The first two decades of the 21st century were positive for the automotive market. Strong sale increases saw almost 80 million units sold globally in 2017, as emerging markets caught up with — and exceeded in some cases — high-performing segments across the world.

The market was shifting — incorporating green technology and eco best practices on a mass scale for the first time — but it was strong.

And then, suddenly, it wasn’t. Just like in most trade and manufacturing sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the auto industry, curtailing growth and plunging entire markets into difficulty and uncertainty.

In 2020, as the reality of the pandemic began to unfold, global motor vehicle sales began to slide, slipping to 77.7 million units sold. Now, the market is forecasted to fall further to fewer than 70
million units by the end of 2021.

Even before the pandemic, a significant slowdown in China’s economic growth between 2018 and 2019 put the brakes on car sales and brought hiring challenges, as the East Asian country’s automotive market shrank for the first time this century. While figures from China rallied again shortly after this, before the pandemic bit down hard, this reliance on key global markets shone a spotlight on the challenges facing the industry.

But things are becoming more optimistic. As the world looks forward with hope to a recovery from the global pandemic, auto sales are strengthening. It is expected that the global market will rally once more in 2022, spurred on by renewed demand for freight and commercial vehicles, as well as increased imports and exports from locations such as Europe.

Countries across the European Union, United Kingdom and the European Free Trade Association contributed one in four global passenger car registrations in 2020, and the region is also one of the worlds biggest producers and purchasers of vehicles of this class.

This leaves us at a turning point when it comes to hiring. Yes, the market is looking optimistic for the coming year, and for the years beyond that, but there are challenges we need to face. Remaining aware of these challenges, and adjusting our response accordingly, will help businesses in this field not only weather the current storm but also come out the other side stronger than ever.

So, where do we go from here? How do we make sure that the market does indeed bounce back with strength and resilience? Well, this comes down to our most critical resources — people.
Or more specifically, the right people.

It will be these people, and this evolving workforce, that spearhead the route to recovery and support an increasingly robust industry. But what challenges do we face as we seek to achieve this stability for the long term?

The global auto market is changing, becoming increasingly dynamic. We can see this in action when we look at Europe in detail. In May 2021, Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW — all German manufacturers — held around 40% of the market across the continent, suggesting something close to market dominance, until we look a little deeper.

While the majority of new passenger cars registered in Europe are domestically made, the incoming import market is growing and was valued at €50 billion for 2020. Manufacturers from the Far East — Japan and South Korea in particular — are experiencing healthy growth in the European market.

Yes, Germany is leading the way domestically, but there is much more to the European market than this.

So what does this mean in terms of hiring challenges? It means that a broad and high level of market expertise is required to meet the growing diversity of market conditions. Automotive producers need personnel with experience, expertise and skills that go beyond the local market and operate on a more global scale. This will enable them to identify threats and opportunities both to domestic and international business operations.

Regardless of which global market you are operating in, however, the future looks clear — manufacturers and vendors need to work harder to provide greener, cleaner vehicles to their customers.

We can expect to see this manifesting itself in electric vehicles, or EVs. As carbon regulation grows stricter, it will become increasingly difficult for manufacturers to hit emissions targets when relying on internal combustion engines alone — EVs will need to take up the slack. This will require investment in personnel. Teams will need to understand the EV market and the needs of the EV consumer, while also providing the technical expertise required to make these moves a success.

Both of these aspects will make hiring difficult and complex in the future.

While EVs have around 90% fewer moving parts than internal combustion engine vehicles, they are still highly technical pieces of machinery.

An EV will contain an electric engine or motor, usually running on alternating current (AC), supported by an inverter, although DC/AC types are also available. This tech will be accompanied by battery storage, as well as drive train and charging equipment, making the EV a very different proposition to a standard vehicle.

This tech is something of a gamechanger for the auto industry. While EVs are certainly making it easier for producers and vendors to hit CO2 targets and to improve sustainability, they are also contributing to the overall challenge of hiring, building and training a team.

Teams will need to incorporate personnel with a wide range of different skills and technological capabilities, targeting increased agility as EVs become more common and more sought-after. Shifts towards EV technology look likely to accelerate in the coming years.

Across the world, workplaces are becoming more diverse. Since 2010, in Europe, we have seen the introduction of Diversity Charters that are pushing business owners, as well as public bodies, to develop their own inclusivity policies in line with the changing fabric of society. In the United States, the U.S. Department of Labor is working with a range of different bodies — including the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce and the Campaign for Disability Employment — to secure a better deal for groups that may have been disadvantaged in the past. In South Korea, regulations introduced in 2019 seek to eliminate discrimination in the country’s workforce.

