Top communication practices for a decentralised workforce: lessons from Kennards Hire

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As we grapple with the new world of hybrid, remote and flexible work, understanding how to successfully manage a decentralised workforce is critical.

And there are few better examples of decentralisation at scale than Kennards Hire, as they strike the balance between face-to-face and leveraging technology.

The third-generation family business runs some 190 branches across Australia and New Zealand, with each branch employing generally between five and 12 people and servicing local industrial, trade and DIY customers with equipment hire.

With an extensive product range that encompasses everything from forklifts to power generation and railway maintenance to earth moving — and even the BBQ for the local sports club — no two branches have the same day-to-day experience.

“We’ve got DIY customers, trade customers, and we’ve large construction and infrastructure customers,” says Sally Craig, Kennards Hire’s general manager of people and culture. “Our business is built on service.”

So, what’s the secret?

For starter, values and purpose.

“We’re a values-led business,” says Craig.

“The branches are empowered to service the customer, to solve a customer’s problem and to make a customer’s job easy, this is our brand promise.

Perhaps surprisingly, the critical link in managing such a distributed workforce is a focus on daily, face-to-face communication delivered by each branch manager. The company sets a framework for these conversations with space for branch manager discretion on local matters.

“You can’t have a policy for everything, so we empower our leaders and people to draw on our values as the decision-making framework, guiding how we work” says Craig.

“We believe that through our leaders, the culture is sustained and protected.”
Throughout the branch network, the key leadership roles are both the area manager and branch manager. Area managers are each responsible on average for eight or nine branches and tasked with moving among their regions acting as coach and mentor.

“A lot of information gets disseminated through area managers — they’re in the branches regularly talking to their teams,” says Craig.

Communications manager Liz Eassie says the branch daily meetings, known as Reaching Best, discuss the day’s activities, any changes to policies and procedures and the ongoing focus on safety. They are also used to reinforce the firm’s values. These are the responsibility of the branch manager.

“Our values drive our business and when we recruit, we look for people that share similar values – people that want to provide great customer service, take safety seriously and are proud to come to work each day,” says Eassie.

The daily stand-ups are supplemented by information provided through emails, the intranet and through an in-house social media platform.

Measurement is also important. As well as financial performance, Kennards Hire measures safety, hire centre quality, administration, financials and customer service across its network.

The Great Place to Work® Emprising™ platform also plays an important role.

“We use it holistically – where there’s areas that are ranking lower than others, we focus on those to understand what we can do better,” says Craig.

And Kennards Hire rewards its people for success at branch level.

“We have a very empowered business — we’re not a franchise business but the branches are set up with a very strong performance framework.

“We have a profit share at branch team level, so they are very empowered to make decisions to achieve their financial and quality goals,” says Craig. “It’s through a hybrid communications approach, really listening to our people and understanding what we do well and where we can improve, and an open, authentic leadership style founded on strong values that we’re able to grow and strengthen our culture – and our business.”

Companies like Kennards use Emprising as a key employee survey tool to listen to their team and unlock insights they need need to take action, contact us today to learn more.

Samantha Huddle

Samantha Huddle is the General Manager of Great Place to Work® in Australia and NZ. Sam has more than two decades of experience from the grassroots to the C-suite and helps businesses build high-trust, inclusive cultures that deliver tangible results. With experience across the government, philanthropic and corporate sectors, Sam brings a collaborative, values-driven approach and a passion for achieving social impact through business. Sam publishes a well-read monthly newsletter which can be read **here.**

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.

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