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Case study

How Auto Trader improved employee retention

Buying a vehicle is no small decision. Fortunately, Auto Trader has been there to help tens of millions of people over the last four decades to make that all important choice. Founded in 1975, Auto Trader is the UK and Ireland’s largest digital automotive marketplace where over 450,000 cars are listed every day. Originally a print magazine, it is one of the few media companies to have successfully made the transition to the digital world.

Listed on the FTSE 250 stock exchange, Auto Trader employs more than 800 people in offices across Manchester, London, and Dublin. Heads of People and Culture, Christos Tsaprounis and Stephen Moss, are at the helm of all things people. Between them, they have amassed an impressive seventeen years of service and have been instrumental in setting the Culture First direction of the company.

During their tenure, Auto Trader consolidated from thirty distributed offices to three, in addition to shifting from print to digital. In 2015, Christos and Stephen selected Culture Amp as their employee feedback platform. Christos explained, “Our business had gone through significant change, from print to digital, and we wanted our employees to tell us about their experience. We wanted to do that across the business in a quantitative way, and that’s why we use Culture Amp to measure engagement across the business.”

Christos continued, “It’s not a traditional employee survey where you have to wait for weeks without being able to look at the results. We’re in a very agile environment and we wanted a survey that matches our culture and ways of working. That was evident from the beginning in our partnership with Culture Amp.” For Stephen, “There was a credible, solid structure to Culture Amp and we could customise it ourselves, instead of waiting weeks for someone to do it for us. It was very easy and intuitive.”

During this period, the combination of the shift to digital and consolidation of their offices led to uncertainty around staff engagement and the risk of employee turnover. “We didn’t know our retention risk. We had changed our structure and working practices, moved office, people had longer commutes, and their family routines had changed. We helped our employees with these changes and were sympathetic, but we didn’t necessarily know how people were feeling. We asked ourselves, ‘Are we going to see an increase in turnover?’” explained Stephen. Additionally, “there was the potential of inconsistent employee experience depending on where you were in the business. We wanted to drill into that from a manager perspective,” said Christos.

Christos and Stephen use Engagement to send out annual engagement surveys to the company. They’re able to take action on their employee feedback in a fraction of the time it used to take with a consultancy. “That’s what gives our employee feedback program credibility. Employees see that we’re acknowledging their feedback and most importantly, taking action on it. That’s why we’re able to achieve a 91% response rate,” said Stephen. Christos continued, “Our business moves really quickly. If it took us three months to complete a feedback cycle, the feedback wouldn’t be relevant anymore.”

For Stephen, the usability of Culture Amp platform helped them achieve an efficient feedback cycle, “We can dive into the platform with our colleagues because it’s so easy to understand the key insights.”. Christos adds that the platform’s real-time nature enables them to quickly identify the key themes to act on. “You sometimes have to stop yourself from refreshing the screen because it’s quite addictive and insightful to see the results flowing in,” said Christos.

When it comes to taking action on employee feedback, Christos and Stephen acknowledge that it’s a team effort. “To take action on feedback, we get a guild of people across the organisation together. We know we’re not going to come up with all of the solutions, so we work with a diverse group in a really collaborative way.”

“With Culture Amp, we use our budget & resources in the right place and make sure it goes further by focusing it on the areas that drive the most valuable improvements to the company,” said Stephen. “After our first employee engagement survey, we could have spent a lot of money on a reward and recognition program which wouldn’t have actually helped our employee engagement,” explained Christos. He continued, “Culture Amp helped us identify that people wanted real-time recognition—not just rewards—but a simple ‘thank you’. We created a recognition program called ‘It Takes All Sorts’—an online tool to give recognition and say thank you—to highlight that it takes lots of diverse people to run the business and make the company successful. It was very impactful and didn’t cost a lot.”

Additionally, Christos and Stephen place great focus on the employee lifecycle, and capture feedback from employees at every stage of their journey with Auto Trader. “We use the exit interviews in Experience when somebody decides to leave the business, in combination with the face-to-face exit interview,” said Christos. “The survey gives people the option to openly air their feedback.”

With Experience, the People and Culture team are able to better understand why people leave the company. This feedback helps identify future areas for improvement and has reduced employee turnover. “We’ve seen our employee turnover change over the years. For our developer community, our turnover decreased by 43% and Culture Amp has been critical in helping us achieve that improvement,” said Stephen. “As with most companies, employee turnover is really disruptive for us, especially when we operate such a lean model. Every employee that leaves is a significant loss for our business. When we only factor in the employee replacement and recruitment cost, it’s about £6,000 for each position we need to re-hire, and that’s only the basic cost,” clarified Christos. With a 9% reduction in employee turnover, they have been able to save themselves £486,000 in recruitment costs alone because of Culture Amp.

Christos’ and Stephen’s focus on building a Culture First organization has also been demonstrated on the company’s bottom line. As a result, the rest of the business look to the People and Culture team as a strategic asset for the company. In the last year, revenue is up by 9% and operating profit is up by 18%, “We’re a commercially successful business. We operate in a competitive environment and that’s why we focus on our people. Everything we do here is because of our people. We see a clear link between employee engagement and commercial success.,” confirms Christos.

“Auto Trader values our people initiatives. For us, Culture Amp helps us focus on the right things, rather than purely relying on individual’s intuition,” said Stephen. Additionally, “We love engaging with the People Geek community. Whether that’s talking to members like Cirque de Soleil in Canada or hosting a People Geekup at our office. It’s great to get real insight from other companies who are sometimes similar or really different. Culture Amp and the People Geek community is really invaluable,” concludes Christos.


Manchester, United Kingdom

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