Interview with Donna Miller, European HR director at Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Donna Miller, European HR director at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, attributes her success to hard work, luck and having a comprehensive knowledge of the profession.

Despite falling into HR “by complete accident”, Donna Miller cannot imagine being involved in any other career. As Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s European HR director, Miller has seen her role evolve greatly since taking it on in 2002. She believes HR has the ability to drive a company forward like never before, and that knowledge of the day-to-day business is vital, whether it is knowing what the profit and loss account looks like or recruiting the right staff.

“HR has evolved with the times. From an engagement and employee development standpoint, we are in a different place from 10 or even five years ago,” she says.

Before joining the American-owned car hire firm, Miller worked as a recruitment consultant in the US. After becoming disillusioned with placing people at companies including Enterprise and seeing them progress in their careers while hers remained static, she decided to join the firm as a trainee manager.

After a matter of months, a colleague put Miller forward for an internal vacancy and, despite being the least experienced candidate, she landed a role in its HR team.

As the firm expanded from the US into Europe, Miller was involved in setting up offices at grass-roots level. “Working on new markets has given me a much wider understanding of the business. Your job title might be HR, but that doesn’t mean you don’t help other departments if they’re short-staffed, or even fill the toilet roll holder up. It’s all hands on deck,” she says.

Miller cites this as her biggest achievement to date. “Building something up from scratch is the greatest thing for me. Being able to look back and say ‘wow, 10 years ago we had this — now look what we have got’. That gave me a real sense of accomplishment.”

Miller believes her career success is partly due to luck and being in the right place at the right time. But, inevitably, it is down to much more than that. “What has made me successful is hard work. I have always done what it takes to get the job done. Extra hours, volunteering for different assignments, jumping into new opportunities with both feet and taking a few risks along the way.”

She adds it is vital for an HR director to be knowledgeable of all areas of the profession and advises rookies in the business to do the same. “Get some cross-training experience. The more varied experience you have, the more marketable you become,” she says.

Self-development aside, Miller thrives on staff training, taking a front seat in ensuring Enterprise employees get the best possible service. “We analyse our training routines annually. It would be too easy to think, ‘it seems to be working, so why change things?’ But we constantly monitor our key performance indicators and assess the reasons for the training, then drive home the results.”

Miller is currently involved in launching several benefits initiatives for staff following an employee opinion survey carried out over the summer. The survey has also led to ongoing employee meetings. The next couple of months will see the company roll out a cycle-to-work scheme, as well as a maternity coaching benefit. The latter is aimed at clarifying the intricacies of maternity benefits, and Miller believes both company and staff will gain. “When we know someone is pregnant, we want to talk to them to ensure they are made to feel valued, allowing us to be more flexible with their needs. Enterprise is committed to making it work for women when they come back from maternity leave. That’s why we approach them at the front end of proceedings,” she says.

Throughout her career, Miller’s passion for people has resonated. For her, the approach is simple: “Be nice to people. You have to take a genuine interest in your staff. Listen to what benefits they want, see what their motivations are and try to help them achieve their goals. These kinds of relationship increase loyalty and make work fun.”

Curriculum Vitae†

2002-present †European HR director, Enterprise Rent-A-Car
2000-2002 European corporate HR manager, Enterprise Rent-A-Car
1999-2000 Canadian corporate HR manager, Enterprise Rent-A-Car
1997-1999 Group HR manager, New York, Enterprise Rent-A-Car
1991-1997 HR manager, Southern California, Enterprise Rent-A-Car
1990-1991 Management trainee, Enterprise
1988-1990 Sales rep, Culver Personnel†

Who is your role model?

Pam Nicholson who has just been promoted to president at Enterprise. I was lucky enough to work for her twice and she helped me make the best decision of my career. I still call her two or three times a month for advice even now.

Do you read management books?
I do. My favourite is HR From The Heart by Libby Sartain. She wrote it while working for South West Airlines in the US. She is a real expert on personal branding. I’m a big believer in that.

What is your favourite benefit?
Our childcare vouchers. People often don’t realise they apply to both men and women. Being able to offer tax-saving benefits can help ease childcare a great deal.