General Manager and Controller, Volvo of Edmonton
Rebecca Sherman does not consider her work to build inclusivity into the inner workings at Volvo of Edmonton to be anything “earth-shattering.”
“I’m not a lead-from-the-front person ... I just feel it’s what you should do,” she said of her role fostering an open-to-everyone environment at the dealership.
Sherman, who has spent nearly 15 years with Volvo of Edmonton in jobs of progressing responsibility, said diversity has always been a priority for her. Though it is a priority that is less a deliberate set of actions than it is an undercurrent that has become ingrained in the company’s workplace culture.
Sherman is now the dealership’s general manager as well as the controller. When hiring, she does not set specific targets for females or other underrepresented groups. Instead, the dealership’s recruitment process puts all applicants on equal footing while prioritizing only the candidate who proves the best fit.
“As long as they fit the culture — we feel that they’re going to work well within the team and understand that it is a team environment — we don’t care where you come from, or what you are, or who you are. It makes zero difference.”
The unbiased hiring approach and culture favouring inclusivity has produced a staffing list far more representative of the population than the average Canadian dealership. Roughly 30 per cent of staff at Volvo of Edmonton are females, and many employees are from other groups typically underrepresented in automotive.
Sherman also makes a concerted effort to tackle common unconscious biases. She pointed to a customer-facing issue as one example.
“In the car industry, sales guys have a tendency to only talk to the [customer’s] husband or male counterpart, and not include the female, even though she might be the one driving the car. So, we’ve always been very conscious about making sure that we’re addressing that each and every time we have an interaction with a customer.”
The emphasis extends to interplay between staff, with Volvo of Edmonton hosting regular training sessions to make females feel comfortable both in front of and behind the counter.
Creating a more welcoming experience for everyone who walks through the dealership’s doors pays dividends through very low staff turnover and improved sales, Sherman said.
“If we take really good care of our employees, they’re going to take really good care of our customers.”
Sherman views the percentage of females working at Volvo of Edmonton as her most significant win on the diversity front, but she continues to push to bring more women into the dealership and wider industry in roles they have traditionally been underrepresented, including in management and the service department.
“Are there a lot of female [general managers]? No, for sure not. But there’s far more than there ever used to be.
“I’m just happy with the way that it’s progressing. We’re not seeing a big downturn or a pushback. I think women are getting more of a foothold.”