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Why Hiring For The Automotive Industry Is Changing

Bryan Ignozzi, Managing Director, leads the Automotive Practice at Raines International and is on a mission to maximize human potential.

Talent is changing in the automotive industry. In a recent example, Ford announced in March that it would be splitting its business into two distinct but interdependent business units and that the Ford Model e unit would work to “attract and retain the best software, engineering, design and UX talent.” Organizations across the automotive ecosystem are being forced to rethink what modern mobility means and what types of business leaders they need if they want to compete in this changing arena.

The automotive industry is evolving and so must our approach to talent.

When I started in the industry, engineers, operations and production managers were needed. Now as vehicles become more like computers on wheels, it is imperative that organizations revisit their talent needs and consider additional fields of expertise. Hiring is different in automotive because megatrends of societal change, sustainability and technology are driving change. We must develop our current leaders and enhance executive teams with top talent that bring a different perspective to how we manage people and change. Navigating change requires the right technical skills but also the right leadership skills.

To remain competitive, we need to shift the discussion on talent to meet the demands of the automotive industry of the future. In the past, we started with skills and experience. We must add leadership to the discussion because this is what drives our acceptance of change. The speed of change in the automotive industry has never been faster. For companies looking to serve a new digital-first consumer, using leadership skills as an additional lens in the hiring process will enable them to be more competitive, sustainable and agile

• Adaptability: We need to hire executives who embrace a new way of doing business. From moving metal to megabytes, managing software development will be the driver of the future. Global automaker Stellantis recently identified software development as a “core focus” and is planning for 4,500 software people by 2024. One of the first steps in adaptability is self-awareness, which identifies a need to adapt. A more self-aware leader brings confidence, empathy and understanding.

• Diversity: Diversity is not just about the percentage of employees from different backgrounds; diversity has been shown to improve both individual performance and business results. We know that unconscious bias interferes with decision-making. Executives need to push for processes that mitigate bias and encourage both diversity and inclusion.

• Curiosity: Intellectual curiosity and a desire to question the status quo are critical to creating an environment that embraces learning, experimentation and incremental development. By seeking to understand we dig deeper, develop a better understanding of underlying difficulties and open our minds to the possibility of new ideas. Curiosity amplifies our desire to share and trust others, which leads to greater collaboration and cooperation. As we redefine how we work and organize, we need to remain curious and learn from our failures. This life-long learning approach helps us to embrace change and look past the horizon to prepare for what is coming in the future.

• Resilience: Being resilient means that leaders view new challenges not as adversities but as opportunities. They recognize that change and disruption are inevitable; instead of fearing change, they embrace it. This creates a culture of performance and empowerment that can make a lasting difference.

Automotive organizations need to balance tradition and innovation.

We still need traditional skills to manage P&L and production lines, but we are redefining how to communicate and lead effectively for a changing workforce. It is not just about delivering exceptional results and tirelessly pursuing excellence; we must balance a strategic mindset while we manage people in an environment of innovation and disruption. An automotive executive is not just evaluated on performance but also on how they embrace and create a culture of inclusion with happy and productive people.

As the industry evolves to meet shifts in production, a global focus and supply chain challenges, there are many questions that we must ponder. With leaders who prioritize adaptability, diversity, learning and embracing change within their teams, we are poised to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.


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