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No more 'boys club': Transformation will save the auto industry, not kill it

2018-06-27 19:00

Nunben Dixon, Head of Gumtree Auto: Operations

Image: iStock

The automotive industry has traditionally been a "boys club", but women and people of colour are entering the ranks in droves.

Some naysayers are worried that "employee equity" hires are going to be the death of the industry. Luckily, research is showing that the opposite is true.

The gender pay gap is narrowing

Affirmative action is not a popular term in any industry, which is why I much prefer the phrase transformation. Everyone can benefit from a transformed organisation, including non-AA/EE employees.

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The reasons are simple. Our customers are transforming. There is a rising black middle- and upper class.

Internet poverty in black communities is shrinking with access to wifi and decreasing data and device costs and new consumers are searching for cars online. The gender pay gap is narrowing.

How well do you understand markets outside of your own demographic? Our own TNS research showed that in regions like the Western Cape, more women are buying cars than men.

Preferences and motivations

Young, up-and-coming 'buppies' (black urban professionals) prefer buying from dealerships rather than privately, because they would like a more premium experience.

Do you understand the reasons behind the trends? Do you have a game plan for reaching those consumers? 

It's certainly easier to gain insight into communicating with, targeting and selling to customers if you have inside information on their preferences and motivations.

                                                                          Image: Motorpress

A 2017 study by Harvard Business Review also found that diverse groups avoid the pressure to conform that homogenous employers tend to suffer from – the desire to fit in with one's peers make employees reluctant to stick their necks out and suggest changes to the status quo.

Deloitte found that diverse organisations' ability to innovate increases by 83% and can make decisions 60% faster than non-diverse teams; McKinsey published a report that diverse executive-boards are 35% likelier to financially outperform the industry medians. 

Diverse teams also enjoy greater staff retention, satisfaction and brand recognition – if it's done right.

Here are a few guidelines for becoming more diverse and inclusive: 

• It has to be genuine. Employees should not be hired to fill a quota or to be trotted out for PR purposes – employees have to feel included and accepted for diversity to be true. It doesn't start from top-down leadership, it happens at every level.

• Accept that disagreements will happen, and it won't be a bad thing. We tend to hire people that we are compatible with, often people that look like us but also people that think like us.

It does the company a disservice. A millennial that grew up with Uber and global warming scares sees car ownership differently than a baby boomer, who grew up seeing a car as a status symbol.

Both markets are vitally important for success. Accepting different mindsets and opinions might lead to clashes, but it will also lead to new insights.

• Be self-aware and lead with empathy. It's important that employees feel like they belong and feel that they are heard. Simply checking in with your employees, listening when they speak and keeping an open mind can contribute to employee motivation and wellness.

• Set KPIs and get buy-in early on. Brainstorm ideas for becoming more inclusive with your team early on and ask for recommendations.

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It is important that no employee feels like a "diversity hire" – and the only way to do that is to set strict KPIs for each employee, and to stick to them. 

If everyone is measured by the same yardstick and accountable for their performance, no one can complain that they are being treated unfairly.

We need to start looking at the benefits of transformation and what it can bring to the organisation, because if we do, we won't transform unwillingly. 

By adding more diverse individuals to our teams, we gain new insights into new markets and customers – and new sources of revenue.

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