Embracing Diversity Can Turn Automakers Into Mobility Leaders


WardsAuto | November 4, 2015

WardsAuto published an article by Russell Reynolds Associates' Juncal Garrido, "Embracing Diversity Can Turn Automakers Into Mobility Leaders," about how the auto industry can adapt to digital disruption. The following is an excerpt from the article.   

The distinctive profile of the automotive executive may well be a factor in the industry’s success to date. Yet there are elements in this profile that may hinder – rather than enable – fundamental transformation. Today’s “car guys” need to evolve. 

We are in the age of digital disruption, where seamless connectivity and big data processing are dramatically transforming our lives. Driverless cars, electric motors, connected vehicles and modifications in the business models all require leaders capable of navigating even more dramatic changes ahead.

In this new world, a different set of experiences and competencies are necessary to survive, and the war to attract and retain this diverse talent is a reality. Positions that 10 years ago did not even exist – user-experience director, search-engine marketing/search-engine optimization director, native-product director, chief data scientist, to name a few – now are sought after by many sectors where fast digitalization is key to keeping a competitive advantage.

The automotive industry currently competes against companies that appeal to younger generations including recent college graduates. In the past 10 years, no automaker has been in the Forbes Top 10 list of perceived best employers.

There also is a strong correlation between how diverse and inclusive the culture of a company is and how well its brand as an employer is perceived. Simply put, traditional companies in general must ensure they are able to hire a master in one of these fields and empower him or her to add value to the company.

This means that this diverse executive’s judgment and ideas will have to be listened to and considered beyond one’s looks, age and out-of-the-box thinking – and this is where the challenge lies.

In 2012, a CEO in one FTSE 50 company mentioned to his newly hired chief digital officer: “We never have had someone attend an executive committee meeting in jeans,” to which the CDO replied, “I am surprised you don’t see it more.” Three years later, this jeans-wearing CDO has completely transformed the company and positioned it as the digital forefront runner in the sector.

But how can the automotive industry better approach this new paradigm?

To clearly understand the impact of this shift on the industry’s leadership talent, Russell Reynolds Associates studied the profile of 185 top executives from leading automotive companies around the world, including a psychometric analysis of the group’s supporting and hindering traits in the face of the anticipated challenges.

We focused on three leading roles in analyzing the current profile and future requirements for the CEO, the chief technology or the research and development officer and the chief marketing officer.

To read the full article, click here.

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Embracing Diversity Can Turn Automakers Into Mobility Leaders