Caring about its associates is the key to NewRoads’ second Canadian AutoWorld Employer of Choice win


“It is important to NewRoads that associates feel cared about as people and that we do our best to balance their personal needs with the needs of the business – striving for a work/ life balance that has historically eluded our industry,” said Michael Croxon, NewRoads president and CEO.

To show that NewRoads cares, associates enjoy a corporate gym rate and to encourage them to use it, they receive money back per month for attending. NewRoads offers its associates complimentary 15-minute chair massages on Fridays in February, March and April to help with the “doom and gloom of winter.”

To help recruit and keep technicians, NewRoads has a Technician Advantage Plan that includes a yearly tool allowance, personal safety equipment allowance and yearly health and wellness personal flex spending. And, where possible, work hours are flexible to accommodate staff and encourage millennials to join NewRoads.While NewRoads hires from within, new hires are hired on the basis not only of experience and skill, but attitude and “cultural fit.”

“All of these attributes are weighted equally when consid- ering a candidate,” Croxon said.

Culture and brand

Founded in 1968 by Michael Croxon’s dad, Noel Croxon, NewRoads has grown from a Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealership in North York, Ont., to seven stores located in nearby Newmarket, Aurora and Richmond Hill, the “Northern 905.” Brands sold include FCA, GMC, Mazda, Subaru and Toyota.

NewRoads began calling itself a group in 2006. There are about 375 associates on staff. Vehicles have features and customers have needs. But vehicles don’t sell themselves. That’s where culture comes in.

“Even though we have five different brands and operate in several different dealerships, there is an overall NewRoads culture that we work hard to assimilate across all of the stores,” said Michael Croxon. “The NewRoads Automotive Group business model functions around a NewRoads Experience which is delineated into “Four Pillars” and “Five Values.”

The Four Pillars are built on employee engagement, customer enthusiasm, financial performance and community involvement. The Five Values include being straight up, dynamic, innovative, personal and community focused. The Pillars and Values are on prominent display on company mugs, on the Group website and are there to be consulted in the Group’s Employee Handbook. They are kept alive as part of the Group’s vocab.

Most important of all, as part of the annual employee evaluation process, associates are evaluated on their performance relative to the Four Pillars – not just their functional role. All of the NewRoads associates meet two to three times a year at Town Hall Meetings, where senior management provide a general update and recognize successes and accomplishments.

Croxon said the Town Hall meetings help strengthen team camaraderie and culture. There is also an annual NewRoads Retreat attended by about 100 associates. The goal is to “generate or assess ideas for associate, customer and business improvements which flow back to the store level.”

“This off-site retreat further reinforces our NewRoads culture since associates who attend bring back positive energy to their stores which we think further enhances our culture,” he added.

Croxon went on to say that when management or senior management spots “discrepancies” with the culture, they try to address it “immediately.”

At the end of the year, associates in each store fill out a secret ballot and vote for a fellow associate that they believe exemplifies the NewRoads values: the Pillars; as well as enthusiasm; energy; a positive attitude; sense of humor; and the ability of raising the game of those around them.

It’s called the “Spirit of NewRoads Award.” The winners are announced at the first Town Hall of each New Year. Each year associates participate in a performance review. They rate themselves on goals that are specific to their job function and the NewRoads Pillars. Their manager also grades them on the same goals. The associate and manager sit together to discuss the ratings. Managers often take the opportunity of the per- formance review to educate associates on how their contribu- tions impact corporate goals.

There are also monthly meetings, where various divisions of the Group – F&I, variable, fixed, senior management – get together to communicate, share successes and collaborate on ideas. Each store’s management team conducts monthly operational meetings inviting senior management who attend when they are able. Each year, associates participate in a performance review. There are various employee engagement surveys including the Canadian AutoWorld Dealership Employer of Choice Award.

Handling disagreements

“We have fostered a culture where being derogatory and negative to associates is unacceptable and any type of discrimination is not tolerated,” Croxon insisted.

He said associates are encouraged to engage their “bosses’ boss” on matters where they think there may be a conflict with their direct manager. This concept of “manager once removed” is available at every level of the organization. This process encourages the associate to speak freely to their bosses’ boss. All managers and associates are aware of this process so there is less fear.

The Kolbe Assessment

The Kolbe Assessment measure an individual’s way of doing things, their Method of Operation. Managers and potential managers complete one.

Croxon explained that the Kolbe has enabled NewRoads to “build a bank of assessments that we can use to help associates potentially better communicate and understand each other.”

For example, some associates do not want long explanations and are focused on the issue, while other associates feel the need to explain in detail the matter at hand. “We can sometimes show them that they may have difficulty communicating with data and they may adjust their styles with each other to be more effective,” said Croxon.

NewRoads has been using the Kolbe for 15 years. And if that wasn’t enough, for the past 10 years, in addition to the NewRoads Retreat, the Group executive team has worked closely with an outside consultant to ensure that it is developing and coaching managers specifically in the area of leader- ship. “We have had our senior managers and general managers partake in 360 reviews to evaluate their leadership attributes so they are aware of their blind spots,” added Croxon.

The proof is in the turnover or lack of it

Croxon said that turnover is light. He notes that over the past five years, the Group has acquired three new dealerships with few if any associates moving on. Long- serving associates and managers abound.

“The tenure of our associates is a good indicator that Ne- wRoads is clearly an Employer of Choice,” continued Croxon. “Given the positive atmosphere that they experience here, associates generally do not look for opportunities elsewhere, and on numerous occasions associates that have quit and gone elsewhere end up looking to come back to work for NewRoads.”

But the NewRoads Automotive Group isn’t resting on its laurels. The Group has designed and is testing a “Quiet Room” at the GM store. This room was designed to offer associates a quiet place to recharge, think and/or meditate. It gives as- sociates an area where they can get away from the stresses of their job for a few minutes and reset their mind and focus.

“At NewRoads we recognize the importance of mental health,” Croxon said.

– Lawrence Papoff