Fleet News

Five steps to keeping your employees satisfied

Higher salaries, bonuses, extra holidays… the remedies for poor staff retention can sometimes appear to come from the Ministry of the Bleedin’ Obvious. Yet analysis of the common ground shared by leasing companies with an enviable reputation for staff continuity reveals little evidence of pay packets to rival professional footballers.

Valuing employees is more than a financial transaction, but bitten by the busy bug, managers at all levels of a business can find it hard to find time to concentrate on the issues that keep key staff content, rather than drafting a new CV. But even a cursory glance at the cost of recruiting a replacement should encourage most businesses to pay more attention to retention. It’s not simply the cost of placing a job advertisement, paying recruitment consultant fees, and losing management time through the interview process. There’s also the negative impact on other staff, who are forced to pick up extra workload until a replacement becomes productive – not to mention the potential loss of clients who had a good working relationship with the departing employee. 

Establishing an accurate figure for these direct and indirect costs is fiendishly difficult. Some employees are more valuable than others (note the relative impact on Liverpool FC of the departure of strikers Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez), but measuring the levels and costs of employee turnover is vital in building a business case for effective retention initiatives, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. 

Employees change jobs for a variety of ‘push and pull’ motives, pushed out of their current role through job dissatisfaction, and pulled to a new employer by a more attractive proposition. So what can leasing companies do to ensure that star performers in all areas of the business don’t take their sparkle to a rival?

Recruit the right people in the first place

“I always asked a fundamental question in recruitment,” says Andrew Mann, former managing director of JCT600 Vehicle Leasing Solutions. “‘Who pays you?’ A lot of the candidates looked at me blankly and said ‘JCT600 VLS’. So I invited them to try again, and they said ‘JCT600 Group’, and if the penny still didn’t drop, I would say, ‘It’s the customer’. People forget that. If you make that the basis of your business you have half a chance that employees might understand their output, while sometimes it seems a bit remote from the customer, actually isn’t.”

While some sectors of the leasing industry can resemble a merry-go-round, where familiar faces regularly change their business cards, Windsor Vehicle Leasing (WVL) adopts a different approach. “We tend to grow our own staff,” says Philip Newton, chairman and principal shareholder of WVL, where 15 of the 25 staff have more than a quarter of a century’s service. “If you take them on straight from school, they are still learning sponges and don’t have fixed ideas. They fall into your ways and become comfortable with them, and you have time to develop them.” 

Set a career trajectory

Job descriptions and targets have to be clear and achievable to engage staff. If new starters can see how colleagues have risen through the ranks, it will give them confidence in a longer term future at the firm. Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) discovered that participants on talent management programmes tend to value coaching, mentoring and networking particularly highly, especially the chance to meet senior people in the organisation. It’s surely no coincidence that many of the companies in the leasing sector with the best records of staff retention tend to be smaller companies with shorter chains of command.

Treat staff as individuals

Different employees have different motivations, and while there are people who thrive on targets and commissions, others respond better to different stimulae, such as job security. 

“We are not as numbers driven or target oriented as the bigger boys have to be,” says Philip Newton. “We can afford to sit back and take a view that if we have someone who is a good salesman but they have a quiet six months, we can value them for their entire contribution to the business. If you are in a bigger business and you are numbers driven, you don’t have that luxury and you are under the microscope if you don’t perform every day.”

This philosophy extends beyond the workplace. “We can look at someone’s requirements and be more empathetic,” says Newton. “We have more flexibility to deal with problems that pop up in someone’s life, and ride our way through them together. If you’re numbers driven, it’s the devil take the hindmost.”

Empower staff

Staff who have the freedom and support to develop their own ideas tend to be happier.

A recent CIPD survey of 2,000 employees explored what enabled them to be most productive. The most common response was interesting work (40%), followed by being able to use their own initiative (39%). 

“My style was to give people freedom to come up with ideas and carry them through to execution,” says Mann. “Individuals within small leasing companies can have a disproportionate effect and influence on that company. There’s satisfaction to be had in thinking, ‘that was my idea, and it worked’. If you work for one of the larger companies, you get lost in the mass. Even if you are in a senior role, while your responsibilities may be very significant, the actual job you do becomes more and more limited.”

Newton adds: “We can be creative in terms of payment, funding, vehicles, and we allow account managers to provide customer satisfaction, which in turn gives them very good job satisfaction.”

Treat staff as individuals

Different employees have different motivations, and while there are people who thrive on targets and commissions, others respond better to different stimulae, such as job security. 

“We are not as numbers driven or target oriented as the bigger boys have to be,” says Philip Newton. “We can afford to sit back and take a view that if we have someone who is a good salesman but they have a quiet six months, we can value them for their entire contribution to the business. If you are in a bigger business and you are numbers driven, you don’t have that luxury and you are under the microscope if you don’t perform every day.”

This philosophy extends beyond the workplace. “We can look at someone’s requirements and be more empathetic,” says Newton. “We have more flexibility to deal with problems that pop up in someone’s life, and ride our way through them together. If you’re numbers driven, it’s the devil take the hindmost.”

Reward staff appropriately 

Last year, DIY giant Wickes won a CIPD People Management Award for ‘Best Reward Initiative’, in recognition of a scheme that allows staff to share 15% of all store-controllable profit above 100% of their quarterly forecast. This not only made the performance of the business immediately relevant to every employee, but also had the capacity to make a material difference – more than £1million was shared out in the first year.

At Windsor Vehicle Leasing the company structures its remuneration to offer a relatively high basic, to give staff security, topped up with less commission than rival businesses. It also operates a profit share scheme similar to the John Lewis partnership model. It’s paid half-yearly, and the sums can rise to about 10% of salary – enough to make a difference to any employee.

As Newton says: “All we want are happy employees, because they deliver the bacon.”


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