Motivation in action an enterprise rent



Motivation is a driving force within an individual to do something well. Motivation is particular to an individual so it is important to find out what factors drive each person. Some employees may be motivated by working in a team whereas others could be driven by a desire to make a difference.

This case study looks at ways in which Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Enterprise) managers find out about what motivates their staff.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car provides a car rental service for customers. It was founded by Jack Taylor in 1957 in the basement of a car dealership in St Louis in the USA. Today the company has over 750,000 rental cars in service globally. Its international operations focus on providing a reliable and convenient service at a good price that is memorable to customers so that they return.

Customer service involves all those activities designed to identify and satisfy customer needs. The company uses a simple customer satisfaction survey - the Enterprise Service Quality index (ESQi) - to find out how satisfied its customers are. It is based on two simple questions:

  • Were you completely satisfied with your rental experience at Enterprise?
  • Given the opportunity to return to Enterprise, would you?

Enterprise knows that to perform well on the ESQi it needs to have motivated employees. The company prides itself on providing superb customer service. Only highly motivated staff will provide this quality of service. Employees deal with customers face-to-face and by phone, email and online.

The culture at Enterprise supports customer service which excels and differentiates the business from that of its competitors. The term culture refers to typical ways of behaving in an organisation.  Enterprise is a big company that has the approach and feel of a small business. Each employee has an important role to play.  To understand how Enterprise continues to meet its financial and strategic objectives, it is necessary to understand the culture. 

The culture is based on having motivated people working every day to deliver the best service for customers. Customer satisfaction drives the growth of the business because this results in repeat custom, recommendations to other people and an enhanced reputation.

What is motivation?

The term 'motivation' can be used to describe anything which causes people to accomplish more than they would otherwise achieve.

Motivational theorist Frederick Taylor believed that workers needed close supervision and were only motivated by money. However, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car has identified a number of factors which are non-financial and which provide high levels of motivation for its employees.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

These 8 factors fit closely with the theory of human resource development. For example,

Abraham Maslow identified a hierarchy of needs that people want to fulfil through their work. At the lowest levels they require good pay so their basic needs for food, clothing and other essentials are met. However, in addition employees' needs include:

  • safety - a need to feel secure, e.g. through job security or personal protective equipment
  • social - a need for affection, e.g. friendly work places based on trust, support and encouragement
  • self-esteem - a need for self-respect and the respect of others, e.g. recognition and promotion
  • self-actualisation - the opportunity for personal fulfilment, e.g. learning new skills and working towards personal goals.

John Stacy Adams- Equity Theory

In comparison, another researcher, John Stacey Adams, set out his Equity Theory. This states that employees will balance the effort they put into work (input) with the rewards they get from it (output). They then compare their own input-to-output ratio to what they perceive others' to be. Adams' theory suggests that employees will be motivated if they feel that they are being treated fairly in the workplace compared to their colleagues.

As part of its motivation programme, Enterprise managers are expected to ensure that employees are engaged and motivated by:

  • developing good relationships with their staff
  • providing the right materials, equipment and information
  • encouraging employees to identify personal development targets
  • recognising and rewarding good performance.

Enterprise also recognises that motivated employees benefit the company by:

  • working with passion
  • coming up with new innovative ideas
  • moving the company forward.

Culture and motivation

At Enterprise the emphasis is on creating a positive work environment. Managers and team leaders provide a culture through:

  • Good relationships - managers take care of their employees. They find out about the expectations of their employees. They give clear directions and the team has fun together.
  • Clear communications - clear goals and expectations are set and plans are shared. Reasons for doing things are clearly explained so employees can see how they fit into the big picture.
  • Adequate resources - managers make sure that materials, equipment and information are provided and fit for purpose.
  • Encouragement employees are praised for getting things right. Frustrations and problems are acknowledged. The focus is on working towards goals.
  • Recognition effort and good performance are rewarded. By establishing best practice, it is possible for Enterprise to measure branch culture against the benchmarks or standards it has set.

Developing a motivating culture takes time and effort. Enterprise managers and team leaders are given in-depth training. This allows them to develop a strategic, long-term approach to building a culture of customer care through motivated people.

