How cake and Q-cards help a dealer increase employee retention

This article was originally published HERE


Staying late at the office. Covering another employee’s shift. Going the extra mile for a customer.

Employees at Raymond Chevrolet and Raymond Kia, both in Antioch, Ill., are rewarded with cash bonuses for these efforts — an incentive that owner Mark Scarpelli said has improved employee retention and workplace attitude.

Exemplary employee behavior is met with a “Q-card.” The “Q” stands for quality. The cards, which detail how the employee excelled, are cashed for a $25 bonus.

At the end of every month, employees gather for Cake Day, where they socialize and news updates are shared. More anticipated, however, is the chance to receive an even bigger monetary reward. The names of employees who received a Q-card — typically eight to 10 each month — are placed in a bucket. The employee whose name is drawn from the bucket receives a “crisp $100 bill,” Scarpelli said.

“Sometimes it’s really easy to focus on areas where we need to improve or things that somebody may have done wrong and actions that we need to correct,” said Dina Vogt, CFO of Ray and Raymond Automotive Group, which includes the Chevy and Kia dealerships. “This really makes all of the managers more cognizant of encouraging the good.”

The Q-card practice has been used for more than 10 years at the two dealerships. Vogt said the stores’ annual turnover runs in the low 20 percent range, consistently lower than the average dealership turnover tracked by the National Automobile Dealers Association. That industry turnover number was 34 percent in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, according to NADA.

According to Scarpelli, the 2017 chairman of NADA, the automotive industry “is not famous for keeping people around for a long time.” Despite this, 10 percent of his staff has been with the dealerships for over 25 years. One employee, nicknamed “Employee No. 1,” has worked for the group for 49 years.

The average employee has been at a Raymond dealership for around eight years — which Scarpelli and Vogt attribute to the culture that consistent positive reinforcement creates.

“Along the way, we’ve been able to keep a lot of long-term employees, people that are second-generation employees, third generations, sons and daughters that have started to work here,” Scarpelli said. “That is one of the biggest benefits of all. It’s a testament to what we collectively do. … It instills in them ownership and a sense of worth, really just wanting to see things prosper at the place that they call home.”

Cake Day also serves as a chance for different teams within the dealerships to bond, Vogt said. If somebody in one of the parts departments gets the $100 award, the entire team takes pride in the accomplishment, she said.

“They feel like, if one of them won, they all won,” Vogt said. “Its nice to see the departments root for each other.”

And the event alone can be as much of an incentive for employees to bond and celebrate each other. As Vogt said, “it’s always all about the cake.”

Ray and Raymond Automotive Group sells six vehicle brands across four dealerships in Illinois. The Q-card practice is used at Scarpelli’s Chevrolet and Kia stores in Antioch, which combined employ up to 120 employees and sold 2,750 new and used vehicles in 2022. The other two Raymond dealerships, in Fox Lake, Ill., have other programs for employee appreciation.