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Automotive industry needs to 'diversify or face dramatic skills shortage,' Auto Trader seminar reveals

Rebecca Clark Auto Trader

Over 50 HR directors, managing directors and chief executives from automotive retail and manufacturing brands agreed that the industry needed to “wake up and diversify” at Auto Trader’s diversity and inclusion seminar.

During a series of seminar sessions at the event, which was hosted by Auto Trader in partnership with Ennis & Co, senior executives from brands including TrustFord, Inchcape, Jardine Motors Group, Marshall Motor Group and the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), discussed topics based on the themes of ‘ways of working’, ‘selective focus’, and ‘brand engagement’. 

Auto Trader’s manufacturer and agency director, Rebecca Clark (pictured), said: “As we all know, the industry is currently experiencing a number of challenges, including a dent in consumer confidence and negative commentary surrounding the fuel debate. We need to recognise that failure to introduce a meaningful D&I strategy, is an equally - if not more - serious issue for our industry. 

"As well as the cultural benefits, implementing a successful D&I strategy to attract a more diverse mix of people into your business can have huge commercial results too, not least more agile and robust decision-making.

"We need to work together to raise awareness that D&I is not simply a box-ticking exercise, but rather a very real business necessity.”

The seminar uncovered that businesses stuck in out-dated recruitment strategies not only risk missing out on the many benefits of a diverse workforce, but also face a “dramatic skills shortage, and ultimately, a serious impact on their bottom line”.

During these sessions, practical steps were identified to encourage a more diverse array of talent into the industry. These included:

  • Changing industry perception: There is a real need to change the perception of the automotive industry, particularly amongst young people. Brands need to engage with schools as early as possible to educate and inspire them on the breadth of opportunities and skills available. This shouldn’t be one off experience, but a consistent and long-term initiative.
  • Business case for work-life balance: Brands need to recognise the commercial benefits of a more flexible way of working. Brands should consider how customers want to interact with their business - enabling flexible working will allow employees to be more responsive to their customers.
  • Redefining ways of working:  Brands need to be less narrow in focus when it comes to how their teams work. Senior management need to think about it in terms of shifting the culture so that ways of working isn’t just about flexible working but unlocking value and potential in all people by creating the right environment.
  • Don’t be wedded to the past:  Brands need to ‘thaw out’ old practices and consider the benefits of empowering people, trusting people and flexibly working with people. Companies should have the confidence to embrace new ways of working.
  • Be bold: Flexibility isn’t just vital for attracting the broadest pool of talent, or retaining them, but it’s also essential to how an organisation approaches its working culture. Brands shouldn’t over engineer a strategy and insist on a long-term plan with strict measurements, but rather introduce a variety of initiatives assessed on a case-by-case basis. Variety is the spice of life and working culture.

Clark said: “We know first-hand that change is not an easy process, but as this event highlighted, together we’re able to create practical solutions and steps which will lead to tangible benefits.

"I felt hugely privileged to be a part of such a broad group of experts and thought leaders who are so committed to driving change, not just in their respective organisations, but the industry as whole. We’ve already come so far, but I cannot wait to see where we’ll be in a year’s time.”

Ennis & Co’s founder, Lynda Ennis, said: “I have a feeling that with this event, we’ve kick-started something very important for the automotive industry.

"Diversity and inclusion is a real problem for some of our leaders, whether they realise it or not, as well as for the automotive industry’s ability to attract talent from competing sectors.

“Diversity and inclusion is not a term the youth element of our workforces even recognises. It’s normality and an expectation for them. They will join like-minded employers and shop at like-minded brands.

"This is not a ‘nice to do,’ it’s already affecting our bottom lines. At Ennis & Co, we can help organisations find the diversity leaders they need to drive change.”

A whitepaper presenting the comments and insight from the event, as well as detailed findings of brand new D&I research will be published in July. 

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