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Will narrow-mindedness be the downfall of the automotive industry?

As a recruitment consultancy specialising in the motor industry, we hear on a daily basis that there aren’t enough good candidates in the automotive sector and that they’re getting rarer by the day. However, this is simply not the case and recent research (conducted by RTS and Cranfield University) supports the argument that it is perhaps a rather narrow-minded view of what a “good” candidate looks like that is limiting new hires.

The automotive industry is known for its traditional, male-dominated culture and thus certain groups are far more likely to succeed in gaining employment within it. Men are generally chosen over women, veterans over graduates and those with industry experience over those without (ceteris paribus). This immediately rules out a vast number of talented individuals that could bring a fresh perspective to the sector and drive innovation through new ideas that can only emerge when people from a variety of diverse backgrounds work together.

male-dominated culture

An outmoded culture and high barriers to entry make the industry an unappealing choice for new graduates and non-automotive professionals. Besides, very little is being done to try and attract them; a lack of training, development and competitive salaries being offered have been identified as key factors in discouraging applicants.

Interestingly, when people who worked within the industry were asked about how they thought it was perceived from the outside, many said that they didn’t think it was respected by the general public and was seen as second-rate. Though this may not be the case, the stereotype has endured in the minds of automotive professionals and has an adverse effect on self-confidence, attitude to work and how the future of the industry is described to outsiders.

These factors make it difficult for managers to create a strong positive vision for the sector’s prospects. Tim Clark, an RTS business development manager, stated that this has “created a situation where there is reluctance to plan and resource for the future”. Crucial management training and development programmes are avoided through fears that employees will move elsewhere once the company has invested in them. Employers need to prove that there is no need to leave in order to continue developing and progressing and that, instead, the opportunities are boundless and employees will be looked after.

BMW careers screenshot

Employers need to take the first step by considering high-potential candidates that are currently overlooked such as women, graduates and experienced professionals from other industries. More investment needs to be made into workplace development, graduate recruitment and encouraging women to join the industry. Some progressive dealerships already moving in this direction – BMW Group has made a huge effort to change perceptions and enhance its workforce through greater diversity and will no doubt lead the way for others (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pG-i042t1Gk).