Everyone at Enterprise takes part in Motivation Training. This gives employees an understanding of motivation principles and techniques, so everyone buys into business goals. This helps to raise standards of performance across the business.

Team leaders need to understand the needs of the people they manage to ensure they apply the right motivating factors for individuals. During training, managers learn to assess the motivation culture of their branch. For example, a branch with highly motivated employees may demonstrate this by:

  • answering the phone before the working day starts
  • working together as a team
  • regularly attending social work functions together
  • arriving early every day
  • organising and preparing the office at the end of the day.

Employees are aware of the benefits of high levels of performance, such as recognition and promotion, but also the consequences of poor performance.

Motivating people in the workplace

Frederick Herzberg

Frederick Herzberg showed that real motivation comes from within. Factors like good pay and working conditions (his 'hygiene factors') stop employees from being dissatisfied. However it is the opportunity to set personal targets and to develop oneself that are the true motivators.

Within Enterprise, a number of de-motivating factors have been identified. These include:

  • a lack of organisation or structure
  • a lack of feedback
  • a lack of understanding why a task is important
  • a lack of consequences for poor performance.

Managers are therefore trained to identify and work to reduce these within their branches. This may be by effective communication, training or clear guidance on job standards.

Recognition, one of Herzberg's motivators, is important for employees to feel they are valued. To address this, Enterprise has introduced a system called 'The Vote'. This aims to support and encourage the development of exceptional customer service.

It works on the basis of co-workers providing assessment on themselves and each other. All employees in rental branches rank everyone in their team, including themselves, in terms of their customer service efforts. They provide a constructive explanation of the rankings given. These are then fed back to all employees.

The names of the best performer and most improved employee are communicated to all employees in the region. This is a way of recognising those employees who are delivering exceptional service and identifying those who may need additional motivation.

'The Vote' helps to achieve high ESQi scores because:

  • everyone is involved in suggesting improvements to others
  • only constructive feedback is allowed
  • progress reports are issued regularly to remind fellow employees on how to improve.
  • improvement is valued as much as overall performance.

This is illustrated in the table, in which 1 represents highest ranking. Ali did best overall because he received the most first place votes from fellow workers. However, Chung is the most improved winner because he received more 'most improved' votes (shown by an asterisk*).

The training that managers receive also enables them to consider how they can motivate employees in non-management roles. It provides a checklist of actions that managers may take with employees. This may be by something as simple as saying 'thank you' in public or formally publicising exceptional effort resulting in a satisfied customer.

Managers in Enterprise motivate their employees through informal competitions, giving opportunities to take the lead on projects or providing training to learn new skills.

Overcoming barriers

A motivated workforce does not just happen. People need to be encouraged. This requires skilful management and managers trained in motivation. Systems also need to be created which encourage employees to be more engaged with their jobs.

The table shows how Enterprise highlights the differences between engaged employees and those who are not motivated.

Enterprise managers look for employees showing signs of disengagement so they can take immediate action. For example, they may remind employees why they are valuable. They may also ask questions like:

  • How does your task and position fit your goals?
  • What could we do better?

By actively listening to the employee's ideas, they may be able to make changes that will motivate the employee.

Enterprise encourages managers to motivate their teams throughout the working day. This involves:

  • making sure the team understands the objectives and targets for the day (taking into account any constraints such as short staffing)
  • monitoring progress at mid-day and giving constructive feedback on how to make the rest of the day run smoothly
  • thanking and acknowledging each person”s achievement for that day and creating enthusiasm for the next day's work.


Enterprise managers recognise that motivation is personal to the individual. If employees feel that they are being treated fairly, they will be more likely to give their best. Motivation comes from within an individual. Enterprise managers therefore need to find out about the personal goals and aspirations of their employees. What motivates one employee will not necessarily motivate another.

In addition to ensuring fair pay and conditions, it is also essential for the business to meet the higher order needs of individual employees. These include the need for recognition and fulfillment at work.

Enterprise has created the right environment for motivating and engaging its people through the development of good communication channels, appropriate training and honest and timely feedback.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car | Motivation in action