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NADA offers tips on incorporating diversity as a business priority

November 16, 2010

The first step toward unleashing the power of diversity is to make diversity an integral part of your dealership’s business plan. Once you develop a working definition of diversity for your dealership—utilizing, perhaps, the varying perspectives of key employees, customers, and business partners—make it known throughout the dealership. Publish it in newsletters, put it on your Web site, distribute it at employee meetings.

Make sure your plan states your commitment to recruit, retain, and empower all employees to develop their talents and skills for the dealership’s benefit. Make sure it’s grounded in knowledge of the demographics of your current workforce and customer base, employee turnover rates, recruitment success, and policies and benefits. Make sure you know what outcomes you want to achieve. And make sure you earmark the resources—human and monetary—to achieve them.

There are many ways to institute diversity programs, none of them mutually exclusive or "set in stone." All of them demand systematic communication and involvement of all employees, from those lowest on the corporate ladder to those at the topmost rung. Everyone needs to "own" the effort in order to invest fully in making it. Following are some of the methods used to incorporate diversity as a business priority:

• Diversity training attempts to help people overcome stereotypes and prejudices, leading them toward comfort in dialogue across multicultural lines. Designed and presented by management or independent diversity consultants, diversity training aims to increase awareness, understanding, and acceptance of diversity, and to develop skills to foster productivity and communication. Training topics may focus on the positive value of human differences as well as on changing behaviors (improving communication skills, for example, or responses to difficult situations).

• Focus group discussions attempt to identify differences, illuminate the extent to which employees feel they are valued, and develop strategies for change. Focus groups can be used as a form of feedback on the effectiveness of personnel policies and benefit plans, and as a forum for expressing concerns and ideas.

• Mentoring and coaching programs attempt to develop employees with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

• Networking initiatives of all sorts attempt to provide employees with connections to one another. A cultural network, for example, might arrange multicultural events; a work/family network might develop lists of child care and eldercare referrals.

• A published policy statement on discrimination sets the tone for the workplace, advising all employees and applicants of your dealership’s commitment to equal employment and advancement, its willingness to make reasonable accommodations, and its procedures for responding to questions and concerns.

This article is excerpted from "Diversity as a Business Imperative: Second Edition," which mailed recently to NADA members. Additional copies of the publication can be ordered online at or by calling the NADA at 800-252-NADA, ext. 2.