We pride ourselves on having a high-quality, driven, conscientious and loyal workforce. We expect our staff to outperform consistently and in return, we invest heavily in their training and development as well as aiming to offer them superior reward and benefits.
Our employees are a key component of our competitive advantage because of the high quality service they provide to our customers. Both Sunbelt and A-Plant have extensive programmes in place to ensure high standards of recruitment, training, levels of customer service and the appraisal, review and reward of our employees.
We use a wide variety of means to recruit the right people including local community agencies and contacts, minority and women's organisations, colleges and job fairs. We also aim to provide local jobs for local people. Employing the right people is nowhere more important than at trainee level. For example, A-Plant’s apprenticeship programme continues to win awards for being one of the most successful and highly valued schemes in the equipment rental industry. We took on 77 trainees last year and we plan to raise the number of apprentices recruited, as well as setting up an apprenticeships academy. Our apprentice programmes take between one and three years to complete and usually include outside training and a formal NVQ qualification, in addition to on-the-job training. We profile a graduate from our apprenticeship scheme on the right.
In Sunbelt, one of our most successful initiatives has been our work with the US military providing opportunities for quality veteran recruits looking to apply some of the skills they have learnt to a civilian career. They bring leadership and people skills and an ability to work under pressure - skills that are only gained through experience. Sunbelt has a long history of being a ‘top-50’ military-friendly employer, but we are no longer satisfied to be one in a pack. By launching a series of high profile campaigns supporting our veterans, while still upholding our tradition of attending military job fairs, we intend to be a true leader in veteran employment. These campaigns include acknowledging veterans in our current workforce, as well as expanding our work with the Gary Sinise Foundation and participating in media events, such as ‘Military Makeover’. With these combined efforts, Sunbelt is determined to be the employer of choice for military veterans.
In the UK, we work in partnership with British Forces Resettlement Services (‘BFRS’) - a social enterprise created to help the armed forces community with their transition into civilian life. BFRS works with service leavers to provide them with the skills and opportunities they need to successfully resettle after leaving the armed forces.
Career development and training
Training and development continues throughout the careers of our employees. Their welfare and job satisfaction is enormously important to us and our career development programmes are designed to enable staff to progress as far as they are able and willing. Particular emphasis is placed on the responsibilities of our store managers and workshop foremen to facilitate on-the- job training. Significant numbers of our employees remain with us for most of their careers, something which is increasingly uncommon. Several of our most senior staff started out at entry level within our stores and their continuity of employment is testament to our focus on employee development. You can find out more about training initiatives in our annual report.
Jumpstart Sales programme
Jumpstart Sales is a 36-week programme through which targeted sales trainees learn all aspects of the business through education, job shadowing, mentoring, and 1-1 coaching by team members at any store. Participants engage with one another through online communities in the learning management system, responding weekly to assigned courses, readings and discussion topics. So far we have had two cohorts graduate with 100% retention in sales-focused roles. The third cohort began its experience in October 2018 and the fourth in February 2019. Through the four cohorts, trainees have been placed in all territories across North America.
Reward and benefits
We motivate and reward our people through a combination of competitive fixed pay and attractive incentive programmes. We believe in treating our staff well and rewarding them for the effort they put in on our behalf. We use a combination of competitive fixed pay and attractive incentive programmes to reward and motivate staff and these drive our profits and return on investment. All eligible A-Plant employees are paid the Living Wage (as recommended by The Living Wage Foundation) and A-Plant is an accredited Living Wage Employer. Sunbelt has adopted a Leading Wage to ensure all employees are paid an hourly rate in excess of the state and federal recommended rates.
Our sales force is also incentivised through commission plans which are based on sales volume and a broad measure of return on investment determined by reference to equipment type and discount level. We maintain flexibility in these incentive plans to reflect changes in the economic environment. We believe this was an important element in retaining the confidence of our workforce through the recession.
In addition to their core benefits, including pension and life insurance arrangements, we have an employee assistance helpline which offers free confidential support and advice to those in need.
Diversity and equal opportunities
At Ashtead we work hard to ensure equal opportunities for all our staff, as well as prioritising employment diversity. We recruit predominantly from the areas immediately around our facilities thereby providing opportunities for local people. We make every reasonable effort to give disabled applicants and existing employees becoming disabled, opportunities for work, training and career development in keeping with their aptitudes and abilities. We do not discriminate against any individual on the basis of a protected status, such as sex, colour, race, religion, native origin or age.
