The car rental industry, and the private sector in general, has seen an evolution of skills development in recent years. Doreen Lupton, Human Resources Executive at Avis southern Africa says that at Avis, she has seen this transformation at all levels, from drivers to executives.
With its central promise, “people are more important than cars”, and with a history of top executives having worked their way up from the bottom, Avis has instituted various programmes to boost employee competence over the years.
“We believe people are more important than cars and we believe this is part of our DNA for our customers and our employees as well,” says Lupton. “As the world of work changes it’s important that we always relook at our competence and our skillsets and make sure it’s always at the appropriate levels.”
In the last decade, Avis has grown to a national business that employs over 2000 people, which makes the company around four times the size it was around 2005.
Lupton says that today’s workforce is young and the thing most young people seek is growth because they are always wondering what their next step is. “We need to make sure we grow them so they know where that point is and that they are ready to fulfil that role,” she says.
Through a tailor-made programme completely customised for Avis, employees are introduced to key values and the concept of ‘servant leadership`, helping employees, which includes executives, understand that Avis is in the service industry and serves customers no matter what. Nobody is above being a servant.
“When we look at managers, we realise that in today’s business landscape, in order to be an effective leader and manager, boosting leadership skills is an obvious starting point.”
Last year, Avis launched its Leadership Programme with a focus on specific leadership competencies from branch managers upwards. This includes competencies such as EQ self-awareness, resilience, relationship building and how to grasp strategic concepts.
For a business like Avis, and any business for that matter says Lupton, it is vital to boost competencies across the group. “As much as we were developing our supervisors in terms of technical competence we shifted our focus to include leadership development as well.”
In 2014, Avis launched the Supervisory Development Programme across the group. This is similarly aligned to the Leadership Development Programme and empowers supervisors to manage and lead their teams more effectively. “We use this to measure against their performance, and in only a year we’re seeing great improvement of our management efficiencies.”
With programmes for leadership in place, Avis has also launched a learnership targeted at lower level employees, providing its drivers from across the country the requisite skills they need to help them grow through the ranks. “This is actually a real qualification recognised by South African Qualifications Authority and has created a lot of momentum within the business,” says Lupton.
As a business that puts its customers first, Lupton believes wholeheartedly in the efforts Avis has put into its development initiatives and strategies. To make sure they are hitting the mark, the company performs an annual employee survey. “This year we got the best results we ever received,” says Lupton. “We’ve seen an increase in employee satisfaction at all levels with training and development being at the heart of this success, I believe.”
With all this in place, Lupton believes that if you take care of your employees and provide growth opportunities, then they will become loyal. “Loyal employees breed loyal customers,” concludes Lupton.