Together with Auto Trader and Qlearsite, Ennis & Co hosted their second industry event this week:

Making Diversity & Inclusion a Business Reality

We were delighted to have Qlearsite on board this year to help us really delve into the research undertaken within D&I – which we feel added an extra element to the event. Qlearsite are an AI-powered survey provider and specialise in Natural Language Processing (NLP), which means they can take rich context from open-text questions and make it meaningful for analysis. This was perfect for what we set to achieve with our D&I survey results.

Following on from last year’s event, we gathered together 85 of the leading automotive industry figures in the field of HR and beyond. Working on the same basis, we set up a format to allow our attendees to listen to key speakers, converse with our special guest panellists and work within different assigned ‘breakout sessions’ to delve into D&I subjects that required further discussion.

We will be following up formally with a white paper, including analysis of research conducted specially for this event, in the next coming months. But fresh from the event, these are my five takeaways from the discussions:

Gender is still a focal point

Our sector is still seen as a male-dominated arena. Clearly. This was discussed in greater detail; particularly by those that have joined the industry within the last five years (following careers in a different field) and has really ‘hit home’ that the journey towards a more diverse workforce continues. However, the recognition of gender still elicited greater discussion than other areas of diversity and inclusion; which begs the question – is there a gender overload? When people hear the word ‘diversity’- are they subconsciously jumping to ‘gender’ as the first aspect that springs to mind? The breakout sessions were extremely interesting when dissecting these points. Upon exploring the topic, it was felt that the nature of the workforce needed changing; with braveness and breadth of thinking as a focal point. If we can change our thinking – we can change our behaviours. Well, that’s the dream, anyway…

Bolstering the brand by aligning behaviours

It goes without saying that brand image is key. Building a brand to exactly how you want it to be can take time – yet this can all be undone in a nano-second; especially in the fast-paced digital age we find ourselves in today. If a brand is seen to embrace diversity and inclusion and truly champion this – then the key would be for the company to nurture this as best as it possibly can. How can this positive brand image be created or enhanced – let alone maintained? Our breakout groups delved into this, with the emphasis on ensuring the EXTERNAL brand reflects the company’s INTERNAL image. Key words such as ‘visible authenticity’ and ‘embedded culture’ also arose. Could management implement a strategy to upkeep a diverse and inclusive company culture? Will the message “it’s OK to be you” resonate? By engaging with the brand, the attraction of diverse, fresh talent could increase. With employees adhering to the embedded company culture, the brand image could be maintained. As always, it’s a journey – but one that will discover the best results.

Leadership is changing

Stepping back in time to our previous event, we looked into flexible working and how this has changed. We continue to approach this subject because it’s so varied – with everyone’s view on ‘flexibility’ more different than the next. Perhaps we’re all so worried about the ‘go ahead’ with flexible working and calling the shots on what can enhance a productive workforce – yet managers who embrace this could potentially be onto something life changing. One of our panellists discussed his take on flexible working and looking into how this could benefit those that may slip under the radar. Men with new born babies or young families, for example. Would they appreciate the flexibility to enjoy a longer breakfast with their families and begin the working day a little later? If they have this level of freedom – is productivity then increased? This falls in line with actual integrated processes; rather than just ‘shouting’ about being a flexible, inclusive company to work for. Yet this also begs the question… where’s the ‘line’?

There is still more to be done…

Nobody’s perfect. Perfection is a pipe dream. Yet we can aim for ‘improvement’. Ahead of receiving our White Paper in a few weeks’ time, it’s interesting to see that the subjects of diversity and inclusion are becoming more and more prevalent. If we can improve awareness and work on strategies to implement into the workplace… then surely, we’re on the right track? One of the more interesting comments arose from one of our ‘breakout’ groups surrounding the area of improvement. It was believed that there needs to be developmental mentorship at ALL LEVELS. This is inclusive. This is (hopefully) relatively easy to implement. This could spark improvement. So will we review this in a year’s time and see some positive results?

Communication is key

During a time where, arguably, we have the greatest levels of communication platforms… why do people still avoid picking up the phone? Are we so set in the ‘oh, I’ve sent them an email’ phase? Call me old fashioned – but a phone call GETS. THINGS. DONE. A great deal quicker than a misplaced email, anyway. I’m a strong believer in keeping my network strong and I feel this strength lies in communication that peaks beyond the email or text message. Phone calls are more personal. Pick up the phone, discuss, idea share… help one another (and if you’re really desperate to alleviate those itchy fingers and tap out a message, follow up with an email!)

On that note, it goes without saying that the subject of diversity and inclusion means a great deal to me in terms of what we can do to implement change in the industry. To be joined on the day by a large number of leading names in the automotive sector and beyond who are also empowered by the need to champion a diverse and inclusive workforce is incredible. It really hits home that we’re all working together to make real, lasting, positive changes and we look forward to growing the event year on year to continue the journey.

Thank you to everyone that came to the event. Please look out for what comes next and let’s carry on the conversation…