Press release

Automotive industry needs to ‘wake up’ to diversity or face dramatic skills shortage

This week, over fifty HR directors, MDs and CEOs from many of the leading automotive retail and manufacturing brands, service providers and industry bodies, agreed the industry needed to ‘wake up’ to the fundamental business need for a modern diversity and inclusion (D&I) culture. 

Businesses stuck in out-dated recruitment strategies not only risk missing out on the breadth of cultural and commercial benefits of a diverse workforce, but also face a dramatic skills shortage, and ultimately, a serious impact on their bottom line.

This was one of the key messages delivered during a unique one-day collaborative seminar, hosted by Auto Trader in partnership with executive search specialists Ennis & Co.. The event was organised to challenge and test best practice, as well as identify practical solutions to driving greater diversity across the automotive industry.

During a series of seminar sessions, senior executives from brands including: TrustFord, Inchcape, Jardine Motors Group, Marshall Motor Group, Volvo, Volkswagen, Avis Budget Group, Williams Martini Racing, Nissan, Bentley, BMW, Harley Davidson, McLaren, the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI), and the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), discussed a broad range of topics based around three vital themes: ‘ways of working’; ‘selective focus’, and ‘brand engagement’.

During these sessions, a number of 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:

  • 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.

Speaking at the event, Auto Trader’s Manufacturer & Agency Director, Rebecca Clark, 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.

“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.”

Lynda Ennis, founder of Ennis & Co., commented: 

“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.

About Auto Trader

Auto Trader Group plc is the UK and Ireland’s largest digital automotive marketplace. Auto Trader sits at the heart of the UK’s vehicle buying process and its primary activity is to help vehicle retailers compete effectively on the marketplace in order to sell more vehicles, faster. Auto Trader listed on the London Stock Exchange in March 2015 and is now a member of the FTSE 250 Index.

The marketplace brings together the largest and most engaged consumer audience. Auto Trader has over 88% prompted brand awareness and attracts an average of 55 million monthly cross platform visits a month, with circa 70% of visits coming through mobile devices.

The marketplace also has the largest pool of vehicle sellers (listing more than 470,000 cars each day). Over 80% of UK automotive retailers advertise on autotrader.co.uk.

About Ennis & Co.

Ennis & Co is a global executive search and consultancy firm, working across all aspects of the automotive sector, from manufacture to retail, as well as the supply chain and support services such as third-party suppliers and related associations. Within this broad remit, Ennis & Co recruits all disciplines at a senior level. Based in Lymington, Hampshire, Ennis & Co is run by Lynda Ennis, and managing director, Jamie Ashman.

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