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A Roadmap to Driving DEI Mission & Vision

DEI helps organizations deliver on their mission and business objectives through their people. 

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As a visionary leader in the automotive aftermarket for 25+ years, Tammy Tecklenburg, has been an award-winning champion for diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout her career at Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, and with various volunteer roles – including president, Women in Auto Care. Tammy is a certified advisor in leading DEI from CADIA, Northwestern, and Yale. She hosts a monthly DEI roundtable for industry leaders and change agents. Contact: [email protected] to join this mission.

The global challenge to find talent across industries at all levels of the value chain is a reality that is affecting all companies in the aftermarket – repair shops, manufacturing, retail, distribution, and beyond.

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Over the past two years, 30 million women left the workforce. Almost 11,000 people are retiring daily. There has been a 67% increase in global demand for warehouse workers, packers and package handlers. For the automotive and commercial vehicle aftermarket, the opportunity for today and our future is how to build interest and a strong story around the “why” for aftermarket careers. Why should a person choose our industry over another? How do we evolve our industry’s value proposition to deliver a positive work experience for all people and be among the first rather than the last industries thought of for career-seekers?  

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A part of the solution is understanding the role diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) plays in today’s workforce and the workforce of the future.

Defining DEI

DEI helps organizations deliver on their mission and business objectives through their people. 

DEI is a three-pronged approach with all outcomes contributing to an organization’s success in talent attraction and retention.  

Diversity: The practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientation, age, education, experiences, etc.  

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Equity: At its basic level, equity is about being fair and impartial. People have varying levels of access to opportunity, networks, and resources based on our identities, backgrounds, and lived experience. Equity recognizes that people do not all start from the same place and involves making necessary, systemic changes to give people access to the tools, resources, and visibility they need to succeed and advance, based on merit and ability.

Inclusion: The practice of leveraging diverse perspectives, backgrounds, skills, and talents to allow each employee to feel valued and able to contribute to their full potential in achieving the mission of the organization.  

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Belonging is another part of this conversation and is described as: The feeling of security, support, and a sense of acceptance.

A quote that resonates with me based on my own experiences over a 27-year career in our industry, is “Diversity is having a seat at the table; inclusion is having a voice; and belonging is having that voice heard.” – Liz Fosslein and Mollie West Duffy. 

Real-World Inspiration

Glancy continues, “When I first started my role, I thought of this work like a set of interconnected rings. As we continue to look at different parts of the customer and employee experience, you see that DEI touches everything. As you engage your leaders and employees with a DEI lens, amazing things happen … conversations on inclusion start, talent attraction begins to change and speeds up. When DEI becomes embedded in the values, process, and culture of your organization, you gain true understanding of the people you serve – your customers.”

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Shifting demographics in the U.S. are driving companies to mirror their diverse customer base in their workforce. When we’re aligned in speaking the words that our customers need to hear and are able to produce and deliver the products and services customers want, we win.  

Reflect on how your company shows up to your customers, your community, and the population of people you want to attract in your service centers, retail stores, or workforce. How are you attracting, recruiting, and retaining talent? What images do your customers and employees see internally and externally? What does your website say about your culture? Do your organizational goals include DEI?  

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Your company’s mission or purpose explains what your company does for its customers. As an example, Glancy references AutoZone’s Pledge: “AutoZoners always put customers first…. We don’t just sell auto parts. We provide peace of mind. We help people find and keep their freedom – the freedom to be mobile, freedom to live the life they want to live by helping them keep their cars and trucks on the road.” 

When you think about this, it is very powerful and reminds me of how proud our frontline workers felt during the pandemic when we were deemed an “Essential Industry.” Being essential provides a sense of pride and purpose. 

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Your vision describes what you want your company to be. Most companies already have a mission or culture statement. It is helpful to look at the statement through the DEI lens. Does it reflect and include the customers you serve and the people who are doing 
the work?

Standard Motor Products (SMP) has always been a long-standing proponent of workplace equity and community service. Yet more recently, SMP’s CEO, Eric Sills, recognized the need to step up its efforts and be more deliberate in its actions. Sills tapped SMP’s Mike Stevens, a 18-year tenured Human Resources leader, who was inspired to use his voice and transparency to have courageous conversations with organizational leaders. Together, Sills and Stevens started a movement within their 100-plus-year-old company to formally kick off its DEI journey. In 2021, Stevens was elevated into a full-time DEI role and is leading the execution of SMP’s multi-year roadmap grounded in the company’s founding core values and behaviors that drive its cultural vision.

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Tara Topel, a second-generation owner of Topel’s Towing & Repair Inc., is building a new state-of-the-art facility and has a strong sense of responsibility to her community as a female-owned business. Topel is completing a certification in DEI leadership and participates in our peer learning community to educate herself and inspire other businesses in 
her community.  

Safelite, a trusted auto glass expert with 16,000 employees and 7,100 locations in the U.S., recently hired Parker Suddeth, a DEI specialist and talent strategist. Suddeth is a vocal contributor on our monthly roundtable and recognizes the need 
for change.

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“The sweet spot in DEI is to get synergy from top down and bottom up. It’s a melting pot of meeting people where there are, but also trying to get people who have historically felt that they don’t have a place in DEI and that it’s not applicable to their ‘why.’ Trying to get people to understand that in DEI is not just a field, it’s a way of life. Our experiences shape our reality and those realities attribute to DEI and how we move the organization forward in our respective roles, navigating a path that is equitable and inclusive, but also extremely transparent.”

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His favorite quote is, “If I can see farther than others, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants.” 

Where to start

Not sure where to begin on your own DEI journey?

Use these 10 steps as your guide:

1. Data: Who are your employees and customers?

2. Ownership: Create a steering committee with sponsorship from leadership.

3. Listen: Conduct stakeholder interviews. 

4. Vision: Create your DEI vision and value proposition.  

5. Training: Focus on the behaviors that can disrupt or speed up progress. 

6. BRGs: Set up Business Resource Groups (BRGs) that support networking, education, and professional development.

7. Project Management: Assign project managers to coordinate content and planning.

8. Communication: Set the tone and narrative that you want to share internally and externally. 

9. Goals: Set a multi-year strategic plan and use a 360-degree approach to weave DEI into the fabric of your organization, including performance management.   

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Recognizing where you are, where you are going, and what you need to do to be able to serve your customers and take care of your people lays the groundwork to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture. The aftermarket has great jobs and careers that keep America and the world moving. Attracting, developing, and retaining a diverse workforce is the power play for growth and sales. 

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