EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of seven stories devoted to leading women in the auto industry. The series originally ran in the December 2020 print edition of Automotive News Canada. You can watch the pair of roundtable discussions here.
When Zanchin Automotive Group near Toronto set out three years ago to establish a business-development centre based on remote work, staffing it with women was unintentional.
The group searched outside the auto industry for candidates who demonstrated ambition, strong multitasking and communication skills and attention to detail. That led to the hiring of a successful and diverse team of women, many of whom were working mothers and near-retirees, said Andria Zanchin, the auto group’s executive vice-president.
Some of the department’s original hires have stayed and progressed through the organization into dealership product specialist or leasing management roles, Zanchin told Automotive News Canada’s Leading Women Roundtable.
“We built a successful team of women who support each other, and now we’ve added men to the team,” she said.
“It’s really helped us build a nice culture, and it’s also a great example of taking somebody that has never been in our industry and introducing them to our industry in a way that is appealing to them.”
Launching the business development centre from the ground up allowed the group to introduce salary-based compensation, a key factor in attracting candidates from outside automotive, Zanchin said. Because commission-based compensation is often a mainstay of a dealership’s sales department, changing to a salary-based model can be challenging, she said.
“We’ve been discussing it, but we have not implemented it just yet. It’s a little bit more difficult when you have veterans that have a high success rate on the sales floor and deconstruct what they’re used to and how they make a living.”
NO AUTO BACKGROUND? OK
The pandemic, meanwhile, has facilitated the search for candidates in other sectors, such as retail and hospitality, that have not recovered as quickly as automotive, said Sarah Hindle, general manager of future retail for the Ontario-based dealership group Pfaff Automotive Partners.
Young people from these industries have been among her department’s most successful employees, especially as sales transition to digital, said Hindle, who has been spearheading the development of an online sales platform.
Attracting these types of candidates means trading a lack of automotive experience for skills that are a good fit for job openings, Zanchin said.
“So many times, we get resumes and [think] ‘no dealer experience — next, let’s just turn the page,’ ” she said. “It’s really important that we do a good job at introducing women to our industry. It will really make a difference between somebody that is just looking for a job, a paycheque, and somebody that’s actually wanting to stay in the industry and make a career of it.”