By Cindy Macdonald
Toronto, Ontario – February 28, 2019 – Go Auto, Edmonton’s largest automotive dealership network, was named one of Canada’s Most Admired™ Corporate Cultures in 2018. This national program, presented by Waterstone Human Capital, recognizes best-in-class Canadian organizations for workplace cultures that enhance performance and help sustain a competitive advantage.
Go Auto embraces a strong promote-from-within philosophy based on results, not an employee’s resume, tenure, or credentials.
We talked with company executives about how to create and maintain a great company culture, and why training is so important.
Does the large size of your organization assist with establishing a positive corporate culture? Could smaller businesses employ your methods?
A positive corporate culture is all about taking care of your employees. Some of the ways we take care of Go Auto employees are made easier by our size, for sure. We’re able to offer first-class compensation, benefits, opportunities, and amenities.
Any company, no matter its size, can always do the thing that’s most important to every employee at any job: recognize and reward them for their work. Things like Employee of the Month awards, birthday celebrations, and showing them respect and admiration go a long way, no matter your industry or the size of your company.
We have a dedicated Employee Experience team that brings added benefits to our employees year-round. The team organizes parent/child meet and greets with the Edmonton Oilers, Corporate Challenge events, expenses-paid trips for our peak performers, a BBQ tour every summer catered by our in-house kitchen team, and an employee lunch plan that makes 1200+ meals every week. This team also executes the “Go Auto Fuels the Schools” program, which sees us cook, package, and deliver over 65,000 meals a year for school children in Edmonton.
But at the same time, there are a lot of things we do that are by no means exclusive to larger companies. Go Auto is very much a meritocracy. Our employees’ futures are determined by their actions, not their resume, tenure, or credentials. Smaller companies can employ the same kind of entrepreneurial spirit that we have. People at all levels are empowered to make decisions, take strong action, and be responsive to our customers with minimal bureaucracy.
How much does Go Auto invest in employee training, and why?
Go Auto invests a significant amount of time and energy (not to mention capital) on employee training. Our signature innovation is Go Auto University. Under the guidance of our senior management, 10 to 20 courses are conducted each month to ensure our people are trained and equipped with the knowledge and skills to excel in all aspects of the business and to learn the Go Auto way. Whether they are in reception, sales, service, parts, collision, finance, or management, all Go Auto employees receive up-to-date training to ensure adherence to proven processes, implementation of new initiatives, utilization of available resources, and an understanding of our innovative technologies.
The initiative is so important to our CEO, Jared Priestner—who is undoubtedly the busiest person in the organization—that he will occasionally teach classes himself to ensure our staff members are getting the education they need.
The Go Auto U represents our commitment to developing and retaining the most highly trained team in the industry. Through continued reinforcement of our goals, strategies, and execution models, we consistently deliver peak performances across every brand at every dealership. Go Auto U courses help train each staff member, educate them on current trends and policies, and align our management team’s goals with our employees’ goals. These courses lay the groundwork for how we act as a company, reaffirming our commitment to customer service.
Occasionally, we include guest lecturers. Representatives from both Facebook and Google came to Edmonton to educate over 100 of our employees on the latest and most innovative online practices.
Go Auto has a philosophy of promoting from within. Does this place an added burden on in-house training, or is it a result of in-house training?
It’s because of our in-house training that we have such a such a strong promote-from-within culture. We truly believe that we train the best employees in the business, so when it comes time to fill a vacancy, more often than not the best candidate is already right under our nose.
We also have to keep in mind that we have more than 3000 employees across more than 40 locations. Because of the sheer number of opportunities available throughout the company, our leadership team
maintains a strict “develop your staff” mentality, and we have even rewarded general managers with bonuses for developing our next-in-line general managers. Many of our senior leaders started in an entry level role with Go Auto—lot attendants, detailers, receptionists—and progressed to senior leadership and executive roles within the group.
How many collision repair facilities are part of the Go Auto group, and how many employees work in this sector?
We have four collision repair facilities. Two in Edmonton, one in Vancouver, and one in Hay River, Northwest Territories. We have more than 50 employees working at our repair facilities.
What training topics and types do you offer to the collision repair employees?
All of the training the Journeymen take is through I-CAR Canada. Some of these courses are online and some are hands-on in local training facilities. Some examples of courses are New Vehicle Trends and Technologies, and Damage Analysis for Estimators, as well as hands-on aluminum welding certifications.
Because this training is a requirement for each of our collision employees, we incur that cost. Training courses range anywhere from $75 to $850 each.
How much time does each employee spend in training?
Employees spend about one day each month taking these courses. That being said, some techs have more training than others. Painters are required to do recertification every three years and that is something that only takes a day or two and is done through our paint supplier. If new products come out, our paint company provides the staff with training on that as required.
How does training contribute to employee retention?
One of the biggest benefits of the Go Auto University is that it has allowed us to provide a great long-term career path for essentially everyone in our organization, which aids in the retention of the most influential people in the company.
We constantly strive to improve the employee experience and retain our best talent through training. As a result, we have over 300 employees with more than 10 years of tenure and 65 with more than 20.
Are your corporate culture initiatives driven by competition for talent?
Our corporate culture is meant to work from the inside out. The mantra that our owner, Mike Priestner, laid down when he first built Go Auto was that, “We exist to provide a team atmosphere that allows character people to learn, grow, and succeed by delighting our customers.” Everything we do is meant to support our employees first. We provide them with the foundation they need to take care of our customers.
That being said, our culture is one of Go Auto’s key differentiators, and our recruiting and hiring practices support this mindset. We look for character, integrity, and potential for growth, in addition to the three core values that Go Auto is based on: being trustworthy, being a team player, and being happy to help. And on top of that, we offer the best compensation, benefits, and opportunities in the business.
What are your methods for encouraging a culture of learning and exploration?
One of the first things that every Go Auto employee does is take our New Hire Orientation class in the Go Auto University. This is to establish that Go Auto mindset right from the get-go: you can go as far as you want to in this company. Everything is based on merit, so if you work hard, learn as much as you can, and take advantage of the numerous (free) programs we offer, you’ll get the promotion(s) you want and achieve any goal you have.
And it never hurts to simply reward curiosity and a job well done. We have performance-based pay plans, group-wide Employee of the Month recognition, a “President’s Circle” trip (that rewards our highest-performers), as well as recognition in our in-house magazine, the GOzette.