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DE&I advocates, retailers join forces on tough task of getting conversation rolling

Council members committed to the one-year learning program are also allowed to use the council’s logo for their career sites. Carter Myers Automotive Group in Charlottesville, Va., was among the first to adopt the logo. While many dealerships had been working to increase diversity among their ranks, the events of last year added tension and intentionality to those conversations, said Liza Borches, CEO of Carter Myers Automotive.

“The auto industry has so many tentacles that reach into so many parts of people’s lives. We have a responsibility to do more and to be more than just selling and servicing cars,” she said. “For a long time, our industry didn’t have the structures in place that would allow for unconscious bias training, that would allow for recruiting practices that include questions and behavioral assessments around people’s experiences, that would bring different lenses to our organization to help us think differently.”

Though the council has only formally met five times, Borches said she’s already applied learnings from the meetings to her business. One area that has inspired change? How to recruit employees from diverse backgrounds.

A hiring process preoccupied with previous dealership or general sales experience isn’t enough to find fresh perspectives. Focusing on traits that convey an applicant’s future ability to add value to a dealership is less clear but yields better results, Borches said.

“When you’re looking at [hiring] through a growth mindset, you’re looking at this potential applicant’s capacity to take on new challenges,” she said. “We are looking at their capacity to learn how much they’re going to add value from bringing that different perspective into the auto industry and give us new ideas.”

Another area of unconscious bias in marketing automotive retail jobs is contained in the words themselves. One meeting introduced the idea of gendered words and phrases in advertisements that alienate would-be applicants, Borches said.

“Our industry is not the best and proactive in recruiting,” she said. “We wait till we need somebody, and then we tend to hire fast, and we hire through networks of people that we already know, which is not going to be the way that we’re going to really create a new group of people coming into our industry.”

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