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Tips for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Dealerships

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is a topic frequently discussed in business. After all, it’s one of the few key components that customers see at a surface level — especially at dealerships.

Employees deserve to be treated with respect and have their opinions valued equally, regardless of race, gender, or background. This attitude is important to foster as your dealership navigates the changing demographics of today’s labor market.  Baby Boomers are starting to exit the workforce as they retire, while more and more minorities and women are entering traditionally male-dominated fields. In order to assuage hiring shortages, managers need to look to these new applicant pools to recruit top talent.

The auto industry is not immune to these shifting trends. 

Dealerships now see that in order to succeed, they must embrace DE&I in their business, if not for financial safety then because it’s simply the right thing to do. DE&I is an overarching ethical decision — and a small way that automotive dealers can help improve society as a whole.

As Terry Adams, Vice President of People at Hireology, said, “You can’t just pledge to hire folks from different backgrounds and hope for the best — especially in an industry that already struggles with a branding and reputation problem. You need to develop a strategy and put forth a real effort to stick by your plan.”

Hireology recently partnered with Automotive News Research & Data Center to ask 430 dealerships about DE&I practices at their establishments. The findings were enlightening and showed a clear need for further proactive endeavors across the nation.

Of the dealerships surveyed, 32% of respondents were Baby Boomers. That’s nearly a third of the current workforce that, whether they like it or not, are inching closer to retirement — and will need to be replaced.

The good news is that 63% of dealerships surveyed said that DE&I is an important issue, meaning that the automotive industry is cognizant of the need for more inclusion. In fact, eight out of 10 feel that the people they work with treat each other with respect, despite consistently low grades given for DE&I initiatives. 

This disconnect between awareness of DE&I initiatives at dealerships mirror another trend relating to personal perception of access and growth compared to coworkers. The latter results revealed that individuals consistently perceived that they had greater access and growth within the dealership compared to their coworkers. This phenomenon could be attributed to the fact that only 24% of respondents were aware of DE&I best practices at their dealerships — that’s a whole 76% left in the dark! 

Based on these findings, it’s evident that dealerships are aware of the need to empower their DE&I initiatives. Being inclusive and following best practices not only helps you attract and hire more quality talent, but also grants your dealership access to diverse customers as well. In order to help your dealership integrate DE&I best practices and initiatives, Hireology created this list of tips to help you build a more diverse team:

Define what diversity looks like

Diversity goes beyond race. When you envision a diverse dealership, you should see more than just skin color. Take some time with your managers and consider the team’s genders, age groups, socioeconomic backgrounds, disabilities, military service, or sexual orientations to determine a definition of diversity for your dealership.

Once you have your definition in mind, the next step is to communicate with everyone on your team — from your GM to your technicians. Every employee needs to understand and believe in that definition of diversity so that your dealership has full participation on your journey to an inclusive workplace. Having a clear definition allows your HR department to set realistic goals to create a diverse environment. 

Recognize unconscious biases

Unconscious biases are the stereotypes that are so ingrained about groups of people that are formed outside of your conscious awareness; because they’re in that unconscious space of our brains, breaking these biases takes hard work. These unconscious biases can hold your dealership back even if you and your co-workers are working together to create an inclusive workplace.

Formal training is required to better understand your team’s unconscious biases and learn how to be more aware of them. According to the survey, respondents agree that dealerships need to provide frequent DE&I training to ensure that their teams are intentionally recruiting employees with diverse background and experiences. Identifying your own biases is an extremely difficult — if not impossible — task, so anyone who is involved in hiring should ideally be trained by a third party.

The potential for unconscious biases in your hiring process can be minimized through some simple changes. For example, train hiring managers to avoid basing hiring decisions off of “gut” feelings; instead, instruct them to ask every candidate the exact same questions and to grade candidates on the exact same criteria. This method of interviewing ensures that your hiring team makes decisions based on the role’s requirements. Using interview guides and scoring metrics plays an important role in helping increase your team’s diversity in this process. 

Expand applicant sources

When you’re marketing your cars to your intended audiences, you research the best way to get your messaging in front of them. You should do the same thing when trying to recruit diverse employees. The applicants you want may know that your dealership is a great place to buy a car, but they might not know about the opportunity to grow their career there. 

To combat this, move away from the typical channels you use to find job candidates — place less emphasis indeed.com and your personal circle of connections and focus your energy on reaching these communities directly. Consider participating in a local career fair along with forming relationships with specific programs at your local technical college to drive new applicants. Moving beyond pre-existing networks can help you reach candidates that can bring new insights to your dealership.

Rewrite job descriptions

Most applicants’ first experience with your company is their interaction with your job posting. The words and phrases you use to describe the position at your dealership can really make an impact on your candidates — both positively and negatively. Take a look at your open positions: do you use gender identifiers? Are there equivalent experience options available instead of a required college degree?

Dealerships in particular need to be aware of the language they use; even common descriptors or buzzwords can give the impression that your business prefers candidates of a certain gender or level of education. For example, most open sales roles insinuate that candidates have to be strong or aggressive, traits typically associated with men. Pay attention to what you’re saying without saying and experiment with wording to draw in diverse candidates.

Cultivate an inclusive culture

Cultivating an inclusive culture starts from the minute you define what diversity means for your dealership. The process should begin before you even start interviewing for these positions because without an inclusive work environment, these diverse employees will not receive equal opportunities for growth and development. 

Being inclusive doesn’t mean a full overhaul of your workplace, so don’t worry. There are simple changes you can make to promote inclusion. First, you need to make sure that the company’s DE&I policies are highly visible in your recruitment marketing efforts. To do this, you can feature your company’s DE&I committee on your dealership’s careers/jobs pages, on your social media platforms, and in your internal communications. These marketing efforts, even the internal ones, make sure that everyone who comes into contact with your brand knows that your dealership is committed to fostering an inclusive workplace. An even faster way to be inclusive? Ask your candidates for their preferred pronouns so they feel welcomed and know that you care if they are comfortable.

While DE&I is a hot topic and will continue to be into the future, it is not as scary to implement as it may seem. Dealerships across the nation know that they need to recruit hires from different demographics but may be apprehensive. Overcome this wariness by partnering with Hireology, the powerful all-in-one recruiting, hiring, and employee management software designed for decentralized businesses. Trusted by 1 in 4 dealerships in the nation, our people-first software will help you build the best team possible.

To see how our powerful features can help your automotive dealership invest in its DE&I efforts, schedule a demo today!

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