Published in Automotive

What You See Is What You Get: How Hiring and Retaining Women will Change Everything About Dealerships!

Far too many dealership leaders are in denial that staff diversity is a critical strategy! They honestly believe that diversity ranks far below other “transactional” benchmarks…and they have a strong belief (an acceptance that something is true) that their mostly male front line already does a great job communicating equally with both men and women.

They’re sorely mistaken…and that belief will cost them sales transactions, and just as importantly, repeat business in the next decade.

They might also believe that women want to have the same customer experience as men (part of the “one size fits all” belief). Women are equal…but, in general they have a different set of wants, needs, and desires when shopping or servicing a vehicle.

The 20% Glass Ceiling

There’s been a common percentage cap of roughly 20% for women working in retail automotive for decades, and although it’s gotten better…it’s still unacceptable. And it’s not unacceptable because of fairness or doing the right thing. It’s unacceptable because it’s not smart, effective or productive.

Endless research has revealed that having women in decision making roles improves the bottom line for many other industries.

What’s the number one reason women customers continue to feel uncomfortable when they enter the showroom or service center of a dealership? I’d say it’s the fact than far too many stores still take on the appearance of a man cave.

The majority of women in dealerships are in support positions which, in most cases, come with little power to do anything other than facilitate man made processes that have existed for decades. It’s simply not good business!

The only way to build a truly diverse work force, is for store leadership to make a decision and commitment to hiring and retaining more women….even if they still don’t believe it is critical to the store’s success.

Adding a New Criteria for the “Best Dealers” List

This seems to be the season for “Best Dealerships to Work For” awards. Both Automotive News and JD Power have established well respected “best dealers” and “best dealers to work for” awards programs. Criteria for those awards are usually based on items like CSI/SSI, rewards, incentives, training and commissions.

I suggest that there needs to be another criterion added to the mix…proof that the store is committed to staffing in direct proportion to the diversity of its customer base.

Items like proportional gender ratios with customer facing staff and a dedicated HR contact need to be added to existing check offs. Adding these items will signal to future employees as well as customers that this store’s culture reflects the world we live in.

I put forth my case for this award adjustment in a recent letter that was published in Automotive News under the title of Best Stores Recruit Women.

There is one criterion to be a great dealership that may remain elusive for even the Best Dealerships To Work For (Sept. 23): What are they doing about staff diversification and attracting women to the workplace?

Hiring/Retaining More Women will Force Cultural Change for the Better

Too many dealership leaders are hesitant to commit to a proactive, formal strategy of hiring and retaining women front line personnel because they are fearful of either alienating their existing male employees or uncomfortable with the changes that might affect the leaders themselves.

Making a decision to focus formally on hiring more women will be the easy part…keeping them longer than present industry averages will be the tough challenge. But it will ultimately result in a more diverse workforce and with it, more bottom line success for companies who take on this advice.