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Car dealers lead the way on Sunday Times 'Best 100 Companies To Work For' countdown


Two AM100 car dealers have come in first and second position in the Sunday Times Best 100 Companies To Work For survey. 

Inchcape UK came top (number eight 2015) and Sytner in second place in the ’25 best big companies’ category.

They beat household names such as Nationwide Building Society (in third place), American Express (5th), McDonald’s (8th) and Halfords (18th) in the category for firms with 3,000-plus employees. Inchcape is listed as having 5,417 staff and Sytner 6,355.

Dealer TrustFord is a new entry at number 23 in the 25 Best Big Companies list.

In the 100 Best Companies countdown itself, car finance provider MotoNovo is at number six, Zuto at 18. Dealer Citygate Automotive is at 36, Swansway Garages 39.

Toyota (GB) is at 54, Motorpoint 58 and JCT600 is at 84.

The results were announced yesterday.

Staff fill in the anonymous surveys from which the scores are compiled. A total of 241,361 people filled out questionnaires for this year’s lists, giving their opinions about their bosses, their working conditions and their employer’s values.

Dealer group citations

Inchcape UK

With its forecourts full of luxury cars, it’s easy to take a shine to work at Inchcape.

This international car dealer, based in Kidlington, Oxford, has hit the top spot in its fourth consecutive year on the list. It sells and services brands including Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Land Rover at more than 100 sites around the UK.

Founded 170 years ago as Mackinnon Mackenzie & Company, the FTSE-listed firm has operations in 25 other countries and UK revenues of £2.47bn in 2014.

The market is thriving, and so the 5,417 people at Inchcape UK. They praise a culture of excellent management (a 78% positive score, ranking first on our list), big benefits and a small-team feel at their own “retail centre”.

For customer loyalty manager Kelly Honour, this was a first role in reception that became a career. She says: “I love the job I’m doing, and in an ideal world I’d love to progress up the chain – it’s achievable.

“Everyone’s surprised by the benefits. With our “advantage scheme”, you can save money at shops, and my favourite is cinema tickets for a discount. The share scheme helps me save money; I’ve signed up to my pension and just taken up the healthcare cash plan.” Like her, staffers agree jobs are good for personal growth (80%, also first).

Technician Will Dix joined recently and particularly praises the training. “I’m on the workshop floor, but it’s a big company and I’m looking to move up,” he says.

“I’ve worked in the industry for 18 years and the electronics are a massive change: a lot of problems are diagnostics, instead of the old-fashioned listening to the car and driving it. The challenge is keeping up, and Inchcape has a lot of courses. It’s also one of the cleanest workshops I’ve seen.”

In one current incentive scheme, Dix is encouraged to fill an image of Inchcape lighthouse off the Scottish coast – inspiration for the company name – with hours worked. Staffers agree what’s expected is completely clear (83%, another top score).

David Boniface, general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Oxford, previously worked in the hospitality industry. “I’ve not looked back,” he says. “If you are passionate about products, people and customers, the job is very rewarding. It’s also a career for more diverse people, and the machismo has certainly gone. We aren’t knee-jerk about recruitment, but get the person who fits into the ethos of the team.”

Last year Louis Fallenstein became chief executive, and he’s been quick to impress. People say senior managers truly live organisational values (77%), including to “treat every pound as your own”.

Sales executive Rachael Mullard adds: “The charity work is lovely. Last year we did the Three Peaks Challenge. It’s a change, and nice to know you are doing something good. We were in a minibus for three days with the general manager, bundled up, freezing cold, aching and stinking, but we felt the love.”

An undeniable benefit of working for Inchcape is the cars. Internal communications manager Angie Lawrence-Scott says: “I have a Mercedes CLA: to be fair, that’s a wow moment. There are jobs where you get company cars, but to get a Mercedes is quite special.”

When Lawrence-Scott receives a new vehicle, the used one goes to a showroom or the firm’s fleet division, which hires and maintains cars for businesses and is based in Portsmouth. Only certain jobs come with a company car, but everyone can take advantage of promotional discounts on vehicles for themselves, family and friends.

