ADESA begins drive to diversify

ADESA Corp., the nation's second-largest auction company, intends to create a more culturally diverse workplace and management force.

The Indianapolis company plans to hire a diversity consultant to help recruit women, minorities and people with disabilities - within and outside ADESA - who have the talent and drive to become managers, said Steve Kotz, the company's vice president of human resources.

It is difficult to determine how many of the people who fit the diversity criteria already work in the $77 billion auction industry and the jobs they hold. ADESA, which has 12,000 employees and operates 55 auctions in the United States and Canada, has never compiled such numbers, Kotz said.

Officials at Manheim Auctions Inc. of Atlanta, which operates 85 auctions in the United States, were not available for comment. The rest of the auction industry consists of small and/or family-owned auction operations, many of which have little reason to keep such statistics.

ADESA CEO Jim Hallett said the company has more women than minorities in its management ranks, and there is work to be done. "We haven't paid enough attention to (diversity)," Hallett said.

Industry can do more

Ray Nichols, president-elect of the National Auto Auction Association and owner of four wholesale auto auctions, applauds ADESA's efforts.

He said the auction industry can do more to attract women, minorities and others by recruiting on college campuses and making itself known as an industry that offers financially and professionally rewarding careers.

"It is a real significant challenge," said Nichols, who last month hired a black person as an operations manager at his Bel Air Auto Auction in Bel Air, Md.

Kotz said each ADESA auction management staff hires its own employees. He said there are more than 105 job titles within the ADESA auction system and several management positions such as general manager, assistant general manager, business manager, fleet-lease manager, general sales manager and factory manager.

While the company has no timetable or hiring quotas for its program, Kotz said it wants to make sure that its promotion and transfer process is known throughout its employee ranks.

The idea, he said, is to ensure that less experienced, talented people within the company have a chance to apply for management jobs or positions that might lead to management.

Barriers and obstacles

"Because everybody is so busy with the day-to-day business, inadvertent barriers and unintended obstacles do occur," Kotz said.

The company expects to hire a consultant in 30 to 60 days, he added. Among other things, the consultant will get a handle on the number of women and minority employees in the organization and set up a diversity training program for ADESA managers and employees.

"I see a lot of minorities in shops and in the driver ranks and would like to see more move up to management positions," Kotz said.

Starla McHugh, manager of marketing and advertising at Auction Broadcasting Co. in Indianapolis, the nation's third-largest auction company, said the company has no set program to hire women and minorities. She said two of the company's seven auction site general managers are women.

"We try to hire the best person for the job," she said. "There are a lot of opportunities here for anyone with the knowledge and the drive."

You can reach Arlena Sawyers at asawyers@crain.com

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