When employees join Enterprise Holdings, the parent company of rental agencies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Alamo, they’re encouraged to pursue opportunities for growth and advancement—though not necessarily up the traditional corporate ladder, but rather along a lattice that allows all employees to hone their skills.
Last year, about 20,000 employees made moves within the company, which also connects entry-level employees with management training to offer hands-on leadership experience.
That commitment to internal mobility has personal meaning to Shelley Roither, senior vice president of global HR, who joined the organization in 2002 as vice president, employment counsel and labor relations. She moved into HR leadership in 2017 and took on the CHRO role in 2020.
Offering that same level of opportunity to all 80,000 Enterprise employees is on par with the organization’s employee-first culture—which recently netted it a 2023 Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award, given to fewer than 60 companies around the globe.
Roither recently spoke with HRE about internal mobility, employee wellness and her own journey with Enterprise Holdings.
HRE: How did the pandemic impact Enterprise Holdings’ culture strategy?
Roither: Like most organizations, we were certainly impacted by the pandemic, but our cultural focus on providing employees an opportunity to maintain connections was never derailed. One of our core values is “teamwork rules,” and that fueled our ability to maintain strong retention and engagement scores. We recognized that we had to find other creative opportunities for employee connection.
HRE: How does the organization’s “promote-from-within” strategy show up in that culture?
Roither: Last year, nearly 20,000 employees were promoted or took on new challenges within the organization. Our employee engagement survey indicates that our employees are motivated and inspired by the opportunities available within the organization. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re experiencing all-time high retention across our global organization as well.
We focus on our employer brand [to communicate the promote-from-within culture], and the essence of that is called Driven from Within. We take that employer brand and permeate that throughout the entire candidate and employee lifecycle. For example, in our new-hire orientation for managers, we introduce them to other operational divisions and functions so they can see firsthand the opportunities available to them. Some organizations might have divisions that tend to hold onto talent, but at Enterprise Holdings it’s quite the opposite. Leaders want to see employees promoted. We don’t have a corporate ladder: We have a lattice where you can go up, down, sideways as you explore opportunities that are meaningful to you.
HRE: You have personally been with the company for more than 20 years. What has your own journey with Enterprise Holdings been like?
Roither: In some ways, I would say it’s non-traditional. Unlike many of my colleagues and most of senior leadership here, I didn’t start with the organization as a management trainee; I came in as an external hire in 2002 as a labor and employer lawyer. But in other respects, my journey has been traditional in that there are so many opportunities here at Enterprise Holdings to change careers without having to change jobs. I was able to stretch and move outside my comfort zone. When I’m asked for career advice, I say, “Get uncomfortable.” Because that means growing, stretching, learning—and that’s when the magic happens.
HRE: What was the transition like for you, moving from a legal-focused role to the CHRO position?
Roither: HR and lawyers, I think, are often viewed as barriers to operations—getting in the way, impeding progress. But early in my legal career, I was mentored to find a way to yes, to always look for creative solutions, to find different ways to accomplish my objectives. That’s what I carried over to HR in my mindset.
HRE: What is the biggest HR challenge facing Enterprise Holdings today? And on what fronts are you tackling it?
Roither: I think most companies in this moment might say talent attraction, retention, or even compensation is a big challenge today. But for us, we’re fortunate enough to have stayed ahead of those curves through being committed to finding creative solutions to source talent, focus on engagement as a driver of retention and staying on top of our compensation strategy. So, in the moment right now, we’re really focused on ensuring employee wellness—and not just traditional wellness but social wellness, financial wellness—those aspects of the whole self that sometimes get forgotten but that have certainly been impacted throughout the pandemic.
We’ve tackled that in a number of ways. First and foremost, we looked at enhancing our benefits offerings across the wellness space. We piloted a new training program through [new employee assistant program] myEHsupport, which is designed to equip managers with the tools they need to recognize and respond to employees who are experiencing struggles and to direct them to the help they need. During the pandemic and beyond, we’ve often communicated that it’s OK to not be OK; we want to combat those negative connotations sometimes associated with a need for help.
HRE: What factors in your life outside of work influence how you show up each day?
Roither: There are so many experiences throughout my life that affect how I show up, but my most significant influence was my mother and her background. She was the daughter of parents who fled China years ago and came here with nothing. They survived due to their resilience and work ethic. Those qualities—work ethic, resilience, academics, constantly pushing ahead and stretching—are qualities that were instilled in me from a very young age. And I see myself bringing those to work with me every day as part of my heritage and culture.