Paul Moloney, site aftersales director, sums it up: “If you are passionate about cars, which a lot of people are, it’s a dream job.”

Male/female ratio 72:28

Average age 39

Voluntary leavers 25%

Earning £35,000+ 8%

Sytner Group

The prestige car retailer Sytner Group has its foot on the gas, holding on to the runner-up position in our 25 Best Big Companies To Work For list for the second year running. With dealerships across Britain and company headquarters in Leicester, the 6,355 employees are dotted across 86 sites in total but unified in their sense of belonging to the company. 
Staff give unbeaten positive scores for loving (76%) and feeling proud (85%) to work for Sytner, where jobs are an interesting (76%) and important (82%) part of their lives.
Arthur Daley types need not apply for a job at the group, which sells and maintains only the poshest brands. Bentley, Lamborghini and Ferrari line up alongside BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, among others, in Sytner showrooms.
Quality staff training backs up the luxury marques on the forecourt.  The company increased its learning and development budget to more than £6.7m last year and employs coaches who provide bespoke training that suits individuals, so careers can enter the fast lane or stay manageable in the middle.
Manufacturer-sponsored courses, elearning, job shadowing and development programmes are offered and staff say their training is personally beneficial (73%, ranking this measure second). They give the top score (97%) for feeling their contribution counts to Sytner’s success.
Founded in 1968 in Nottingham by the former British Touring Car champion Frank Sytner and his brother Alan, the company is now part of US-based Penske Automotive Group but still prides itself on a family feel.
New starters are sent “commitment cards” in the post outlining the company’s three core values – “delighting our customers”, “one team” and “best company to work for”– even before their first day. Once through the door they get a personal welcome from a senior director at induction presentations. The personal touch is appreciated and employees say senior managers are visible and approachable (81%, ranking second).

Male/female ratio 76:24

Average age 38

Voluntary leavers 16%

Earning £35,000+ 23%


Everyone is a designated driver at TrustFord when it comes to moving their careers forward. The company spent more than £1m on training last year and prospects for progress include an apprenticeship programme, automotive technician accreditation funded by the group, paid time off for study, job-shadowing and elearning.
New employees spend their first week at a residential induction academy, where they receive a detailed overview of the vehicle sales, repairs and servicing business, and a welcome message from Steve Hood, the chief executive. They leave with a personal plan detailing further training opportunities as well as an assigned buddy in the organisation to support them.  
Staff certainly aren’t bored with the work they do giving the Colchester-based firm (which rebranded two years ago from Ford Retail) a 70% positive score for this statement, a top-10 result. They also agree that their jobs are good for personal growth (71%).
All new managers attend a two-day residential induction programme before they start, too, and when the company realised that its leaders had to become more engaged with their teams all senior and line managers were put through an Art of Engagement workshop, which allowed them to review their strengths as well as the areas in which they could improve.
TrustFord bosses also receive honest and anonymous 360-degree feedback from employees on their performance across the company’s 81 sites. Staff say they are given the resources they need to do a good job (73%) and that those in charge talk to them openly and honestly (74%).
“Moments of truth” awards allow both customers and colleagues to nominate someone whom they believe has gone above and beyond expectations. Each month, these are reviewed and selected winners receive vouchers, certificates and badges. Once a year, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the outstanding winner of the year. 
A “good iDeas” scheme enables people to voice their thoughts, with viable suggestions being rewarded. As a result, staff feel they can make a valuable contribution to the success of the organisation (82%, just seven companies scored better).

Male/female ratio 76:24

Average age 40

Voluntary leavers 21%

Earning £35,000+ 8%

Citygate Automotive

Everyday is a school day for the workforce at Citygate Automotive. To ensure Ruislip-based car retailer stands out in a competitive market, it has set up its own academy of excellence. All 472 employees have the opportunity to gain new skills and qualifications to enable the company to grow.

