A diverse recruitment pipeline and an inclusive culture have been part of the Close Brothers Motor Finance (CBMF) agenda for a number of years, with ‘Colleague First’ our mantra.
Our leadership team are passionate about diversity and all the benefits it brings, and we have set ourselves stretching targets between now and 2025 around all the key inclusion groups, which includes a desire to increase our females in management and senior management positions. Despite our clarity in terms of future vision, we had to question ourselves around what we were actually doing to shift the dial, and in the summer of 2019, a trend emerged that told us we needed to do more. Our female talent pipeline in the sales division was diminishing. The data told us that we had more females leaving than joining, a lower level of female promotions and no females in our Sales Management and Leadership populations. Digging deeper, I analysed our recruitment data and found we were struggling to attract female candidates and without a healthy pipeline of talent, we were not going to develop the gender balance we were striving for. I carried out research into our exit interview data but found no trends in terms of why females were leaving. Their new places of work had no correlation, no similarity in their previous backgrounds, nor their tenure or team.
In response, and with the support of our Sales Director (and now Managing Director), Seán Kemple, we decided to take a different approach and set up a focus group from a selection of our most successful female Account Managers to explore what attracted them to CBMF, why they enjoyed their current role and how could we encourage others to join our Sales team. The focus group was so successful in terms of valuable insight and general engagement, that the suggestion to create a forum was immediately mobilised and the Women in Sales Forum was born. A few meetings in and the forum was renamed Women in Motor to be more inclusive of the wider business. Expertly Chaired by Gemma Burdett, one of our Senior Account Managers, and supported by a further eight female Account Managers, sponsored by Seán and I, we meet on a virtual call monthly, with a quarterly face to face. The more visible the forum becomes and the members become proactive within the business, the more colleagues are reaching out to join. So much so, we now have our first male forum member and the start of our advocacy movement for 2021.
The framework and purpose of the Forum remain directly linked to the Automotive 30% Club strategy, to:
• Reach Out – to attract more women into CBMF sales roles and nurture inhouse talent
• Welcome In – to remove bias in recruitment
• Pull Through – encourage women through the promotional pipeline
• Hold On – to retain talented women
Our aim is to positively affect the gender balance gap internally, increasing our number of females moving through our talent pipeline, but also to have all our colleagues as advocates for this change. We believe once this colleague movement gathers momentum, we can help influence the wider automotive industry; encouraging females to look for a career in our market, support female entrepreneurs hoping to open their first dealership and increase awareness of female customers buying experience.
The progress so far has been amazing, and completely driven by the forum members and their commitment, passion and desire to learn and push this agenda forward. They have:
• Attended interview skills training and now regularly sit on interview panels
• Created testimonials for Glassdoor and LinkedIn, generating many more female candidates applying for roles
• Participated in various sales management meetings
• Provided peer support for new starters
• Attend external events and shared learnings
• Created a brand and elevator pitch, to present at events
I should also mention that at the beginning of August, one member of the forum was seconded into a Sales Manager position and is now the first female in our sales management population. We are still at the beginning of our journey, but it feels like the road is laid out in front of us, the sun is shining, and we are all on the bus (stopping off along the way to collect new advocates).
“I’m proud to be an advocate of the women in Motor forum, it’s a great step forward for equality and diversity in our company and has put down an important marker for us to build on as a leadership team”
Ross Chambers, Motorcycle National Sales Manager
“Women in Motor adds to the great work that CBMF is already involved in for all diverse groups. It is supporting women in their career aspirations and challenging some of the motor trade norms. The positive impact that the forum has already had is rewarding in itself and I look forward to the future developments towards gender balance”
Gemma Burdett, Senior Account Manager and Women In Motor Chair
“Being part of the Women in Motor Forum has given me the knowledge and support to reflect on my own career pathway and the confidence to move forward. I feel that the forum has given me great insight and support around diversity and is growing from strength to strength, we are already seeing some great results.”
Vicky Hope, Sales Manager
“Women in Motor has opened up so many avenues for its members to highlight the skills and influence they can bring to the business. Being involved and listened to in management meetings and being part of the interview process for sales roles has made a huge difference in confidence levels and ‘can do’ attitude going forward for females in CBMF”
Christine Tracey, Account Manager
Article written by Mandy Smith, HR Business Partner, Close Brothers Motor Finance