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Gender balance in the automotive sector: Women are absolutely essential to the future of our business – Lynne McBurney, Head of People at Arnold Clark Group

Lynne-McBurney - Arnold Clark

Lynne McBurney is Head of People 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. 

Lynne McBurney - Arnold Clark
Lynne McBurney

Lynne was a speaker at our Diversity Thought Leaders’ event at Warwick Business School in The Shard on 20th November 2017. She shared her work driving gender balance at Arnold Clark, as the organisation experiences rapid growth. 

My job role

My role at Arnold Clark was previously Group HR Manager with responsibility for employee relations UK-wide. In line with our new employee engagement strategy, my role has changed to Head of People, and now encompasses management of the HR, Recruitment, Payroll, as well as Health and Safety functions – basically all the ‘people’ teams!

My overriding objective is to create a culture at Arnold Clark where people choose to come and work and want to dedicate themselves to the organisation’s success. This will entail a change in culture, which is the long-term aim.

My current work is focused on improving the gender balance within the organisation, providing a more inclusive workplace for employees and increasing our links with educational bodies to encourage more young people into our employment.

We are also looking at placing more emphasis on the wellbeing of our employees. Communication is a huge factor in the success of this, and we are working hard to improve our means of communicating with our employees who are spread throughout the UK and are not all desk-based.

Womanthology Diversity Thought Leaders’ event at Warwick Business School in The Shard

Arnold-Clark-salesI recently gave a presentation at the Womanthology Diversity Thought Leaders event at Warwick Business School in the Shard in London. This was a great opportunity to showcase all the work we’re doing at Arnold Clark to increase the number of women in the organisation. It covered all the things we currently have in place, such as robust equal opportunities and flexible working policies, job share and part-time positions, flexitime, shift patterns within our Service division and specifically-targeted events for potential female apprentices.

We also showcased our product genius role, which is popular with women as it involves showing customers the great features we have in our cars rather than conforming to a typical sales role. Our aim is for women to become more comfortable and confident on the sales floor and the hope is they will be our future sales execs. In addition, I was also able to talk through the things we are currently working on and planning for 2018. These include:

  • Female focus groups to get a true understanding of what it’s like to be a woman working at Arnold Clark;
  • Subconscious bias training for line managers;
  • Female mentor programme;
  • More promotion of our female role models;
  • The introduction of a five-day week for the Sales division;
  • Overhaul of recruitment practices;
  • Further roll-out of flexitime;
  • Support programme for managers to assist with the change of employee demographic;
  • A dedicated female employee network;
  • Girls with Skills – A training programme for school-age young women to inspire them into a career within the automotive industry;
  • Increase in CSR spend on female groups and charities;
  • Continued work with our key partners; Dare to be Different and Womanthology.

The importance of women

Women are absolutely essential to the future of Arnold Clark. We want an inclusive culture where people can come to work, be themselves and do a good job. An inclusive workforce breeds high levels of satisfaction, which directly affects employee engagement and performance.

As a company, we are also aware that we will (in the not too distant future) be entering a period where we will struggle to find talent if we continue with our current employee demographic. Part of our strategy for this is ensuring that we can attract, retain and offer career progression opportunities to women.

In addition, our customer base is 56% female, so we recognise that our workforce and management team need to be more reflective of this to ensure the continued success of the organisation.

Marketing message

We are doing a significant amount of work on our employer brand at the moment and our Marketing department is key to the success of this. We need to ensure that we are constantly creating and pushing out content which breaks down the stereotypical image that people may have of the motor trade.

We also need to use this content to educate people that Arnold Clark is not just about selling cars – our company has a vast array of careers to offer. In terms of gender, promoting images, videos and interviews with female role models who work at Arnold Clark gives our current female employees something to aspire to, a real feeling of: “If they can do it, so can I!”

Arnold-Clark-job-adExternally, we are using our female content to try to break down the barriers potential applicants may have regarding joining Arnold Clark. For example, they may think Sales / Service / Parts roles are just for men. We are combatting this by pushing out content showing women successfully carrying out these roles.

Dare to be Different

We are working to challenge stereotypes and change perceptions within the industry. We work closely with Dare to be Different, an organisation led by former racing driver Susie Wolff MBE, which seeks to inspire young women to try their hand at various aspects of motorsport, such as broadcasting, karting and STEM activities.

We have partnered with Dare to be Different as their aims are very much aligned with ours. We were thrilled to recently offer our employees a day out with their daughters to try out a number of motorsport activities. It was a fantastic day, one which we plan to repeat next year. In return for our support, Susie Wolff promotes Arnold Clark on social media, which is great exposure for us!

Event highlights

Of course, the main highlight of the event at the Shard had to be the venue! I’m not sure I will ever get the opportunity to present in a place like it again. The other highlight for me was meeting other like-minded people determined to make change happen. It was really inspiring.

Ideas I took away from the event

I was very interested in the discussion around HR processes and whether they actually work. I have returned to my desk determined to look at our aims and change our processes to support these.

I was particularly interested in the changes other organisations have made to the way they recruit employees to ensure women have a fairer chance of getting the job. Some of the results these companies have seen are amazing, and we are already looking at adopting some of these.

Next for Arnold Clark

Arnold-Clark-apprentices2018 will be about building on everything we have worked on this year regarding employee engagement. It will be the year when our employees will really see the fruits of our labour. We will be introducing our employee values and commencing work on getting these embedded into the organisation. We will also be rolling out our communications app, and there will be a real focus on employee wellbeing and more work on inclusivity.

It’s going to be another challenging year ahead at Arnold Clark, but a very exciting one which will bring about some genuinely positive changes.

I’m also looking forward to the next Diversity Thought Leaders’ event in 2018. There’s so much we can achieve by sharing new ideas.






Diversity Thought Leaders issue