Sisters are doing it for themselves...and Mediafleet!
Many organisations state that they are meritocratic, but without real implementation mechanisms and the processes to measure outcomes, is meritocracy for most companies just another overused, jargonistic term with no real meaning?
Barnaby Smith and Rob Rudd of Mediafleet talk about the relationship between meritocracy, opportunity and business efficiency.
Rob Rudd: The concept of meritocracy is a difficult conundrum to fathom. Before any organisation employs an individual to do a job, that individual has abilities based on natural talent or aptitude, and an upbringing which instills a desire to achieve the goals set. Plus, a learned discipline to one level or another. An initial selection process is required (interview) that enables business managers to identify those individuals that ‘merit’ the position. The concept of meritocracy then in business, is not based upon all individuals starting from the same position and having the same opportunities, but based on demonstrable ‘initial’ attributes combined with rewards and status for the job done to certain standards.
Barnaby Smith: The management team here at Mediafleet set out to provide an equitable and inclusive environment from day one. I can’t say that this was a formulated plan, just a philosophy of giving all individuals an equal opportunity, regardless of characteristic. Once employed, all employees have a voice. We recognised that input from everyone in the work force would have value. It doesn’t matter who you are, your background, level of education et cetera, if you have an opinion, then the management here want to hear it. The most important thing is that employees at Mediafleet can develop their career path based on being able to positively impact on the performance of the business.
Rob: Where meritocracy can break down in business, however, is when individuals who have been rewarded by status create an exclusive club where ‘outsiders’ are not welcome.
Barnaby: That is not the case at Mediafleet. The management team are accepting of all new ideas and initiatives. These are then assessed based on predicted outcomes; those outcomes being what is good for the business rather than individuals or groups. Plus, at Mediafleet, we set objectives, and it is the meeting of those objectives, by whatever means, that is important. We do not subscribe to the idea of, “this is how it has always been done”, or “these are the people that do this kind of job”. It is about the right person in the right job. For example, the global conversion market is currently a male dominated environment, with comparatively few female engineers. The female vinyl applicators in this market are rarer still…but I’d like you to meet Josie and Chloe Arnold – sisters and vinyl applicators!
Josie Arnold: I am the senior vinyl applicator at Mediafleet reporting directly to the senior applicator Scott Hawkins, and part of a team of sixteen people. In early 2008, I had just left my job as a waiter as the pub I was at had to close. I was then looking for another challenge when I saw and applied for a temporary position at Mediafleet. I was just seventeen at the time. Initially, I was helping out in the finishing room and despatch. After two weeks, Carole Avenell approached me and asked whether I would be interested in becoming an apprentice vinyl applicator. As they say, the rest is history. I really enjoy my work and take pride in everything I do.
Rob: Why do you think you were asked about a fitting role?
Josie: I was doing pretty well in production, and I guess I showed a willingness to work hard. I picked it up pretty quickly as well.
Rob: Josie, who provided your training?
Josie: Scott Hawkins, the head of the fitting department, provided the majority of my training. He was absolutely brilliant. Barry John (now Production Manager) also helped me considerably in the early days. Since then, I’ve had external trainers from vinyl manufacturers provide training as have most of the applicators here.
Scott Hawkins: Josie picked this up really quickly and has a real eye for detail. These days, I’m happy to let Josie get on with it with no input from me. She is very confident in her abilities and working at any location. When I’m not around I can be sure she will manage everything; she doesn’t need me now.
Rob: Chloe, how did you come to be an apprentice vinyl applicator at Mediafleet?
Chloe Arnold: I was getting fed up with my job working with horses. I had been doing that since leaving school and I needed a new challenge. I’d heard Josie speak of her job at Mediafleet – I liked the sound of it – so Josie said why not give it a go. A voice in my head said this can’t be hard, it’s just sticking stickers, but I take it all back, there’s a lot more to it than that!
Rob: So presumably, Josie is providing your training?
Chloe: I started just over a month ago and all the fitters have been brilliant; helping me and showing me how to do it. Scott and Josie are the main trainers though. I’ve been working down in Bristol on the Lyreco account and on the Mears account here, at Mediafleet. These have been cut graphics, chevrons, and partial wraps so all good experience. Plus, I’ve been learning how to remove the door handles, number plates and take the lights off the vehicle so the job is done right. I’m looking forward to getting past this Covid situation so I can go on some external courses.
Scott Hawkins: Chloe is doing really well. She is asking questions when she gets stuck and is learning fast. She is motivated and she will make a great fitter.
Rob: Josie, Chloe, you both travel around the country to vehicle converter sites, dealerships and ports plying your trade; this is a male dominated environment, have you experienced any difficulties settling in to this environment?
Chloe: I’ve always been made welcome so far, it’s been really good. I would recommend this to anyone.
Josie: Do you know, they are actually more helpful to us…just really nice. I don’t know if this is unusual. I’ve never had anything negative, it’s more shock I think, that a woman has turned up to do the graphics which is unusual. Not all premises cater for women in terms of toilets, but we always manage to sort it out! Plus, there are more women now on the conversion lines at converters as well. And, just as we have Carole, Emily, Lisa, Ellie, and all the team in the finance office in Shipston, women are playing major management roles.
Scott Hawkins: Josie gets all the help she needs at 3rd party sites but that’s because of the way she acts on site, not because she is female. People respect her attitude and abilities. How she communicates with them is then reciprocated – she has built great relationships with our conversion partners. I can see Chloe being exactly the same – as I say she’s learning and doing well.
Rob: Josie, do you feel you are respected and have a voice here at Mediafleet, comparable with your company status Josie? Do you feel this is a career?
Josie: Definitely, as long as you work hard, anyone can have a career here and the company will look after you. As long as you work hard you will get the benefits and the status. I’m now working on some of the biggest Mediafleet accounts, and some of the biggest
names in automotive, and it is so exciting. I’ve actually appeared on TV as well!
Barnaby: Summing this up; I don’t think meritocracy is the right term, as I think if not managed correctly, a merit based system could lead to ‘biased’ decisions. I prefer to think of Mediafleet as transparent and accountable. Our flat organisational structure helps develop a culture of discussion and debate. We are all approachable at any time allowing a free-flow of information to be analysed and processed. Plus, the outcomes of these initiatives are easily measured to ensure effectiveness for the business
without the risk of alienating an individual or worse, discrimination. We have a great team here and, I hope I’m right in saying,
one that pulls together for the good of everyone.