Ripping up the Aftersales rulebook, by Sharon Ashcroft, HR Director at TrustFord

I’m Sharon Ashcroft, Board member and HR Director for TrustFord.

My role encompasses far more than overseeing our HR operation; there’s a huge strategic element too, focused on evolving processes and culture within the Group to achieve our ultimate, continued goal – being an Employer of Choice. Improving diversity within our TrustFord Family is a huge part of that.

We’ve worked closely with the Automotive 30% Club in recent years to help inspire more females to join the industry and I’m proud that we already have 30% of our key leadership positions held by women. However, I’m very aware that we still have a long way to go.

A huge point of focus for me has been supporting the recruitment and development of women at all levels of the company – particularly in Aftersales roles. We currently have 7 female colleagues in managerial Aftersales roles and 8 female Technicians.

How can we continue to grow that number? Our culture and ethos have a huge part to play, both in encouraging women to join the company and promoting more progressive attitudes across the group.

Our Purpose, Principles and Ambition (PPA) are central to that, with particular focus on our principle of Care – which encourages all colleagues to think about how they conduct themselves at work and show respect and care to everyone at all times.

One of our ambitions is that we will grow and retain the best people. This highlights that equal opportunity for employment and progression will be available to all candidates – irrespective of their age, race or gender.

Our ethos is supported in our recruitment process. Many of our roles are recruited through our Assessment Centres, with candidates undergoing a series of tasks and interviews. This process ensures we recruit these on behaviours rather than experience, opening opportunities up to a wider range of candidates.

One of our most notable recent success stories is Clare Bennett, currently the Aftersales Manager at our TrustFord Wilmslow Ford Store

One of 4 female Aftersales Managers currently working within the Group, Clare joined us in 2014 as a Service Advisor. Within just 2 years she was named the Aftersales Manager at our old Hazel Grove site in Stockport. I caught up with Clare to get a perspective on her TrustFord journey.

Following the closure of our Hazel Grove site Clare was asked to take on the same role at a larger business, our Wilmslow Ford Store. She explains that this was a daunting prospect: “It was a massive move for me,” Clare says. “I went from managing 6-8 Techs to a team of 25, at a far bigger site that was undergoing a million-pound refurb.”

With a background in customer service, Clare faced numerous challenges: “Initially there was the attitude of, ‘she’s not technical, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about’,” says Clare. “You need to earn that respect, which I think I’ve done now.”

Colleagues across the business have been key to supporting Clare’s development: “Nick Bolton, our GM here at Wilmslow has done a lot to guide and develop me. I’ve learned so much from him,” says Clare. “The other Aftersales Managers across the group have been brilliant too. I know that I can pick up the phone at any time to ask for their help – it’s really reassuring to have that support network.”

The success of colleagues such as Clare suggests that many organisations need to rip up the rule book of what makes a successful Aftersales professional, and highlights why it’s important that we continue to champion and support the progression of these women.

A lack of technical knowledge should not exclude capable, dedicated professionals from other backgrounds from being hired to senior Aftersales roles – indeed these people can bring a fresh perspective and other transferrable skills.

Many of Clare’s Techs feel that she’s more approachable, better organised and a superior problem solver than Aftersales Managers they’ve worked under elsewhere. Clare’s team are one of the best performing Aftersales departments across our group, with a very low Technician turnover.

I believe attitudes are changing in the industry and that sharing success stories such as Clare’s can only help us to make further progress. We need to make it clearer that there are a variety of progression routes to senior roles across automotive and that with the right attitude and aptitude, any role within the industry is attainable for anyone, regardless of their background, ethnicity or gender.

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