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Why Women in Automotive Need a Mentoring Program

It’s no surprise the consumer world is driven by women. Women make 70-80% of purchasing decisions and buy more than half of all new cars sold in the U.S. The same is true for vehicle purchases. Additionally, women account for almost half of the U.S. labor force, but only represent about 25% of the automotive workforce.

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With that purchase power, women are keen on supporting other women, so they might find peace of mind in female dealers and service providers. In the automotive industry, we need to look at how we are helping women who are interested in careers in automotive to ensure it’s not only a career they will find beneficial and rewarding, but also one with growth opportunities. One way a dealership can do this is by building an inclusive culture. This is not only an important business decision, but one that is helping to change standards to no longer follow the stereotype that men know more about vehicles and are all around better salespeople.

Sixty-two percent of female job seekers felt the stereotypes associated with car dealerships were a negative aspect when considering applying for a job; and the same number of women also admitted that the male-dominance in a dealership was undesirable. In order to meet these industry trends and build morale within the existing team and interested newcomers, we must equip women with the tools they need to succeed.

If you haven’t implemented a mentorship program at your dealership — or are considering starting one — outlined below are some steps to help build it.

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Choose the Right Mentor

Mentorship is more than pairing a veteran employee with a new hire. A mentor is someone who passes on valuable knowledge that can’t be learned in manuals or text books. These individuals are supportive, and they listen and offer valuable feedback that can help build a mentee’s career over time. On the flip side, the mentee needs to be willing to take constructive feedback and want to grow in their profession.

Actions become mentoring moments with small opportunities that let women be heard and valued in the dealership. This allows for a peer evaluation that can help build an inclusive culture valuing growth and development. If you want women to feel valued in your dealership, you need to show them that their work is impactful and treated as important as the men doing the same work. Similarly, one-to-many mentorships, also known as group activities or workshops, are very impactful because they provide information to the entire staff without singling anyone out, creating a cohesive way to build morale.

As a result of an established program, mentored employees are 44% less likely to leave the company over a five-year period. Additionally, in the world of mentorships, it’s important to recognize the difference between a mentor and a sponsor. A mentor will train and support a mentee over time, whereas a sponsor is simply someone who will present networking experiences, advocate on your behalf and provide you with an introduction to industry members.

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Set Goals and Plan for Success

Goal setting is important not only to measure progress, but also to keep the mentorship going in a clear direction with less of a chance to drop off. Big picture goals are great to keep morale up but setting smaller goals will help a mentee feel more satisfied with their day-to-day work. It’s important to understand that success isn’t always a vertical run or filled with increased percentages. Every interaction with a mentor can be considered a success because they are taking away valuable information and feedback they weren’t getting elsewhere.

In a busy work environment, it’s important to set aside time for your mentorship program. Doing so shows value from superiors and allows both parties to design a clear path for growth over time, ultimately reducing turnover.

Walk the Talk: Promote a Culture Up and Down the Hierarchy

In a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, estimates place the average cost to recruit and train a new employee at half an employee’s salary. With low unemployment rates, people (especially women) are becoming more aware of work/life balance and how their job fits into their career goals.

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Women need to be visible in every department and level of the dealership. From sales to back office, there is a role for everyone. Doing this allows employees to feel more confident in their work if they realize it is possible to advance. In 2018, only 16 women (8%) were executives in the top 20 motor vehicles and parts companies in the Fortune Global 500. In 2017, women represented 21.8% of all dealers.

Allowing women to see other women at the top is an important step in breaking down stereotypes in the auto industry. Additionally, the beauty of mentorships is that they are mutually beneficial. Mentors can learn new ways of thinking, the latest trends and efficiencies from the mentee. There is a clear exchange of information that takes place and builds with the mentorships. For example, more experienced dealers will know how to sell a traditional vehicle, whereas a newer member may have more knowledge on the latest developments in EVs.

We need to break away from the idea that veteran employees must be paired with new or younger employees. Skillsets need to offset each other for growth in optimum areas. For example, younger staff who have grown up in the digital age and are more apt to use digital and social media can teach their superiors how to navigate the landscape to produce more leads.

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Mentoring promotes a culture of constant learning, a characteristic that makes an ideal leader down the road. According to Everwise, more than 80% of mentors say they developed their own skills by mentoring others.

The turnover rate for women in the auto retail industry is 88%. With an established program, mentees will have a clear plan for growth within the company that makes them feel valued and on a level playing field.

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