Q&A: Cox Automotive’s Alison Fisher

Alison Fisher profile

In this article: Cox Automotive’s Chief People Officer, Alison Fisher talks training, apprenticeships and what’s keeping the business busy over the next six months

Where are the core apprenticeship training schemes in the business?

Most of our apprentices are in customer service, business administration, first line management and senior management. We also run some specialist apprenticeships in some of our departments, particularly our technology team, and our vehicle reconditioning business.

How important is the apprenticeship programme to the company?

We regularly talk about the benefits of an apprenticeship and share success stories from other team members that have developed their career by completing the programme.
In this way, we’ve helped more than 65 team members in the last year develop new skills through the apprenticeship programme.

We also advertise some apprentice positions externally in order to attract new team members who are keen to learn. With these, we aim to bring apprentices into an experienced, high performing team so that they can learn from the best and develop the skills they need to succeed in their chosen career.

What impact do you expect the switch to plug-in electric vehicles to have on your business and the training you provide?

The key impact will be on our vehicle inspectors. We have our own academy that every inspector must pass. This training ensures that all our Inspectors are IMI accredited and NAMA approved so our inspection reports are consistent and accurate. Inspectors regularly take part in refresher training to make sure they are fully equipped to inspect new vehicle types as they enter the market.

How do you source talent within your organisation?

We work hard to ensure our employees can apply for vacancies that interest them and advertise all our roles to existing team members. Everyone has the opportunity to have a career and development conversation and we have comprehensive development frameworks in place, so our team members are in the best position to apply for vacancies as and when they arise.

When it comes to external recruitment, we use a variety of strategies depending on the role. All vacancies are advertised on our dedicated career website, and we have a preferred supplier list of key recruitment agencies to support us where needed.

What’s your strategies to improve employee engagement?

This is a real focus for us, in fact we base our entire strategy around a mantra of people, customer and performance. If we can make sure our people are engaged, they’ll look after our customers, and that will improve our performance, so people always come first in our planning.

We start by listening. We hold regular employee opinion surveys and get really good engagement levels of between 75% and 85%. Martin Forbes, our CEO, and I also challenge ourselves to visit every single location on a ‘roadshow’ each year. We spend a couple of hours talking informally to as many team members as possible, finding out what’s working for them, and what we need to improve.

Based on this feedback we create a people action plan for the company and ask our managers to make local action plans based on their own specific feedback.

Over recent months we’ve acted on a huge range of team member feedback, from decorating offices to offering more full-time contracts. Obviously, we can’t snap our fingers and fix everything, but we make sure we take the feedback seriously, and give a fully considered response.

What’s the business’s employee development focus for the next six months?

To bring out the best in everyone by creating an environment that supports and enables our team members to bring their true selves to work. We’ll do this through three key initiatives:

  1. Focus on whole person wellbeing, including financial, physical, mental, social, career and community initiatives and programmes.
  2. Drive a high-performance culture by identifying and coaching authentic leaders who will empower our people to deliver our long-term strategy.
  3. Design a new appreciation and recognition programme that makes sure we reward our people effectively.

In all these initiatives we’ll aim to create optimal team member experiences that generate a sense of belonging and put our people and their individual life stages first, accelerating our inclusion and diversity plans.