A Perfect Balance
Few organisations have achieved the level of equality between the sexes that Avis prides itself on. Yet, in ensuring that all Brand Ambassadors, as Avis employees are known, have access to the same opportunities and the same incentives, Avis has not made the mistake of trying to erase the essential differences between them that in effect create the strengths of a company when properly harnessed. “In training and grooming people for promotion and more challenging positions, we do not try to inculcate in women the leadership characteristics that are more commonly associated with men,” Wayne explains. “For instance, a greater aggressiveness or a more decisive approach to decision making. Women tend to be excellent mediators and facilitators, and those are qualities that are equally important in managing a business and decision making.
“What we do is identify strengths, recognise skills and talents, and focus on bringing those to their full potential, while working to eliminate any weaknesses. This creates fully rounded personalities who operate with a self-confidence that significantly enhances performance and productivity.” Avis also ensures that women are in no way disadvantaged for being mothers who have responsibilities to family that can often clash with their duties in the office. Jessica Branco, Divisional Learning and Development Manager, has been with Avis for 24 years and claims that while she is able to continue adding value she wouldn’t dream of moving to another company. “During my career at Avis, I have had the most amazing opportunities,” she points out. “I have moved from one position to another, each one more challenging, and must have held at least seven different positions. Avis has not only recognised my abilities in terms of work, but has appreciated the fact that I’m also a mother. In fact, the company uses this nurturing quality in women to promote its own values of empathy, honesty and humanity.”
Instilling the Culture
Jessica believes that the company is able to attract and retain top performers who are truly committed because of its genuine focus on, and care for, its people. “When management says, ‘People are more important than cars,’ it means it,” she stresses. “It applies first and foremost to our own Brand Ambassadors, and that is one of the first things we learn on the Brand Ambassador Programme.” This programme introduces the new Avis employee to the Avis DNA. “When you have completed the programme, you come out dipped in red,” she continues. “You are filled with pride by those values and the vision that make Avis tick, and you are saturated with the passion and energy that characterise the organisation.” Human Resources Executive, Doreen Lupton, agrees: “Avis is an organisation that cares for and nurtures its people, and those people are much more than just colleagues to each other. They are family.”
There is definitely something about the Avis culture that binds colleagues, as Jessecca Perumal, General Manager: Marketing, attests. “It’s the people who make the difference. The ‘We try harder’ spirit permeates the entire organisation, and, when you associate yourself with individuals who are so skilled and committed, it is difficult not to feel a bond with a company. Avis also has a strong culture of being accessible to staff, and I love the fact that our executive team is so approachable and always willing to share its knowledge.” None of these women is a novice in business. Doreen has over 24 year’s expertise in business and human resources and has worked for listed companies and multinationals, so she knows what she is talking about when she talks about ‘leadership in action’. “At the recent Awards Function, I was greatly impressed when I saw how our business results and our vision for 2012 were shared with all staff in a manner that was inspirational and understandable. I was impressed with how earnestly our people were recognised by the top leadership for sterling performance and value contributed.”
Market Leaders in Every Respect
Jessecca also has a wealth of business experience under her belt, having pursued a career in blue-chip multinationals straight out of university. Having led numerous other brands to leading positions in the market, she has an intimate knowledge of what makes a market leader, and it doesn’t apply just to the business itself.
“The emphasis on people, and on training and developing them, has created a culture of excellence that applies to everything we do,” she points out. “It encourages innovation and initiative, and, as a woman, you know that your ambition will not be limited by preconceived ideas about your abilities or by the glass ceiling. You are valued as an individual and your contribution is prized.”
One of the reasons that Avis has forged into a leadership position in the market is the millions of rand it invests in training. And it is made clear that all opportunities are available to all Avis Brand Ambassadors, regardless of gender or background, as comments from many women within the organisation prove:
- “Women are valued as employees and are encouraged to grow themselves professionally and personally.”
- “Women are exposed to various aspects of the business for a holistic understanding of the company.”
- “We are encouraged to go on leadership development programmes.”
- “Development opportunities for women abound.”
No wonder then that Avis attracts and retains a remarkable calibre of employee whose drive, passion and commitment have collectively catapulted the company into its pre-eminence in the market.
Woman of the Year
The special place occupied by women is recognised by Avis’s Regional Woman of the Year and National Woman of the Year awards. These prestigious awards acknowledge not only the ‘hard’ characteristics such as leadership and business acumen, but also the more typically female qualities of motherhood and nurturing.
Women have a great role to play in Avis, the women all concur. “The company is growing, and we are growing with it. Our company has so many opportunities for young, intelligent professionals and is very quick to reward and recognise our abilities.” Powered by such passion, there is little doubt that Avis will continue on its path, onwards and upwards.
Equal but Different
Avis Rent a Car has long been harnessing the special characteristics unique to women in furthering its business strategy and providing a brand of customer service that is becoming legendary.
“Women have an inherent empathy that puts them in a position to engage very effectively with customers,” says Chief Executive, Wayne Duvenage. “However, while we recognise and treasure these invaluable traits, we certainly do not consider them the only distinguishing features to be developed.”
What Glass Ceiling?
His statement is backed by the fact that almost half the managerial positions in the company are held by women. What’s more, those positions are not limited to the ‘soft’ areas of operation traditionally occupied by the gentler sex, such as public relations, but include sectors such as operations, sustainability, marketing, sales and regional manager positions. In fact, two of the five operations regional managers are women. “This is not a simple task,” Wayne points out. “It entails handling work that has traditionally been considered the preserve of men: driving the workshops for servicing and maintaining cars, and managing drivers, mechanics and despatch.” Women manage three of Avis’s regions and, for two consecutive years, the Region of the Year Award has been granted to regions managed by women.