Automotive industry risks missing out on the skills and talent vital for future success

This week over 80 HR directors, MDs, CEOs and change leaders from many of the major automotive retail and manufacturing brands, service providers and trade bodies agreed that brands that fail to embed an authentic diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy will miss out on the skills vital to succeed in today’s fast-evolving market.

That was one of the key messages delivered during the second annual Making Diversity and Inclusion a Business Reality event hosted by Auto Trader in partnership with executive search specialists Ennis & Co. The one-day collaborative seminar saw brands share ideas, test best practice and identify practical solutions for driving greater diversity across the automotive industry. Utilising brand-new research from employee insight specialists, Qlearsite, it was also an opportunity to assess how far the industry had progressed on the actions identified in 2018.

The day included a panel discussion with five industry leaders, each framing their respective D&I experience within the three key themes highlighted by the research: Selective focus (Christos Tsaprounis, Head of People & Culture at Auto Trader and Peter Stephens, Head of External and Government Affairs at Nissan UK); Brand engagement (Mandeep Dhatt, Executive Director of HR at McLaren Automotive) and Commercial benefit (Daksh Gupta, CEO of Marshall Motors and Martin Forbes, CEO of Cox Automotive UK).

It was followed by seminar sessions, where senior executives from brands including TrustFord, Pendragon, Jardine Motors Group, Mitsubishi, Ford Motor Company, Inchcape UK, Toyota, Hendy Group, Volvo, Volkswagen, Triumph, Renault UK, Aston Martin, Cambria Automobiles, and the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) discussed a broad range of topics based around the three themes.

During these sessions practical steps were identified to encourage a more diverse array of talent into the industry, as well as to inspire and encourage a balance of gender, races, and backgrounds into automotive roles, and to retain them. These included:

Think ahead:

When thinking of the talent necessary for the success of their business, brands shouldn’t just match what their current customer or employee profile is. Think about the future – the need for technology and digital skills within automotive is only set to accelerate.

Be authentic:

Brands need to avoid D&I buzz words or introducing initiatives simply because other businesses are doing it. It’s essential that any activity is authentic for your organisation otherwise colleagues and candidates will see through it.
Business and education strategy: Brands need to shape the perception of the automotive industry from an early age to move away from outdated industry stereotypes. Engaging with schools and parents can be hugely impactful but needs to showcase the diverse colleagues and talents in your business to truly inspire.

Role models:

Role models that are visible across every professional touchpoint are fundamental to a successful D&I strategy. Promoting a diverse culture becomes more authentic and transparent when brands can champion real people with real jobs in their organisation.

Keep it simple:

Brands should avoid trying to do too many things at once. They shouldn’t do too few things either but they must make sure what they’re doing is clear so colleagues and candidates can understand what’s going on and feel a part of it.

Speaking at the event, Auto Trader’s Manufacturer & Agency Director, Rebecca Clark, said: “We’re thrilled that so many senior executives chose to take time out of their busy schedules to join us today; it highlights just how seriously the automotive sector is taking diversity and inclusion. And with good reason too. Not only is our industry undergoing unprecedented challenges but it’s evolving at a dramatic rate. D&I isn’t simply a ‘nice-to-have’. Without a diverse, representative workforce with the skills, the talent and fresh thinking to help businesses adapt to future technologies and customers, they will be at a huge disadvantage in an already highly competitive marketplace.”

Lynda Ennis, founder of Ennis & Co., commented: “Once again, Auto Trader have provided us with the perfect platform to host our second Diversity & Inclusion event – and this year it’s been bigger and better than ever. By working collaboratively with Auto Trader and, for the first time, AI-powered survey provider specialists Qlearsite, we’ve gained the ability to enjoy an extra element to the research and results we provide.

“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.”

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 June.