Lynne McBurney is Group HR [human resources] Manager at Arnold Clark Group. Arnold Clark is one of the largest car dealer groups in Europe. As well as selling cars, the company also supplies business leasing and fleet services, car finance and insurance, vehicle aftercare, servicing, MOTs, accident repairs, and the ACCIST accident management service. Attracting and retaining female talent is a key objective for the organisation as it grows.
“…Women make up almost half of the labour force and encouraging these individuals into the automotive industry increases our potential workforce / talent pool…”
Lynne, please can you briefly tell us about your career to date and how you came to join Arnold Clark?
I joined Arnold Clark almost 12 years ago when I applied for a position as an HR advisor. I was interested in the role as it was multi-site covering the whole of the UK. I knew I would enjoy this far more than my previous, office-based roles.
At that time, Arnold Clark as a company had taken the decision to be more proactive and consistent across the organisation with regards to employee relations; previously the HR department was an administrative function and branch management had responsibility for employee matters resulting in issues with procedures and inconsistency. This meant it was an exciting time to join the HR department and I was able to have a real influence on setting policy and procedure.
As the work of the department and our credibility increased along with the size of the organisation, the HR team grew and as such I had opportunities to be promoted to Senior HR Advisor, HR Operations Manager and into my present role of Group HR Manager.
What does your role involve on a day-to-day basis?
Every day at the office is different! I manage the HR teams based in Glasgow and Manchester, a total of 20 employees. The team carries out all employee relations work within the organisation including maternity meetings, flexible working discussions, absence management, performance management, disciplinaries, grievances, TUPE transfers and redundancies.
My own workload is generally involved with group managers and directors in the planning and rollout of any changes or strategies affecting employees such as pay structures, branch closures and staffing changes.
I deal with all tribunal workload, liaising with our employment solicitors and making decisions daily on how to proceed with any live tribunal cases and on any early conciliation notifications we receive. It is my responsibility to ensure that the organisation stays compliant with current employment legislation, which involves constant review of policies and procedures.
I am also involved regularly in project work, currently working on preparations for the forthcoming gender pay reporting. Previous projects have included the change management of relocating 500 staff from various locations to our new, centralised head office facility and the management of the introduction of a flexi-time policy, which is currently being trialled with a view to rolling this out company-wide.
Globally, the automotive sector remains male dominated. At Arnold Clark you’re actively supporting women who want to work in automotive. Why is working towards a gender-balanced workforce so important to the company?
There are many reasons why Arnold Clark recognises the importance of a gender balanced workforce:
- Women make up almost half of the labour force and encouraging these individuals into the automotive industry increases our potential workforce / talent pool.
- High employee turnover results in huge costs to Arnold Clark. The organisation is aware that an inclusive culture improves employee retention rates due to increased morale, opportunity and equality.
- An inclusive workforce also breeds higher satisfaction levels, which directly affects employee engagement and performance.
- The reputation of the Arnold Clark business is key to our success and can only be improved by addressing the gender balance.
- A balanced workforce will allow us to serve an increasingly diverse customer base as a business.
What initiatives do you have in place to recruit, train and retain more women?
Recruitment: Arnold Clark has strong links with schools in order to encourage younger people into the organisation. We are active in attending girl-only events in schools to address the gender balance in the more male-dominated roles within the company. This involves us meeting with school-age girls and also introducing them to female apprentices to show the opportunities open to them.
Our training centre, GTG, is holding female-only events on International Women’s Day to give the opportunity for school age girls to tour the centre, complete apprenticeship practical tests, again meet some female apprentices and complete an application for an apprenticeship position.
Aside from apprenticeship recruitment, we encourage females into the organisation through our marketing literature, which shows images of successful women in the company, raising awareness of the automotive trade as an option for women. As an organisation we offer part-time and job-share positions in order to address any childcare issues a potential female applicant may have.
Training: Arnold Clark is very proud to have its own training company, GTG, with sites in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Wolverhampton. Training is offered to all employees who require it in order to carry out their role effectively.
Retention: The company has a robust equal opportunities policy that ensures that women are as successful within the organisation as their male counterparts. In order to address work-life balance issues women may experience, we have a flexible working policy which is vehemently applied by the HR department. We are also in the process of rolling out a flexi-time policy which allows for additional days off throughout the year, along with flexible start and finish times.
We consistently monitor our gender pay reporting to ensure our staff are paid correctly for their level of work.
How is the gender split of male and female employees changing across the different parts of the business?
In the last four years, the company has made improvements in the gender split across all areas of the business.
Sales: The number of women in Sales has doubled.
Apprentices: The number of females on apprenticeship contracts has doubled.
Aftersales: The number of women within Aftersales has increased by 25%.
In summary, things are moving in the right direction but the company recognises that there is still significant work to be done in this area and intends to make improvements on these figures in the next 12 to 18 months.
How does an insight into consumer behaviour across genders help drive sales and increase customer satisfaction?
Arnold Clark sends out thousands of customer surveys to an equal number of males and females to find out about their experiences with the company, before analysing responses from each gender that help us recognise areas for improvement.
The company also researches the role that technology and devices play in our customer’s lives to help find solutions that fit with their lifestyles.
Our website data is segmented by gender (as well as age, interests etc.) to spot trends and patterns that help us tailor our website appropriately.
Our in-house digital development team also performs face-to-face user testing across all demographics in order to better understand our customers, their needs, and which areas of our website could be improved / tested further.
What is your advice to girls and women who are interested in getting into the automotive sector?
All I would say to girls and women considering a career in the motor trade is: go for it! Don’t take any heed of stereotypical female career paths and ensure that you consider all options when looking for a job. Within Arnold Clark you will find female role models in all areas of the business and being a woman will certainly not hold you back!
What is coming up for you and Arnold Clark?
2017 is going to be a challenging and exciting time for me at Arnold Clark. The company is continuing to create a culture where people choose to come to work for the company and want to dedicate themselves to its success.
One of the ways in which we are looking to nurture this positive organisational culture is by increasing employee engagement. In particular, we’re looking into some exciting new ways that we can improve our communication with employees so that everyone is aware of the company’s activities and can see the results of the hard work they put in.
We will also be working on strengthening our links with diversity groups and overhauling our recruitment practices.
It is going to be a challenging year ahead but with the continued support of the directors, I know we’ll be able to make some positive changes.