Auto dealerships and other businesses can foster diversity, equity and inclusion by developing human connections between employees, said Virnitia Dixon, chief diversity officer of Santander Consumer USA.
"I absolutely believe that it's important to create platforms where people can come together and just start talking," Dixon told Automotive News at the Auto Finance Summit East in May.
These can be inexpensive gatherings such as office lunches or coffee events, Dixon said. Don't label the event "DE&I," she said. Rather, call it a gathering where people of different appearances or departments recognize commonalities and don't see their co-workers as "others." This creates a starting point for DE&I progress, Dixon said.
"It is magic what happens when you do that," she said.
The goal is to have employees learn about each other personally, Dixon said. This could be done with a conversation starter; Dixon said she sometimes hosts workshops where she gives attendees three minutes to find something in common with the person on their left.
The room fills with energy and anxiety disappears when revelations such as, "'You like fishing? I like fishing,' " emerge and lead to the recognition, "'You're human just like me,' " Dixon said.
"It's just so powerful," she said. "I think that's what we've got to get back to, and from that then you can start building."