The Automotive 30% Club is on a mission to improve the gender balance in the automotive industry – it wants to have 30% of key leadership positions in the sector filled by diverse women by 2030.
The network also hosts the Inspiring Automotive Women Awards, which female leaders who are dedicated to creating inclusive workplaces and lifting up other women in their organizations.
Toyota GB’s managing director and managing director Agustín Martín said: “The 30% Club Inspiring Women Awards are an important opportunity to recognize and showcase the great women we have in our industry and to help attract further talent to our business.
“They illustrate how people are inspired in different ways, with many of our nominees not realizing the amazing impact they have on others and the role models they have become.
“Rachel’s win is very well-deserved, but we are also very proud to see that 12 Toyota GB women were nominated this year, for reasons such as advocacy for women, mentoring and coaching, leadership, passion and resilience.”
Speaking exclusively with UNLEASH, Shepherd shares: “It’s humbling to be a winner, not least because I work among so many great inspiring women here at Toyota. An award like this suggests we are doing the right things and creating the right conditions for our talent to thrive.”
Inside Toyota’s D,E&I commitments
Central to Shepherd’s accolade is her work to create an inclusive and caring culture at Toyota.
“We don’t just want our employees to be the best, we want to them to fulfill their potential and love what they do, which is why we put time and thought into ensuring they get the best employee experience,” adds Shepherd. “From their first interview to the day they leave, we want them to look forward to coming to work.”
But having a diverse and inclusive workplace isn’t just the right thing to do, it is also good for business. “Being diverse and reflecting your customer is really important, and we’ve also found that diverse teams are often more innovative” – this is crucial as Toyota needs to be constantly updating its products in line with customer needs.
“Encouraging diversity of thought and creating an environment where people feel they can share alternative views…without judgement, helps shape our customer offering, gets us thinking about doing things differently, and ensures we are considering all options,” notes Shepherd.
“Without inclusive, equitable workplaces, we could miss-out on those amazing ideas and the best talent.”
On the topics of products, because the climate and customers are demanding it, “sustainability is at the center of everything we do”. “We want to operate a business that is profitable, sustainable and a great place to work.”
Shepherd shares: “We focus on achieving better mobility for all, and on creating even better cars that let people live cleaner, safer, and more connected lives. We’ve pioneered hybrid cars that have reduced harmful emissions and we’re launching a wide range of battery electric, zero-emission vehicles over the next few years.”
She adds: “We are promoting measures that aim to reduce the negative environmental impacts of manufacturing and driving vehicles as close to zero as possible and to make net positive impacts on society.”
Making progress on D,E&I
Clearly Toyota is talking the talk on diversity, equity and inclusion, but is the employer walking the walk?
The answer is yes. Toyota has been named one of the best places to work in the UK consistently since 2015 and Shepherd’s inspiring female leadership award specifically mentions certain policies and programs the employer has introduced.
First of all, Toyota is ahead of the curve, and has already achieved its (and Automotive 30% Club’s) goal of having 30% of women in UK senior positions by 2030. It is on its way to achieving 40% by 2030.
To help here, the employer has ensured the language in its job adverts is inclusive. “We have revamped our job profiles, removing any language or lengthy essential skills sets that could act as a barrier to application”, explains Shepherd.
“We also now track data on who we are attracting for our vacancies, so we can adjust accordingly, whether that be where we advertise or how we describe the job. The job title itself can often have a big influence on who applies,” notes Shepherd. “We are also working towards level 2 accreditation in the Disability confidence standard for recruitment.”
Accessibility in general is crucial to Toyota. In terms of Toyota sites, the employer has a Sociability app that “shows an individual with accessibility needs how to navigate the building, as well as the surrounding area, transport network, cafes and accommodation”.
Career development is key
Toyota has further switched up its recruitment process by ensuring job descriptions focus on how the employer will develop the individual. Generally, learning and development are a key focus of the automotive giant.
For instance, Toyota focuses on “coaching and developing our managers” to be more conscious about their inclusion.
“We train all our people managers in coaching skills and mindset. We also have programs for employees on peer coaching”, adds Shepherd.
Toyota also hosts mentorship schemes, both internally and externally with the Automotive 30% Club, which aim to help employees “navigate the business and accelerate their development”.
The employer focuses its development on specific topics as well – for instance breaking taboos around menopause, and a female leadership program called ‘Women on the verge of brilliance’. Shepherd is heavily involved in both of these initiatives, and they played a large role in her recent Automotive 30% Club award.
‘Women on the verge of brilliance’ is a workshop that helps women with their personal development journey, particularly empowering them to be confident, resilient and mentally tough.
Shepherd explains this is “where women come together to talk about how they perceive themselves, how they want to be perceived, and the plan they want to work on to reinforce their brilliance”.
Toyota and the ‘Great Resignation’
The conversation then turned towards a ‘Great Resignation’, and whether Toyota’s focus on being a diverse, inclusive, sustainable business (with a focus on learning and development) is helping the automotive giant thrive?
Shepherd tells UNLEASH: “One of our strengths is the large amount of internal movement we have, which enables career progression.” Succession planning is key, as are the development programs and initiatives already laid out.
“We focus on our employee experience and creating an environment where our people wish to remain” – this has been successful to date – the average tenure at Toyota in the UK is a whopping 14 years. When people leave, Toyota doesn’t take it personally, and they keep the door open for them to return later in their career.
But Toyota is not resting on its laurels around attrition and the ‘Great Resignation’. Shepherd shares that the automotive giant regularly takes the pulse of not just employees, but also candidates, to find out what’s important to them.
Toyota regularly reviews its benefits package, as well as its diversity and inclusion policies, “to ensure that they support our people”.
Ultimately, as James Purvis from CERN noted at UNLEASH World copying other employers won’t help you survive (and thrive in) the ‘Great Resignation’; the best thing to do is to listen to your employees, and make sure you tailor your retention, and wider HR, strategies to them.
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