In the US we are required by law to monitor ethnicity in our workforce every year and we maintain a diverse workforce. We also gather ethnicity data as part of the recruitment process in the UK and through an Equality and Inclusion Survey, to monitor our diversity. Increasingly many local authority and public sector tenders request this kind of information. We are committed to providing opportunities for people from all ethnic groups and in both geographies we have good representation from ethnic minorities across the organisation.
We aim to attract a broad and diverse mix of candidates and employees to our businesses at all levels. Nevertheless, our workforce reflects the nature of our business, the industry we operate in, and the markets we serve, with women making up 10% of our workforce. A significant proportion of our workforce are mechanics, drivers and, in the UK, traffic management operatives, and these roles are predominantly held by men. However, we also have areas of our business which attract more women, such as professional functions, sales and customer service. As a result our industry has traditionally had many more men than women; however, we do have women at all levels within the business including on the Board, within the senior management teams and as store managers, sales executives and apprentices. While we prioritise recruiting the best people for every role, we are working to make it easier for more women to join the organisation, particularly as we grow.
Inspiring young women to consider construction as a careers
A-Plant is heavily involved in supplying equipment for the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon Improvement Scheme – currently the UK’s biggest road construction project.
On the A14 site we have an on-site hire facility offering A-Plant equipment across multiple divisions. As part of overall efforts to encourage more girls into construction, we participated in a Women in Engineering event as part of International Women in Engineering Day. A total of 260 girls from 25 schools and colleges in the East Anglian region interacted with supply chain partners involved in the A14 project to celebrate the achievements of women in engineering and to encourage young women to enter the industry.
Debbie Swales is the contact centre manager for the A-Plant Accommodation division.
She joined through acquisition seven years ago and now manages 18 accounts at the centre compared to one account when she joined. She says customers benefit from only having one point of contact for the whole accommodation hiring process, as her 15-strong team coordinates with other depots to meet all customers’ requirements. They also process off-hires, liaise with project managers, process breakdowns, deal with damage and loss, and ensure compliance checks for rehire contracts.
“It’s great to see how much the contact centre and our team have grown in a relatively short space of time. From day one I’ve been impressed with all the personal touches at A-Plant and how everyone makes time for you. It also struck me how many employees have been with A-Plant for 25, 30, 35 years…even more.”
From day one I’ve been impressed with all the personal touches at A-Plant...
Sam was recruited as a customer service apprentice at Opti-cal, which offers specialist survey equipment, but was soon identified as a star apprentice.
He is now a hire controller and the main point of contact for customers, providing technical advice and instruction, having quickly picked up the necessary product knowledge. Sam goes above and beyond on a daily basis and this is one of the reasons he was awarded ‘Apprentice of the Year – Specialist Light’ at A-Plant’s Apprentice Awards in November 2018. Sam has the ability and enthusiasm to go far, and is both a role model for others, and a shining example of what our apprentice programme enables.
Ciara is an administrator at Sunbelt and a member of the training department where we help create the training for all employees.
She is also on active duty with the Army National Guard. This is a part-time position with the military where she supports state emergencies such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or other natural disasters. Ciara is the supply sergeant responsible for providing all the equipment and materials needed to get projects done. She orders the materials the Army needs, the food they are going to eat, the clothing they might need. It’s her job to make sure everything is ready to complete the mission. Ciara was inspired to join the military when she was 17.
"I was actually in high school Army, and enjoyed learning how it works and the culture of the military. I realised, as I got older, I wanted to be a part of it and joined the North Carolina Army National Guard."
I was actually in high school Army, and enjoyed learning how it
Eddie works as an outside sales representative for Sunbelt and has been with the business since 2015.
He started out in the industry at Value Rentals where he was a small engine mechanic, a driver and yard technician, then doing inside sales and eventually outside sales in 2002. Eddie came to the US with his brother as a refugee from Vietnam in 1984 when he was just 15. Sponsored by an American couple, he graduated college in 1988. Wanting to give back to the country that had given him a home, he joined the US Navy working as an electrician and completing two tours of the Persian Gulf. Eddie values how family-oriented Sunbelt is and the quality of leadership which makes him confident to go out, sell and do his job.
"My travel and experiences make me so appreciative of what I have. I live in a country where the opportunities are endless. The more I put in, the more I get out. I have an amazing career."
The more I put in, the more I get out. I have an amazing career.