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How To Create a Great Workplace

Here are some top insights from more than 16,000 marine industry employee satisfaction surveys

When it comes to identifying potential improvements in your business, no greater source of insight exists than the minds of your team members. With every moment on the clock, they identify what’s working, what’s not working and what could (or should) be done to make your business a better place to work and buy a boat.

Unfortunately, most of this knowledge goes to waste because employees don’t feel empowered to speak up, or because you never ask.

Gallup, a global analytics firm that advises employers on talent and managerial issues, defines three types of employees: engaged employees, who work with passion and feel a profound connection that drives innovation; non-engaged employees, who are essentially sleepwalking through their workday; and actively disengaged employees, who are acting out in ways that undermine other employees.

I think we all know which types of employees we want — but not simply for a feel-good boost or a desire to have employees who are passionate about their work (and your business). Gallup’s research shows that businesses with higher levels of employee engagement demonstrate higher levels of customer satisfaction, productivity and profitability, and lower levels of absenteeism, turnover and quality issues.


The question of how to drive employee engagement has prevailed for decades in the boat business. Now, with insights gleaned from more than 16,000 individual industry employee satisfaction surveys, the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas has gained new understanding and answers. This new insight comes from MRAA’s annual, anonymous Employee Satisfaction Survey, a key benefit for MRAA’s Certified Dealerships. This massive study dates back to 2015 and looks at 33 ratings related to working at a dealership.

Retail employees were asked how they felt about statements such as: “I would recommend our dealership as a great place to work”; “overall employee satisfaction is high within my department”; “my supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person”; and “I have had training opportunities at work to learn and grow.” The survey also asks three open-ended questions: “What is the best thing about your dealership?”; “what could your dealership improve?”; and an opportunity to provide additional comments.

The MRAA’s research demonstrated amazingly consistent responses during the entire seven years and 16,434 employee responses, as well as with the 564 responses gathered so far in 2022. We found six workplace factors that help build great dealerships to work for. Two of the highest-performing categories and two of the lowest-performing categories were the same, no matter whether we referenced the high-pressure, workforce-challenged environment of 2022 or the overall average, which is dominated by the slower-growth years.

In both data samples, the highest-rated statement among dealership employees was: “My job is significant and important to this dealership’s success.” And the statement, “I would recommend our dealership as a great place to work” was the second-highest rated. Across all responses, the statement, “I know the core values and principles we are expected to follow” was rated the third-highest, while in the pandemic-influenced days of 2022, the statement “I know what is expected of me with my job duties at work” was the third-highest.

On the other end of the spectrum, dealerships received their lowest scores in statements such as, “I am compensated fairly for the work I perform” (interestingly, this was not among the top three in the 2022 results); “in the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress” (this one did show up in 2022, but not in the larger study); and “I am rewarded or recognized for delivering excellent customer service” (which showed up in both data sets).

The other statement that showed up as a low score in both studies was the statement, “I have a best friend at work.” This question gains great debate on its significance, but Gallup has shown that positive answers to this question correlate to much higher levels of employee engagement.

When it comes to retaining employees, the individual who can have the greatest impact is the employee’s immediate supervisor. Talk to your employees about compensation (use the MRAA’s 2022 Compensation Study as a starting point). Make sure you are rewarding and recognizing your employees for providing outstanding customer service. Live by and communicate your core values and principles. And ensure that everyone on your team knows what is expected on a day-to-day basis.

While MRAA will spend a great deal of time exploring how you can improve your employee retention throughout the month of October at, suffice to say that you can focus on these areas now to see improving employee retention. 

Matt Gruhn is president of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.

This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue.



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