We spoke with Donna Miller, European HR director at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, for our latest instalment of the Corporate Insights feature series – finding out how big business strategy can translate for smaller companies.
In a world where workplace perks are in demand, she told us how the business is able to stand out when bringing in new staff – admitting that car rental isn’t necessarily a sector on the radar for university leavers.
“When we recruit, we never forget that potential candidates have a choice. We also keep in mind that car rental is not a typical career that graduates think of when they are researching potential opportunities,” Miller said.
“However, our management training programme gives new recruits the opportunity to develop their skills as well as their career. Part of our promise is that we only promote from within. This means it is vital that we attract a wide range of talent that will help us to grow our business in the future.”
That wide range of talent stems from Enterprise Rent-A-Car valuing diversity and skills, according to Miller. Making that fact clear, she explained that the business has graduates from over 100 universities, as well as a variation of subjects and backgrounds.
In addition to their skills, Enterprise Rent-A-Car also analyses the work experience and extra-curricular activities of graduates to see if they’ve given back to their communities.
“We focus on attracting people who want to lead a team, who are ambitious and who want to progress,” she said.
To make sure that hires are right for the business, Enterprise Rent-A-Car acknowledges that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, offering an insight on the company culture is part of the recruitment process with behind-the-scenes tours at branches.
Some 800 graduates are brought into Enterprise Rent-A-Car annually, and Miller noted that is achieved by operating as a decentralised business. That means offices run at regional and local levels to meet the needs of drivers in the area.
The firm has also secured relationships with universities nationwide to help spread the Enterprise Rent-A-Car mission.
Of course, with smaller budgets and scale, SME owners looking for new staff may feel it would be difficult to follow the Enterprise Rent-A-Car approach to obtain people, but Miller said otherwise.
“It’s not about size. It’s about culture and how you approach people as a business,” she detailed. “Our founder, Jack Taylor, once said, ‘Take care of your customers and employees first, and the profits will follow.’ This is the company’s philosophy to this day.
“Creating a balance between what a company needs from its employees, and how the employee wants to contribute to the business and what they can achieve, is very compelling.”
Interestingly, Enterprise Rent-A-Car staff all follow the same career path. Miller joined the firm in California some 27 years ago as a management trainee, at which point she learnt how to run a branch – the current CEO had the same route to the top.
“Our COO, who is the granddaughter of our founder, also started in a branch. We all get promoted for the same reason – because we have a good customer service record. This creates a compelling story for potential recruits,” she said.
Indeed, internal promotions have been part of the business agenda since launching 60 years ago, so that story and culture is ingrained. An impressive 99 per cent of Enterprise Rent-A-Car senior management went through the management training programme.
“From our perspective, it doesn’t make good business sense to spend years developing a talented individual only to recruit someone externally, especially when we have capable employees in-house who are ready to take their next step,” Miller said.
“As a company, we have it in our power to make sure that we have the best people. Why would we want to recruit expertise from outside when our people already have it?
“We only externally recruit specialists in areas of marketing, IT and legal who require professional skills that cannot be acquired in a branch – although some of these employees have also come through the management training programme.
“This proves that people will stay if you can provide the opportunity for them to develop their career within one company, based on a clear sense of career progression, direction and transparent promotion criteria.”
In fact, graduates and entry-level recruits with little experience are drawn to that culture of internal promotions – SMEs that only look outwards may want to take note.
“Graduates tell us that this is one of the things that is most appealing, because it proves our commitment to our people and that our promises are not just hollow words,” said Miller.
“If you are truly a learning organisation and promote yourself as a great place for people to develop and build careers, you should give your employees every opportunity to step up.”
The management training programme at Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a fixture in all parts of the business, covering the more than 420 locations found across the UK.
And as a rule of thumb, talented trainees can receive one or two promotions within a year to 18 months – with some going on to become branch manager in that time.
Closing on how growing companies can nurture teams, Miller revealed: “We treat our employees like individuals, and we want them to achieve their goals within the business while also helping us achieve ours.
“This is something that any company can offer, no matter the size. At every stage in their career we work collaboratively to develop a set of bespoke objectives and goals for each employee. Mentoring is part of our culture and we encourage everyone to seek out feedback.
“We help employees to build upon their individual strengths and weaknesses through training, mentoring and regular contact with their managers who are measured on how successful they are at developing their team. Nurture varies from individual to individual.
“For some people, nurture means getting involved in social activities, while for others it might mean support to achieve a personal goal like running a marathon or for further education and study. You can only nurture teams by nurturing the individuals within them.”