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Opinion: Celebrating the abilities of all in a diverse workplace

Vijayacittā Harvey, head of the IMI Diversity Task Force

Author: Vijayacittā Harvey, head of the IMI Diversity Task Force

The dated hypothesis that the motor industry does not reflect the diversity of wider society when it comes to employing people with physical and non-physical disabilities has been challenged.

Findings from the IMI Diversity Task Force Report, published earlier this year, revealed that 14% of those working in the automotive retail sector have a disability – almost on a par with those working in non-automotive industries at 15%. And of the 14% with a disability working in the sector, 16% are in sales roles, with 26% working in parts and accessories roles.  

Of course, it is good news that the automotive retail sector is comparable with other industries, but this insight does beg further questions. How well do we know our workforce?

Does the automotive sector have a high percentage of people with a hidden disability? And importantly, if these people are already achieving without significant support, how might they flourish with small adaptations to their workplace and empathetic mentoring?

July’s Disability Pride Month turned the spotlight on disability matters. But putting the subject top of the agenda must be a constant, not just an annual event.

We need to keep asking what more can be done to make the industry even more attractive to those with a disability? Indeed, as the motor industry continues to face its biggest recruitment crisis in twenty years, supporting employees with a disability while ensuring they get the most out of the industry they know and love is vital.

Get to know your staff and encourage a can-do attitude

Small changes can make a big difference but employers can only make the changes needed if they know their staff. The Diversity Task Force identified that the automotive sector needs to work together to create and provide a framework to collect, analyse and disseminate disability data. This will enable employers across the sector to understand the challenges staff face and empower them to focus on ability not disability.

Ask the experts 

Once employers know about those with disabilities within their organisation, hidden or otherwise, they can make the most of their knowledge for the benefit of their employees. By understanding what adaptations they need to make and crucially those that make a significant difference to employees with disabilities, they can replicate the changes to help others, not just in their own workplace but across the industry.  

Embrace external support

Charities and organisations are there to help. Auto Trader is a great example of an employer that has embraced the support and knowledge of external experts  with open arms to support employees with a disability. The company has worked with the Autism Society to train its line managers and successfully achieved Autism Friendly Employer Accreditation. It has also introduced the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme, which provides awareness training on a whole host of hidden disabilities.

Reach out to the 20%

20% of the UK population is disabled yet only 54% of disabled people in the UK are employed. Motor industry recruiters should be aware of the recruitment challenges and barriers for people with disabilities to help overcome them. And there’s a wealth of external resources available to help. For example, Scope provides a free downloadable tool on its website which provides a framework for recruitment of people with disabilities.  

Another important consideration is the role of social of media to reach those with a disability. 96% of people now seek employment via social media; it is therefore an ideal way for employers to reach those with disabilities via their own  social media channels. We recommend including case studies of employees with disability who are successfully developing a career with the support of their employer, or posting hints, tips and suggestions for those with disabilities on what roles to apply for and how to frame their applications.

Promote inclusivity

All automotive industry employers can apply for membership of the Business Disability Forum to access advice, self-assessment, business audit, toolkits and frameworks to help remove barriers for disabled people in the business structure. This in turn will help companies to set targets and measure the actions required to drive and embed positive change. And organisations need to be ‘loud and proud’ about the changes they make. For example, Jardine Motor Group, working to dispel the outdated perceptions of the automotive industry, and to drive for equality in the workplace, has already joined the Social Mobility Pledge and Disability Confident Employer Scheme.

So, it is clear that although automotive retail compares favourably to other sectors with regards to having a higher proportion of those with disabilities, it is still underrepresented when compared to the 20% of the working population who are registered disabled. There is still work to be done and it’s important that, as a sector, we continue to work together to address diversity and change perceptions to attract and retain talent.

Automotive Management Live 2024

The UK's leading event for motor retailers - Wednesday November 13, 2024.

​Automotive Management Live 2024 welcomes motor retail managers from across the UK to discover business improvements, to understand best practice and to network with fellow dealers and suppliers.

Topics this year will include agency business models, the brands now entering the UK new car market, used car stock management and more. It's free to attend, but you'll need to register.

Venue: NEC, Birmingham


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