UK automotive recruitment needs a rethink

To change perceptions of the industry big changes must be made to pay, working hours and diversity

In recent years the automotive industry has grown to establish itself as the backbone of the UK economy. However, on the retail side we face a recruitment problem because preconceptions about working in the sector are dated and put people off.

Key to changing these outdated perceptions will be showing the rest of the UK that the industry is more closely aligned with retail in the way we place a strong focus on customer services and delivering exceptional experiences.

Our employees attest to this; 80% say good people skills are vital to success in the industry, and 45% think understanding customers’ individual requirements is very important. These are essential traits for forging long-term customer relationships by creating an environment that customers will want to keep coming back to.

Another task our industry faces is changing the way we structure recruitment and working with employees to attract people from other industries (such as retail) which have the ideal skillsets.

We asked the UK how it truly sees us, balanced against how the industry views itself, in addition to what people in the UK want from a career or a job. Then we compared them both.

The research confirmed what we thought; that there are misperceptions externally. We found that as few as 15% of women outside of automotive and 25% of men are willing to consider a job in automotive retail. This compared with 85% of women and 73% of men inside the industry that would recommend it to a friend.

This trend continues into career opportunities; with only 3% of those not in the sector believing there are plenty of opportunities to progress, compared with 40% from inside.

Our research pointed towards commission-based pay being one of the main reasons people are discouraged from applying, with 53% outside the sector saying they do not like commission-based roles. Therefore the industry needs to lower its reliance on commission.

Reviewing working hours and shift patterns is on the cards, as 66% of those working outside the industry said hours to suit their lifestyle were among the most important factors when job hunting.

The gender imbalance must also be addressed. One stumbling block could be that as few as 5% of women outside the industry perceive the sector as having a warm, friendly environment. However, the industry has been working hard to change this perception in recent years, with almost half (45%) of women within the sector believing automotive represents a friendly environment.

These are just a few of the areas Jardine Motors Group are already planning to address. We anticipate that making significant changes will not only give us access to a new pool of talent – increasing the 18% of UK residents that would consider a career in the industry – but will also pave the way for the sector to make changes.

But the important part is not to stop listening and acting on the suggestions and sentiments of our employees. If we are to make things better for customers we need to make it better for employees; the rest will follow.

Clare Martin is group HR director at Jardine Motors Group