Millennial staff members at Midway Car Rental's West Los Angeles location. Photo by Chris Brown.
As a millennial, Jenn Romanowski brought her expertise in technology to the office when working at a Dollar franchise in New Jersey.
“Technology is very natural to us millennials since we grew up with it,” says Romanowski, who worked her way up to chief financial officer before switching careers.
Using her technology skills, Romanowski worked with Bluebird Auto Rental Systems to create paperless contracts. Implementing e-signature pads at the rental counter meant documents could be emailed to customers. “I was able to use technology to create a quicker and better process.”
At 25 years old, Cindy Alonso has worked her way up to director of hotel sales at Los Angeles-based Midway Car Rental. When she was 18, Alonso started at Midway working part-time in the reservations department. From there, she became a customer service representative and was promoted to an assistant branch manager within two years.
“Management is such a tough and thin line to tread, especially only being 25 and having the opportunity to manage other millennials,” says Alonso. “I’m lucky enough to be able to wear many hats within the company, and the best part is that I’m always encouraged to learn the next thing and to accomplish more.”
These are two examples of millennials who have worked their way up in the car rental industry. Read on for more experiences from other rental car professionals, as well as tips for working with other generations and how to encourage and motivate younger workers.
Ranging from ages 18 to 34, the millennial generation includes recent college graduates as well as experienced workers looking for a new field. Millennials can be described as enjoying competition, asking questions, seeking out new challenges and being tech savvy.
Once you have hired millennials, how do you motivate them on a regular basis?
“Previous generations were motivated by status and a defined movement from point A to point B and what it takes to get there,” says Tyler Koch, director of human resources at Dale Holdings Inc., the parent company of Bay Area Auto and Truck Rental. “The millennial generation is more motivated by what challenges and variability you can introduce into their daily activities. The worst thing you can do to a millennial is give them a routine; it will disengage them faster than anything else.”
“A millennial employee isn’t intimidated by change; they embrace it,” adds Koch.
Tom Sammut enjoys the challenge of new tasks. As a millennial, he knows that the millennial generation can become bored easily if given the same duties day after day.
“I believe allowing a millennial the opportunity to learn a new task, work with a new person or change daily duties can provide healthy mental stimulus,” says Sammut, assistant fleet location manager at Bandago Van Rental’s Los Angeles location.
Elizabeth Alonso, a regional manager at Midway Car Rental, motivates her millennial employees with weekly competitions and provides consistent feedback. She was the winner of Auto Rental News' 2012 Professional of the Year Award. Photo by Chris Brown.
For Romanowski, incentives such as monthly performance rewards provide peer motivation. A performance reward could be as simple as a gift card from Amazon. “Recognition for your hard work helps improve motivation,” she says.
To motivate her millennial employees, Elizabeth Alonso, regional manager at Midway Car Rental, questions them and challenges them with goals. “Millennials like to compete to be number one,” says Alonso, a millennial herself. “We have weekly competitions based on performance between several of the offices.”
Last month, Midway had a challenge between offices to see who could get the most upsells during the month. Mustafa Nessari, a millennial assistant manager at Midway, challenged his team to see who could reach an ancillary sales objective on a random day. He took the best performing employee out to lunch.
Once employees are challenged to a competition, the reward needs to be something they like. Elizabeth Alonso listens to her employees’ requests for prizes. Rewards have included happy hour events and renting out a suite at a local sporting event. “It won’t be motivating if millennials don’t like the prize.”
Providing feedback — both positive and corrective — is another way to facilitate motivation among millennials. From Elizabeth Alonso’s experience, millennials improve their performance if acknowledged for what they do.
“Consistent feedback is essential to improving any aspect of an employee,” says Nessari. “I think without positive feedback and constructive criticism, no one would operate at their full potential.”
Elizabeth Alonso also emphasizes the importance of listening to millennials. As a manager, ask how you can help them.
“When millennials approach leadership with an idea, suggestion or question, sometimes all they’re looking for is a sign that their thoughts are valued,” says Koch. “This comes from active listening.”
When asked if they feel respected as younger-aged workers, a majority of the millennials answered positively when talking about their rental company.
“I feel respected as a younger-aged worker and Bandago’s ethics and management is a big part of that,” says Sammut. “I am lucky to have surrounded myself with creative, dedicated individuals that make it easy to feel respected.”
“I definitely feel respected and given the praise deserved, despite my young age,” says Rocio Prieto, an assistant branch manager at Midway Car Rental.
When asked about feeling respected outside of the office, some of the millennials have faced instances of disrespect when dealing with customers.
“I personally dealt with a customer who thought he was entitled to whatever he said based on the fact that I was younger,” says Nessari. “In his mind, I didn’t have the credibility that he had.”
“When I had to go out and do direct sales and collection work, some of the clients weren’t respectful,” says Romanowski. “I had to start speaking to get their respect; the person had to know that I was knowledgeable about the subject.”
Tyler Koch, director of human resources at Dale Holdings Inc., parent company of Bay Area Auto and Truck Rental (right), poses with two other millennial staff members: Megan Burls, business process specialist (center), and Marcus Lindsey, commercial business development manager (left).
To Romanowski, offering continued education is a great way for workers of different ages to relate to the same goal.
“Employers can offer continued education whether it’s seminars or team-building exercises,” says Romanowski. “I think of the Car Rental Show. It’s an opportunity for all car rental workers to share their experiences. You have people of all different ages all related to the same interest or goal.”
Engaging with millennials on a consistent basis can help managers better relate to this younger generation.
“I think upper management can relate to younger workers just by talking to them,” says Erin Iwahashi, a millennial who works in Midway Car Rental’s hotel sales department. “Managers should take the initiative and talk to millennials and make them feel more comfortable.”
Management can also better relate to millennials by finding common ground. This can help build trust and respect.
“I think working side by side with people of a different generation and demonstrating knowledge and command of the business helps develop respect,” says Sammut. “Management should take the time to listen and utilize millennials’ wisdom and expertise; it will help build a millennial’s trust and willingness to be a productive employee.”
How can a rental car business attract the growing millennial customer base?
For Silvercar, its visually pleasing website and app serve as its first impression to potential millennial renters, according to Nick Myers, Silvercar’s local marketing and social media manager. Using Silvercar’s mobile app on Apple or Android devices, users can reserve and unlock the Audi A4 rental vehicles.
To keep a millennial’s attention, it’s important to use more imagery than text when showing how the rental process works, says Myers. He describes Silvercar’s business model as easy to use, straightforward and fun.
Photo courtesy of Silvercar.
Silvercar tries to be more creative in its marketing. For instance, Silvercar has created social media marketing campaigns. Last year, its “Kiss and Tell” campaign encouraged users to write about their worst rental car experiences on Silvercar’s Facebook page. Each week in February, up to 20 of the stories earned a chance to win one free Silvercar rental day.
Through digital channels, Silvercar can direct its advertising toward a particular group, according to Myers. For example, Facebook allows companies the ability to select age groups, gender, interests and purchase habits.
“Access to this demographic and psychographic information makes it easy to target exactly who is important to us, and millennial users tend to respond very well to this targeted advertising,” says Myers.
Another method to target millennials? Provide an efficient process. “They appreciate our streamlined app and the fact that you don’t have to deal with counters, paperwork or lines when renting with Silvercar,” adds Myers.