Driving change

Car rental business Enterprise Holdings has transformed its employee experience in a sustainable Headquarters. Heather Greig-Smith tours the facility and talks to UK & Ireland HR director Leigh Lafever-Ayer about the company’s flexible principles.

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There is a gap in the ‘heritage wall’ display in the foyer of Enterprise House in Egham. The new European headquarters for the global car rental company is waiting for the final touch: a specially-commissioned model of the USS Enterprise, the war ship that founder Jack Taylor served on in the Second World War.

Taylor named his company after the ship and the model is one example of the Enterprise personality that is stamped on the building. In the canteen, communal tables encourage collaboration in front of a Route 66 mural. London scenes are painted on the walls in other areas of the building and work by local artists is proudly displayed.

The refurbishment is sustainable and designed with green aims, to the point of recycling old carpet tiles for horse bedding. However, UK and Ireland HR director Leigh Lafever-Ayer says the building also “allows us to be much more flexible in how and where we work”.

In addition to the canteen, each floor has a ‘hub space’ with drinks machine, fridge and seating. The bench tops have sockets and network ports for easy access to information and there are comfortable seating areas. “These were designed to pull everyone into a central space and allow the flow of ideas that naturally comes from people together.”

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The HQ currently houses 300 of the UK’s 3,400-plus employees, but this number is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, something the flexible office can accommodate.

“We have introduced a large number of new ‘hot desks’ so those normally working outside of the office environment can easily come in and work from the office at short notice,” says Lafever-Ayer. “We also have more meeting rooms equipped with new conferencing facilities to allow us to communicate more easily with those working elsewhere.”

Across the Enterprise business flexibility is valued and extends beyond parents and carers. All employees have had access to flexible working for the past 15 years, with some making alternative working arrangements for fitness or further study. The multi-generational workforce means this is used at different times of working life. “It’s not going to be for everyone, and people will go through different periods of their lives when it’s needed,” says Lafever-Ayer.

She says the flexible approach is important for the talent pipeline in a company that likes to promote internally. “We promote 99% from within and take people throughout their careers.”

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Support of flexibility is true across the business. There are now more than 100 home workers reporting to the Enterprise business support centre in Aldershot, a figure reached only two years after the initiative was launched. To begin with only three people were interested, but the take-up has grown dramatically since then. “You don’t have to have worked in the office first and can do shifts as short as two hours,” says Lafever-Ayer.

Likewise, the company’s 370 customer-facing UK branches are encouraged to use flexible working in ways that work for them, such as the different shift patterns adopted by 20% of the offices.

Although the Enterprise site has room to expand and develop a technology area in a second building, the business is currently using a local school’s computer facilities, making use of resources that would otherwise sit unused for some of the time. In the second building it has flexible meeting and events space to conduct in-house training and meetings. “In our previous location we were pushed for space and couldn’t have quality face-to-face meetings,” says Lafever-Ayer. “Here I can engage with 24 members of my team, which I haven’t been able to do for 18 months.”

She says that the new building also makes it easier to attract staff who want to take the train or walk as the previous site relied on shuttle transport from the station. When the company hosts meetings with international visitors, the upcoming development of hotels in Egham and the facilities in walking distance will also improve the face-to-face opportunities.

It is hard to believe that the light-filled central stairway in the Enterprise building was not there before the company refurbished – it is now the main thoroughfare and somewhere the team can mix together. The building is adaptable and packed with personality, ready to accommodate serious expansion.

This article first appeared in the June 2014 issue of Flexible Boss.

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