In 2013 TrustFord was facing a puzzle. While we were able to attract great people to the business our retention rate was low. An increasing number of new employees were leaving within six months of joining. It was affecting business continuity, raising recruitment costs, and affecting our colleagues. Just four years on and we’ve been named 22nd in the Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work For list.
We invested time and energy into developing a genuine strategy, evolving our culture and creating a dedicated long-term recruitment and retention solution.
TrustFord is the UK's largest dedicated Ford dealer group, operating 60 sites across the UK and Channel Islands. With a 29-strong HR team, we identified an opportunity to implement a consistent plan that drives growth, diversity and inclusivity.
We went back to our exit interview data. It revealed that new colleague inductions were often fragmented and inconsistent and sales executives and service advisors were taking a long time to settle in.
Purpose, principles and ambition
We went back to basics and focused on aligning our core values – what we call our purpose, principles and ambition. We set about revolutionising the way we recruited colleagues. We knew that many talented individuals were often overlooked in the traditional automotive industry recruitment process, as many employers insist on automotive experience.
We now recruit sales executives and service advisors on behaviours, rather than experience. Candidates are evaluated through our online application system and then through our assessment centre to ensure they have the right behaviours to thrive in TrustFord. This has helped us to attract new talent and engage with candidates properly.
Recently we received feedback from a 51-year-old female recent recruit, thanking us for giving her a chance to get into the industry. She had tried multiple dealer groups without success, before applying to TrustFord and is now loving and doing really well in her role.
Our recruitment process supports diversity, removing all names and ages from the application form. Instead, we use a recruitment assessment tool and assessment centre to screen candidates.
An induction academy
When colleagues accept a role with us we want to ensure they feel fully part of our family, so we launched the TrustFord Induction Academy. Held fortnightly, it is a full immersion residential onboarding academy where all new colleagues receive comprehensive education on the business and its culture.
Depending on the role, attendees stay at the academy for between two and eight days. We supply Ford cars for everyone attending, giving them the Ford experience from their first day. Having this time set aside from the start means that each new colleague begins with a deep understanding of what we are all about.
Our Induction Academy has revolutionised our HR processes. New colleagues were previously dependent on a network of dealership secretaries to register them onto payroll, order uniforms and equipment, etc. This is now all handled centrally, ensuring the transition into their new role is as smooth as possible.
Keeping colleagues informed
While important, it's not just about learning and development. We strongly believe in keeping colleagues well informed and engaged with an open dialogue. As part of our strategy we completely overhauled our internal communications and have an interactive employee app called Connect.
Launched in 2015 and recognising that not every colleague has access to a computer at work, Connect supports Android and iOS for easy access on the go. It enables colleagues to book holidays, nominate others for awards, check company dates, find out contact details, see the latest TrustFord news and press coverage, as well as read background history.
One of the great successes of our strategy has been its impact on reducing turnover, increasing retention and lowering recruitment costs.
Sharon Ashcroft is HR director at TrustFord