The auto sales industry has long struggled with the issue of diversity. While many dealerships have taken steps to be more inclusive in hiring and training, it can be an intimidating world to step into for women, minorities and others not classically included in the “average” dealership setting. Those dealerships that have taken steps to make their dealership reflect the makeup of the population they serve, however, have found that it lowers barriers to community outreach and makes selling easier. For this round of the Dealer Panel, we’re asking our experts how they have tackled the issue of diversity on their team and what it’s meant to their dealerships.
AutoSuccess: What steps can modern dealerships take when it comes to making their teams reflect the makeup of the population?
Chris Saraceno, VP and Partner of Kelly Automotive Group: Our team at Kelly absolutely reflects the makeup of the market we are in. We’ve noticed, since we’ve started to work with our recruiting company, that we’ve ended up attracting candidates from a much more diverse group of people. We believe the reason is that, before, we were pretty limited in our recruiting options. We used the paper, we might use CareerBuilder or other job boards, but as technology for recruiting changed, we started using a company that went to all different markets everywhere. It allowed us to get a much more diverse group of people because they do a much more extensive targeted marketing than what we could have done. In the last five years, we haven’t had an issue with diversity. We match our marketplace.
Chris Lee, General Manager of McCarthy Chevrolet Lee’s Summit: We have found that using location-targeted social media has been a great tool in getting the word out as to what type of inclusive culture our dealership has. This has become a great recruiting tool of people living in our surrounding area.
Kimberly Cardinal Piscatelli, Vice President and Partner of Cardinal Honda: If you are recruiting talent directly from the community where you do business, you are off to a good start. The secrets to acquiring a diverse staff may lie in using diverse techniques and strategies to find the applicants. It is not enough to wait until a position needs to be filled and then post a listing to your favorite recruiting site. Rather, the best strategy involves a constant awareness to talent around you. Empower employees to invite applicants based on excellent service provided elsewhere. Ask current employees to give referrals. Participate in business social events and community events, always keeping an eye out for future team members. Participate in career days at high schools, trade schools and on college campuses. Be certain your company is participating in local job fairs where you will be able to greet applicants from various backgrounds who may not have considered the automotive industry.
Mike Good, GM of Street Toyota: Often, our industry is simply a reflection of today’s societal attitudes. Purifying those attitudes takes intentionality by your dealership. When constructing a workforce, you have to consider the benefits of a mixed workforce. First, discard the concept of hiring the “ideal” candidate. Resist the temptation to include only those who fit the “perfect” model to the exclusion of all others. Go beyond the typical restraints regarding ethnicity, sex, physical abilities and religious prejudices so common in society. Without compromising future performance, try to deliberately expand the selection process by creating a wider range of ages, abilities, interests, experience, knowledge and strengths. It ultimately prospers your business, your community, your customers and your potential associates.
AS: What does a diverse team at a dealership mean, both to those who work there and its customers?
CS: When people say “diversity,” they often look at it as an issue of race, age, gender or cultural background, but we also look at it as hiring team members with different personalities and those at different stages of their career. I think it helps to foster creativity and innovation. Having a diverse team can bring different language skills and opens up the talent pool with different approaches and different ways of thinking.
CL: Having a diverse team helps create a culture of inclusion and customers can feel it when they visit the store. So much of a dealership’s success is determined by the customers’ initial interaction with the sales or service staff. Employees who feel a part of the team are more engaged, and customers can feel it. When a customer senses an employee believes in the dealership, it helps to instill trust.
KCP: Is a diverse team at a dealership important to your employees? Probably not. Is a diverse team at your dealership important to your success? Absolutely! Not only will a diverse workforce provide a wider array of ideas and perspectives for the good of the business, but it may provide a more welcoming environment to our diverse customer base. Some customers, for example, may find it more comfortable to do business in their native language. In our showroom and service departments, both Spanish- and Mandarin-speaking customers seem to exhale and relax knowing they will be able to navigate this big decision in their first language. A customer shopping on your website may browse your “meet the staff” page looking for someone they perceive they will enjoy doing business with, looking specifically for a female sales associate, or senior sales associate or someone who they may think speaks their language — both literally and figuratively.
MG: It’s simple. It is a clear representation to associates, customers and the communities you serve exactly what your values and beliefs, defined as your culture, stand for. It’s your prolific statement to all that come to see that equality and diversity are among your highest principles. It encompasses race, gender, ethnic group, age, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, education and more. It demonstrates your fairness, consideration, loyalty and acknowledgement of human dignity in the face of the prejudicial elements of our society. Embracing diversity increases adaptability, provides a broader range of service, allows for more effective execution while drawing on a variety of viewpoints. Ultimately you end up with some great employees! Long after you’ve run out of breath saying what you stand for, what you’ve done on behalf of all people will shine bright.
Next time, our Dealer Panel will examine steps both management and staff members can take to ensure smooth integration of diverse team members into their dealership.
If you have questions or are a dealer who would like to be considered for the panel, please contact us at [email protected].
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