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From a “No Black Hole” Candidate Experience to Supporting Veterans: Lessons from Enterprise

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Whether you’ve rented from Enterprise or passed by a location in your town or at the airport, you may think you know what Enterprise is all about: renting cars.

But Enterprise does much more than that. With 9,900 locations worldwide, Enterprise Holdings operates the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands in more than 90 countries and territories. The company and its affiliate Enterprise Fleet Management offer a total transportation solution, including truck rental, car sharing, corporate fleet management and retail car sales besides.

So how does this transport behemoth tackle the complex challenges of hiring, training and developing its workforce? We went behind the scenes and spoke with Marie Artim, VP of Talent Acquisition at Enterprise Holdings to find out.

“No black hole”—matching the candidate experience to customer service

Enterprise’s founder, Jack C. Taylor, was a decorated US Navy fighter pilot in World War II, and his experience made a lasting impact on the company. Not only did Taylor name his firm after the aircraft carrier on which he served (the USS Enterprise), but he also brought core values like hard work, integrity and teamwork to the company.

He firmly believed that Enterprise should be in the people business, rather than in the car rental business, basing his company on the philosophy: “Take care of customers and your employees first and the profits will follow.”

In fact, Taylor’s vision of treating everyone well not only affects Enterprise employees and customers, but it also extends to candidates the company doesn’t end up hiring.

“I tend to believe that we’ve supported the ’candidate experience‘ long before that became the buzzword it is today,” says Artim. “We’ve always matched our recruitment experience to our level of customer service and our ‘customer experience’ philosophy.”

A big part of the company’s positive recruitment experience involves Enterprise’s belief in “no black hole,” which means that everybody who applies for a job—regardless of whether they’re qualified or not—will hear back from an actual recruiter.

“We make sure that people understand that they’re important to us,” says Artim, “even if it doesn’t work out.”

A strong emphasis on internal advancement

Another way the “people first” philosophy is applied is through the company policy of promoting from within whenever possible.  

“[Jack] really believed in making sure that we were providing opportunities and that employees had something to work towards,” says Artim. “We focus on the idea that you can change careers without changing companies,” she adds.

One way that Enterprise develops talent internally is by recruiting employees early on in their careers, or those ready to change careers, which often means reaching out to college students as well as veterans.

The combination of hiring those who are at the entry level and providing plenty of advancement opportunities means that—just as in the military—Enterprise employees can have long tenures with the company. Artim herself began working at Enterprise 25 years ago.

“Our CEO Pam Nicholson started in 1981 as a management trainee,” Artim says, adding:  “It’s not how long have you been in a role, but your performance that will get you promoted,” Artim says.

A leading employer of graduates

With such a unique recruiting and employee development strategy, how does Enterprise make it all work?

It starts with the company’s focus on entry-level hiring. CollegeGrad.com has repeatedly named the Enterprise as the leading entry-level employer for graduates, with the company most recently topping the list at 8500 entry level hires for the year.  

Many of these hires go through Enterprise’s management training program, which typically takes up the employee’s first eight to twelve months at the company, although participants can progress more quickly based on performance.

“It’s really teaching all aspects of running a business,” says Artim. Trainees receive both classroom lessons and on-the-job experience in customer relations, marketing, operations, financials, logistics and more.

After completing the program, employees can take on more responsibility by moving into the first level of management.

“The first few steps in someone’s career as a Management Trainee are always in one of our branches,” Artim adds. Often, employees will move up the ranks within a branch and eventually run one themselves.

An employer brand focused on the teamwork experience

But this isn’t the only path of advancement.

“We have an internal career site that’s built to allow [employees] to go in and search and find all the different paths they could take, what those paths look like, what they look for in background experience and who’s been successful in [those positions],” says Artim.

This is just one way the company lives up to its employer brand, which Artim says “revolves around experience of being part of our workforce and being part of our team.”

“[An] example of that would be instead of just telling people we promote from within . . .  we show it. If you go to our career site, on the main page, there’s a promotion ticker,” says Artim.

This ticker keeps count of how many promotions Enterprise has given in the current calendar year.

“Last year it topped out at over 16,000,” she adds. “It’s such a differentiator for us.”

Providing opportunities to veterans

With founder Jack Taylor’s experience in the Navy serving as an inspiration for his business career, it should come as no surprise that Enterprise is serious about hiring veterans. In fact, 10% of Enterprise’s U.S. workforce is made up of veterans, reservists and Guard members.

And Enterprise recently announced that it will be participating in the U.S. Army Partnership for Youth Success program, which guarantees job interviews to soldiers who have left active duty.

Enterprise’s recruiters actively work to build relationships with military bases and transition programs that serve veterans.

“We are a member of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership,” says Artim, “and we believe in supporting military spouses.”

The company also recently committed to giving back to those who have served through donations to The Fisher House Foundation, which gives free lodging to families of veterans in treatment, and Keys to Progress, which provides refurbished vehicles to military families.

Conclusion

Ultimately it all comes back to Jack Taylor’s philosophy—that you take care of customers and your employees first, then from that growth the profits follow.

“We’re in the people business,” says Artim.

“And that’s really something that’s held true and become our mission statement—what we stay focused on as an organization and that has really driven our culture.”

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