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AM News Show: Automotive sector needs ‘cultural competence’ to drive D&I agenda

Prof Jim Saker addresses D&I in automotive in the latest edition of the AM News Show Podcast

The automotive sector needs to drive its “cultural competence” to deliver levels of diversity and inclusion which could help solve its skills crisis.

That is the view of Professor Jim Saker, who sat down with AM news and features editor Tom Sharpe to discuss the findings of the Institute of the Motor Industry’s (IMI) Diversity Task Force on the latest AM News Show Podcast.

Saker urged reform and greater empathy as he revealed accounts of Muslim car sales staff being forced to pray in dealership broom cupboards and partially-sighted job seekers struggling to find a role due to broad brush demands for a clean driving licence – even when the position does not call for it.  

In a one-to-one element of the latest edition of the popular online show, he said: “If we’re trying to improve our sector, if we’re trying to get there, it is an educational process that’s involved of us understanding more what other people are like and how they see the world.

“If we can do that then we can make not only the car industry but society better in accepting other people and we end up with less conflict and less abuse and people who are respected for who they are and the contribution they can make as an employee within the business.”

Perrys Motor Sales managing director Darren Ardron and ICDP managing director Steve Young also joined Saker and Sharpe for the recording of the latest AM News Show Podcast, which is recorded in partnership with Armchair Marketing.

Constellation Automotive’s car retail growth, stock shortages, used car values and the implications of moves towards an agency retail model were all up for debate.

The show can be accessed via Youtube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

In his diversity-focussed one-to-one interview – which comes during LGBTQ+ History Month (February 1 to 28) and just weeks before International Women’s Day (March 8) – Saker said that hard-line staff policies would not help the sector in its pursuit of greater D&I.

“I don’t think it’s just policy, I think it’s to do with education and training,” he said. “To actually get to a level of cultural competence, which is really what we are trying to do, it is an educational process which involves us understanding more what other people are like and how they see the world.”

Cox Automotive International HR director, Alison Fisher, Auto Trader chief operating officer Catherine Faiers and Ennis & Co founder Lynda Ennis joined Saker in underlining the need for greater D&I in the automotive retail sector for a news insight feature in the latest edition of AM magazine.

They highlight the benefit of broader experience and representation can bring to the sector and the advantages of being appealing to a wider array of job candidates at a time when employers should be casting their net wider.

“If we can’t break that cycle of birds of a feather flocking together we have a major problem because all we’re doing is recruiting from one very narrow part of our society and that basically is not good enough for an industry which is modernising, powertrains changing digitalisation” said Saker.

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