Studies show that companies with successful diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs are more innovative, competitive and profitable. Effective DEI programs also can boost employee and customer retention and enhance investor relations. But implementing such programs can be a challenge for companies as they strive to undo long-standing biases, both conscious and unconscious; retool their recruitment and hiring techniques; provide DEI training; and foster a culture of equity and inclusion. Here Cathy Gutierrez, a consulting leader in Deloitte’s Human Capital practice, explains best practices that can help companies achieve their DEI goals. In doing so, they’ll become more agile and flexible as well as more accepting of different perspectives, skills and backgrounds – prerequisites for success in today’s competitive marketplace.
Q: The COVID-19 pandemic has posed big challenges to the auto industry and how it operates. What obstacles stand in the way of the industry’s drive toward becoming more diverse and inclusive?
Cathy Gutierrez: The automotive industry has faced a number of seismic disruptions in the past few years, including health and supply-chain crises, economic headwinds and the electrification revolution. In various ways, all of these challenges have revealed blind spots and vulnerabilities that could impede many automotive companies’ ability to respond to disruptive change. One significant vulnerability lies within workforce culture – in particular, the lack of agility, flexibility and diversity. For decades, many automotive companies have focused on developing and promoting talent from within the organization, fostering low turnover, long tenures and familial traditions. These values can certainly be seen as well-intentioned. But traditional workforce-development strategies that have served automotive companies historically are inadequate to meet the needs of today’s competitive landscape.
As the industry quickly pivots toward electrified, connected and software-centric mobility, traditional, internally focused workforce strategies do not always address the challenges of attracting and cultivating the specialized capabilities essential to maintaining competitive viability. Where deep expertise is needed, legacy strategies have often produced generalists. And while companies have begun proactively looking outside their industry for talent relevant to their needs, when they do expand their hiring, they may struggle to foster a culture that helps navigate the tensions that sometimes develop between tenured teams and newer employees who bring diverse backgrounds, skills and perspectives.