Staff have welcomed the new institution and feel that a job at Citygate is good for their personal growth, giving a response of 82% positive for this question. They also believe the experience gained in their current roles will be valuable for the future (82%).

Prospects look equally bright for Citygate. The business, led by managing director Jonathan Smith, has 10 sites in Ruislip, Colindale, Watford and High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

It sells more than 10,000 new and used vehicles each year and provides aftersales care that include repairs, servicing and MoTs, generating a turnover of more than £160m.

Smith’s hands-on approach sees him visiting sites regularly and personally introducing new starters to the motor trade. His efforts have been rewarded with a workforce that has many managers who have progressed through the ranks, and people have faith in him (84%) and see him as an inspiration (80%).

Success at Citygate is celebrated via performance-related pay, and among the benefits is a car allowance.

Salespeople have the chance of winning an all-expenses paid trip abroad, with Miami, Hong Kong and Rome all on offer. This contributes to staff feeling cared-for as individuals (80%).

Male/female ratio 81:19

Average age 32

Voluntary leavers 23%

Earning £35,000+ 46%

Swansway Garages

Faced with an inventory of obsolete car spares, Michael Smyth and his sons David, Peter and John came up with an ingenious, and environmentally friendly, solution. They set up an online shop on eBay, a venture so successful they now shift redundant stock for others in the motor trade.
That entrepreneurial spirit was evident when Smyth Sr started repairing vehicles in a shed and went on to build Europe’s largest Toyota and Lexus distributor. That business was sold in 2000 and three years later Crewe-based Swansway was born. It has a chain of 19 dealerships, and two repair centres, for manufacturers including Audi, Volkswagen and Honda.
All 754 employees are made to feel part of the family, despite being spread across sites from Preston to Birmingham. Meetings are kept short and directors regularly host lunches with staff to answer questions about the business.
Staff members believe they can make a valuable contribution to the organisation’s  success (an 88% positive score, 14th among mid-size companies) and feel proud to work for it (84%).
Anyone can nominate a colleague for an “unsung hero” award. Winners, ranging from cleaners to social-media workers, receive a trophy and a £50 gift voucher. Such inclusivity helps explain the widespread confidence in the leadership skills of the senior management team (79%), who are said to truly live the company values, which include being caring, honest and proud (78%).
Salaries for sales executives average £45,000 a year. Individuals are happy with the remuneration they receive (66%) and feel they are paid fairly for the responsibilities they have (63%).

Male/female ratio 76:24

Average age 35

Voluntary leavers 23%

Earning £35,000+ 21%


The founder and chairman of JCT600, Jack Tordoff, started in 1946 with a single garage. Today the company is run by his son, John, and has 50 car dealerships across the north of England, with its head office in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
Good work is rewarded in a number of ways, including with concert tickets and a place at the annual top performers’ dinner. A rewards scheme lets employees nominate colleagues to win prizes, and the 2,122-strong workforce believe they can make a valuable contribution to the firm’s success (86% positive).
Last summer, several colleagues went out on the road to raise money for charity with the “tour de JCT600”, cycling to every company site and covering more than 600 miles. In total the firm raised £45,000 for good causes last year. The company sponsors 35 community initiatives, including children’s sports teams and a donkey sanctuary. Staff agree that charitable activities are encouraged (87%) and say the organisation is is run on strong values (80%).
Employees are encouraged to keep healthy, and they are offered stress-awareness training. Last year individuals took part in the Three Peaks Challenge, the Great North Run and the Great North Swim.  For the less ambitious there is the “ten at ten” club: accountants stop work for 10 minutes at 10am to exercise at their desks. People say their health is not suffering because of work (76%).

Male/female ratio 71:29

Average age 39

Voluntary leavers 15%

Earning £35,000+ 17%

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  • Anonymous - 06/03/2016 00:23

    The Sunday Times surveys are completed by paper and can be manipulated by HR and marketing departments. Honestly, if your company really is worth working for then you don't need an award to attract and retain talented individuals.