually no new cars on the ground and used cars impossible to come by, has left many dealership employees sitting idle. While experts predict vehicle supply won’t return to normal until the first quarter of 2022, you don’t want to let go of core staff because the market will calm down.

I have spoken with multiple dealers who are repurposing some of that employee downtime into completing useful but often delayed house-cleaning tasks. Will the employees probably complain? Sure. Is it a great use of downtime? Absolutely.

Here are five tasks to keep employees busy and, more importantly, help your dealership with organization, compliance, and safety:

  1. Cleaning and organizing deal documents – When you’re busy closing deals it’s easy for business office and dealer forms to pile up and become disorganized. But in an industry as regulated as ours, you can’t afford messy paperwork. Have you staff audit some deals; ensuring proper signatures exist, certain forms exist, and the deals are organized a in consistent manner. A little TLC on your deal jackets will unquestionably lead to increased productivity when that deal needs to be reviewed in the future.
  2. Scanning files – Instead of multiple filing cabinets, stacks of paper, and countless folders, now is the time to contract with a third-party document management company and go digital. If you already have a scanning department but have fallen behind on digitizing documents, now is the time to catch up. I’ve spoken with dealers recently who are temporarily adding scanning stations to clear backlogs. One word of caution: proper scanning requires some training. Every document in a file must be legible, in the proper order, and labeled correctly. Sloppy scanning with missing pages or illegible information could result in hefty fines if auditors come calling. Before re-purposing employees to a scanning station, conduct internal scanning training to keep everything on the up and up.
  3. Validating OSHA requirements – Every dealer is required to have an emergency action plan to comply with OSHA standards, but when is the last time you reviewed yours or shared it with your employees? Assign an employee to review and validate your OSHA compliance. OSHA offers a free, on-site consultation program that can help take your safety programs to the next level if you find deficiencies. Additionally, audit your documents to ensure you have properly stored all the necessary employee documentation, like training certifications.
  4. Validating Red Flag compliance – Every dealer is also required to have a written Identity Theft Protection Plan. Now is an opportune time to review and validate yours. Due to the changes in how consumers purchases vehicles caused by COVID-19, identity theft more than doubled in 2020 as compared to 2019. A thorough review and update of your plan is a smart move to protect your customers and also your dealership against fraud.
  5. Conducting perpetual part inventory counts – Any employee can count parts during slow times. Assign each person a bin. Then, anytime employees have an hour or two of idle time, they can count their assigned bins. Regular physical audits are a boon for your bottom line because they reduce inventory costs from theft, waste, and obsolescence.
  6. Spring Cleaning – You may not be asking your employee to grab a mop per se, but its always a good time to do some deep cleaning. Check cabinets, desk drawers, closets – trust me: you’d be amazed where critical, auditable documents can end up!

Take advantage of the market slowdown by re-purposing employees to inspect and improve tasks and processes that are often put on the back burner during busy times. The payoff will be a better organized, compliant, and safe store that’s ready to hit the ground running when vehicle supply rebounds.