Male Advocate interview featuring Neil Williamson, CEO, Jardine Motors Group

Back in November, more than 120 colleagues from across Jardine Motors Group came together for the launch of #WeAreJMG, the company’s new diversification and inclusion strategy. We had the chance to chat with Neil Williamson, CEO, Jardine Motors to hear all about it and his personal views on this all important topic.

 

Can you briefly explain the inspiration behind the launch?

“I don’t believe that we’re in the car business; I believe we’re in the people business. This means that our customers have to feel they are dealing with people who understand their needs and this means that our colleagues need to be able to understand and relate to a variety of customers in order to be able to deliver exceptional service.

“We’re also big believers in offering a collaborative and innovative environment, removed of bias or stereotypes, which is why we’ve been on this journey for the last five years, to challenge the industry norms. We hope that by doing this, we’re creating a culture where everyone can feel comfortable to bring their whole self to work and enable all talent to shine. Working to ensure this environment is implemented across our business is the key inspiration behind the strategy.”

What’s your personal view on the importance of creating an inclusive culture?

“Businesses talk about the importance of D&I, and we have legal obligations of course, but it is so much more than simply ticking a box. It is about making sure we are having the right conversations in our business to help move it forward and transform. This means having a diversification of thought, talent and experience and ensuring these colleagues are included in conversations and given a voice.

“At Jardine Motors, we place great emphasis, time and resource on creating an inclusive, positive work environment for our people so that ultimately we are a thriving business that enjoys the fruits of the widest possible range of experiences.

“Our people are the power that drives our business so it’s crucial they are fully included and empowered. And an inclusive culture is not just good for colleagues; ensuring they have balanced, fair opportunities to succeed is also good for business as well as just being the right thing to do.”

How do you think your way of thinking about diversity and inclusion has changed over time?

“I feel that our view of diversity and inclusion has become more rounded as time has progressed, and that is in wider society as well as in business. It is not enough to simply address one area, gender diversity for example. You have to look at the full vista of diversity and inclusion, because if you fail in one area then you are failing across them all.

“It is this holistic approach that will help us continue to move forward, creating an environment where everyone can be proud of where they work. We have been working on D&I for a long time now and we have seen a lot of women rise to senior management positions within the group in a traditionally male dominated industry, which is a brilliant result. It now about taking this approach and applying it to the wide communities within the business. It also helps when it comes to business-related aspects; a team that is open-minded, honest and empowered will come up with much better solutions and produce better results.”

A big part of your D&I strategy focuses on several new networks which include; Women in JMG, JMG Ability, JMG Forces, JMG United and BAME in JMG. What positive impact do you think these networks will have on your employees?

“With more than 3,000 colleagues working across 60 sites around the UK, we recognise the critical importance of ensuring they feel valued, respected and have an identifiable place of work.

“However, what motivates and makes one person feel included and engaged is not the same for another person, and then when you overlay that with the geography and varying sizes of our teams at the dealerships, the risk is that some very talented colleagues could feel isolated. The networks are just one part of a bigger engagement strategy to help all colleagues find their place in our business, if it’s something they choose to get involved or identify with. These new networks will allow like-minded people to connect across the business, not just in the teams they work with day to day.

“We also understand that if we are to continue to attract the talent we want in our business, we have to meet the expectations that people have when it comes to wanting to work for a company where diversity and inclusiveness is a business priority.”

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced upon implementing a D&I strategy within Jardine?

“Understanding where you’re starting from is the biggest challenge of it all. We needed to understand the geography of the business and the people within it, so we could build an effective strategy. This isn’t something we’re doing to tick a box, with a list of measurables against it, it’s something we are doing to offer genuine benefits to our people and we’re in it for the long-term, just as we have been with our gender diversification activity.

“We have invested a lot of time and effort into really understanding our teams and giving everyone a chance to be heard, have their achievements celebrated and get any help or support that they may need.”

What would be your key piece of advice for others wanting to implement a D&I strategy within their workplace?

“It’s really important to understand where people are coming from and what makes them tick, but the initial impetus has to start from the very top with the leadership team driving the strategy and it has to be authentic otherwise you lose credibility. You can then nominate leaders across the business to own the strategy, but you must offer training and guidance on how to implement it.

One of the things we’ve found that has worked really well has been to offer training across our eLearning platform and we’ve used some of our specialist external partners to design these modules. When we launched our #WeAreJMG strategy last year, colleagues then went on to complete more than 1,600 D&I themed modules and we gave special recognition to over 100 colleagues who completed all 12 modules, which was a great way to raise awareness and start conversations.”

As a leader of our industry, what more do you think can be done to ensure we create inclusive environments so that women can thrive?

“I think the issue is twofold; firstly we need to do more to increase the number of women coming into the industry and part of the resolution to this is reducing the macho-style cultures that still exist in our industry,  and secondly we need to retain the talent we have.

“We have achieved a lot in this area already, with 30% of our managers now women, however, there is much more that can be done to help grow this sector’s attractiveness to women. I think there’s still more work to do at grassroots and early careers levels and that area of focus can never go away.  When I speak to young people in schools, it’s clear they are being heavily influenced by their parents and teachers, who perhaps have outdated or misperceptions of our industry.

In terms of talent retention, our next big area of focus is flexible working. In the last 12 months we’ve significantly upgraded our parental and maternity policies, but now we need to ensure that women especially, can return to work and feel supported as a working parent.

From listening to our female colleagues, I know it’s also about ensuring have a voice, which is why we can’t underestimate the importance and value in recognising talent and is one of the reasons why I’m delighted that once again Jardine Motors is sponsoring the Inspiring Automotive Women Awards.”

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