Donna Slater, head of strategy, research, and proposition development at MotoNovo Finance, forms a part of its new senior leadership team that is implementing big and small changes to support diversity and inclusion.
How do you define diversity?
To me, diversity and inclusion is just about the distinguishing features that sets one person apart from another. We talk about race, gender, and sexual orientation, but there’s also education and neurodiversity. Simply, it’s what sets one person apart another.
What does MotoNovo do to embrace D&I?
Looking at gender diversity, our leadership pipeline identifies high potential women in the organization and then looks to provide them with the confidence, skills, and capability to take the next step in their careers. We’ve got a gender balanced senior leadership team with myself and two other females sitting on the same team as three male colleagues. The leadership pipeline has helped bring this about. The female leaders on the team have all been through that pipeline, which has provided some great insight into how the world works, and then what we can do proactively overcome some of the challenges.
But it isn’t just gender. There’s a broad range of programs in the business that champion diversity. We’re long-term advocates of Pride Cymru, and in the next few weeks we’ll be launching an external women’s network called GROW, which stands for generating real opportunity for women.
And where does this support start?
There are policies and procedures in place that support and encourage diversity and inclusion from the ground up. We’re looking at the way we conduct our interviews and unconscious bias. It is important to shine a spotlight on unconscious bias so the individuals who are recruiting can be aware of some of the things that they may have in their psyche that they’re not aware of. We have also been looking into outreach programs. I think this type of stuff starts from infancy. I’ve got a boy and a girl and the minute they went to school the girl suddenly started coming home liking pink and wanting to play with unicorns. I think that conditioning can happen from a very young age through schools and into colleges. I think getting out there and talking to women, to people from different educational and ethnic backgrounds in those early years of development when they’re starting to think about careers can be so powerful.
One of the biggest drivers of success is confidence and self-belief. Your experiences of how your family and peers have been looking at other people going through education system, that can be limiting in what you believe you can do. And so, getting in there and instilling that self-belief and confidence, allowing people to have the ambitions for the long term is how we can help solve this and create the kind of society where everyone feels a sense of equal opportunity and belonging.
What has been your personal experience with D&I?
When I started my career, I worked for an inspirational female leader. They say that you can’t be what you can’t see, and luckily for me I had that figurehead that I looked up to and I could learn from. She created a culture of work / life balance and certainly had diversity on her agenda. That really set me off to a good start and it wasn’t until I went into a different part of my career that I realized how important that was.
I’ve also had the opportunity to work in a company that had a broad religious and racial makeup, which was an incredibly positive experience. From my own perspective, I had not previously been exposed to some of the cultural and religious festivals that were widely celebrated in this organization, and it was fascinating to learn about them and to celebrate with colleagues and understand their backgrounds and what was important to them, but also to then talk to people about how the things that I took for granted, they didn’t.
I’ve had my fair share of challenges as well, and I’ve certainly learned first-hand how not to manage maternity and paternity returners. Those experiences have allowed me to embrace the importance of empathy, flexibility, and kindness, which are important to me and to the way that I run my areas of the business and the teams that I look after.
At its heart, it is about being open to people and their individuality and celebrating that difference. I think helps to create an atmosphere of belonging where people feel that they can be their authentic selves, and then they bring their best to the work they do.
Can you highlight some changes you’ve made?
One of the first things that I did was implement simple things. So, if you look at gender, I’ve tried to shine the spotlight on some of the imbalances that you’ll see in a workplace. For example, you might see the females in a team gravitate to doing some of the more admin-based tasks, such as keeping minutes or buying the birthday presents for people in the team. So, I’ve made some really simple changes to make sure the duties are equally distributed throughout the team by having rotating chairs at meetings and changing the minute takers. We’ve just implemented a process around birthdays so that we can continue to celebrate but it isn’t just a couple of people within the team that take on the responsibility of the organization. I think some of those really small things that you’d not be conscious of help to give everybody the same opportunity to have the time to invest in themselves.
Karl Werner, managing director at MotoNovo Finance, spent three years at a dealership before moving into financial services. He describes how MotoNovo is working to champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
How would you define diversity and inclusion and its importance for companies?
I don’t think there’s necessarily a dictionary definition for D&I. I think that’s the whole point. It’s meant to be reflective of all of society in all its different elements. Fundamentally everyone is different, and everyone should get the same shot, the same chances. Everyone should be judged on their merits and their opportunities should be the same.
Does the motor industry have a reputation to overcome regarding D&I?
I think there have been measurable degrees of improvement, both in financial services, and automotive. I think we’re in a good position with our scale to play a very active part in helping it. I spent three years at a dealership, and there was no female staff in, for example, the sales team. When I stepped into financial services, it was slightly better. Not quite fair and equal, just slightly better. So being a motor finance company representing those two markets, it gives us a broad opportunity to help push things forward.
We have a responsibility because of our scale and ability to influence. We are obviously a financial services company of significant scale and then we have a large market share, and a fair degree of influence in the motor industry. We have good ideas and initiatives to share.
One of them is to think beyond our own four walls. So, an example of that would be our GROW campaign. That’s there to create a network in car dealers. So, if you are a woman, and you think I’d like to be part of a mentoring, learning, and sharing network that goes beyond the organization I work for, you can join our growing network. We’ll feed in speakers, best practice ideas, and provide a safe place to have mentoring.
How have you approached diversity and inclusion at MotoNovo
Having a gender balance has been something we have been conscious of for a long time. We look to get there whether it be through recruitment, personal development, promotion or otherwise, to reach a 50/50 representation of our society. Our particular methodology has been to develop, recruit, and mentor, so when opportunities arise, you will naturally have a candidate pool that’s more balanced.
It is much more than gender. We have several work streams including LGBTQI + and mental wellness. A priority for us is to make sure we have a record of diversity so we can get a better measure of what’s going on. Obviously, it is our colleague’s choice as to whether they wish to register those areas.
What can others in the motor industry do to improve?
There are a lot of options. Whether it be something like the 30% Club or being engaged with the GROW network. First, you need to connect to the fact that it’s something you need to engage with and change. It’s not a box to tick. It’s something that really matters to your employees. And if you go into that open hearted and in an engaged way, you’ll get the dividend back from your team.
There are a lot of opportunities to free up learning resources. Some people have signed up with LinkedIn learning, which is obviously hosts massive amount of material on any subject in business. So, opening those sorts of accounts for your colleagues in your management team, is a real practical thing to do. But if you’re a leader in an organization, in a motor dealership, open a discussion. When was the last time it was an agenda item on a sales or team meeting? Just plan for it and execute accordingly and you’ll find voices coming through.
The brand and reputation of the business plays a very large part in the decision making of people to join the business. And do all the voices in representing your company all look the same? Who are your spokespeople? Is that a reflective mix of society?
What three pieces of advice would you give to dealers today?
First, be conscious of the usual defenses, even though it is natural to be defensive sometimes.
Secondly, do not underestimate how quick progress can be made. You can spend an awful lot of time wondering, how do I start? Just start, it surprised me how quickly we can progress.
And then thirdly, don’t underestimate how much fun, engaging and attractive an industry can be. The motor trade makes customers happy delivering a brand-new car; it is a cool thing to do. It’s entrepreneurial, fast paced, and energetic, so it’s not hard to attract people if it is positioned the right way. A welcoming, open way.
I would say get started by being proud of the industry and engage with creating fair and equal opportunities and good stuff will follow.