DCH program aims to hire, promote women

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DCH Auto Group is focused on recruiting and training more female employees.

In late 2012, the South Amboy, N.J., dealership group formed the Professional Women's Association to study how it can better attract, retain and advance women employees, initially at its East Coast stores.

"We've been reaching out to universities and women and minority associations in tandem with this association," says Gene Hallenbeck, DCH's vice president of human resources. "They are very excited. We've been invited to several job fairs and events."

DCH operates 27 car dealerships in New Jersey, New York and California. Its 2,514 employees include 622 women. It will begin a Professional Women's Association for West coast stores this year.

"DCH is a believer in diversity and inclusion," Hallenbeck says. The group's customers "in the decision-making process or in visiting the store, are largely women. So if we don't look at our business to mirror who our customers are, we will fall very far behind."

DCH got the idea and launched the Professional Women's Association after studying the way several large corporations outside the auto industry plan careers for female workers.

It appointed a committee of 10 female employees to develop core initiatives for success in the car business, Hallenbeck says. Then it ran several focus groups at its East Coast dealerships, interviewing female employees to determine their top concerns. The results showed women wanted DCH to focus on recruiting more women and on training, particularly skill-based training in such areas as technology, public speaking and teamwork.

Said one employee: "People skills are most critical in this field. Customer service skills are not usually taught. We all need training."

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com. -- Follow Jamie on Twitter


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