To put it simply, the movement towards diversity and inclusion is a global one.

While this is undoubtedly a positive step for business owners and for employees across the world, it also brings with it challenges and difficulties. Businesses will need to make sure their hiring policies and management protocols are in line with regulation across all the international markets and jurisdictions they operate in.

Of course, diversity goes beyond simple rule and regulation — it is an opportunity for organisations to better connect with local communities and to foster ethical and sustainable practices for the future. Hiring will need to support this as we move forward.

COVID-19 hit many industries hard, not least the auto industry. As we have already discussed, positive growth indicators across the last decade were torpedoed by the pandemic, as the logistics industry struggled and economic uncertainty led to reductions in the number of consumers purchasing passenger vehicles.

While the future does look bright for the industry, events of the last 24 months have provided something of a wake-up call to manufacturers and vendors across the world.

Hiring strategies will need to reflect this, building on the lessons learned from the pandemic and putting these lessons into practice. Businesses will need a highly capable, highly trained, highly supported and highly flexible workforce. Remote working practices will need to be implemented where possible to keep operations moving even if workplace restrictions are re-imposed.

All of this needs to target more robust and resilient business practices — business practices that are protected against even the worst-case scenarios.

To achieve success in the automotive industry, the right team is critical. This is why you need to elevate your hiring processes and deliver a great experience to your candidates. You need to make sure that your hiring procedures are different to those of your competitors — more streamlined, more effective and more attractive to the right talent. With a positive approach to identifying and hiring new personnel — and with a responsible attitude to company culture and ethos — you can build a highly effective team that will support you as you change challenge into opportunity.

New Ways to Meet the Hiring Challenges of Tomorrow
A Profound Knowledge of Local and International Markets

Which markets are you operating in currently? Which markets have the greatest impact on your business? Which markets would you like to target in the future as you move towards growth? The answers to these questions will inform your hiring procedures and clue you in on how to build your team.

Prioritisation will be important here. A comprehensive global outlook may be beyond the capabilities of many businesses, who will instead need a targeted approach. This means hiring personnel with market-specific
skillsets as companies develop their international operations.
Ecological sustainability is becoming increasingly urgent. Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to global carbon emissions, and manufacturing and other operations in the automotive industry are further adding to this. Businesses in this sector need to be serious about their commitment to the environment. This will also help to solve the hiring challenge. As candidates become increasingly engaged with environmental issues, they are more likely to provide their services to businesses who share this engagement. By proving that your business is working to reduce emissions on a global scale, you are making yourself more attractive to the modern workforce.

People need to come first in every aspect of your hiring strategy, on both an internal and an external level. This means fostering a safe, secure, diverse and inclusive environment within your teams and on your premises, and supporting personnel with fair working practices. Adopting this approach will help to elevate your business beyond others in your field.
But a people-focus needs to go beyond your internal structures. You also need to show that you are committed to social sustainability, both in your local community and across the global market. Like with environmental concerns, modern candidates are highly engaged with social issues, and they will expect
you to be, too.

Attractive remuneration packages are always useful in attracting the right talent, but businesses will need
to go beyond this if they are to meet modern hiring challenges. A study suggests that over half of
millennial candidates are more likely to work for a company with “enhanced communication and drive
innovation.” With this in mind, you will need to provide clear and transparent career and development
paths for your candidates, and support them with innovative technology where possible.
Incentives and rewards can still involve monetary bonuses, but this will need to be built into a wider
framework of loyalty and engagement. A positive working atmosphere, clear development pathways and a responsible company ethos will all help to incentivise new hires.
We live in a digital age, so it makes sense that hiring practices should reflect this. Around 79% of candidates use tools such as social media to search for potential roles, while 73% of millennials said they found their last or current position via a social media platform. Don’t overlook this valuable hiring resource
as you seek to grow your team.
Support this with other digital tools, such as management platforms that help you to manage and compare candidates and applications from a centralised location. Build your digital toolkit as you shore up your hiring procedures for the coming years and beyond.

As vehicle types shift towards EVs, parts and components are shifting, too. In turn, this means your supply
chain will have to evolve so that you can guarantee a reliable supply of all the materials and parts you need to run your operations. Understanding your supply chain, your product roster and how these aspects of your business will change over time will be key as you outline your hiring strategy.

EV technology is radically different to that of an internal combustion engine vehicle. This means you will
need personnel who have the expertise required to handle and manage this kind of technology. You will
also need qualified staff with the right background so that they can liaise with your suppliers en route to
the best deal for your business. Before you can begin hiring for these roles, a solid understanding of the
supply chain will be required.

The identification stage will underpin your entire hiring process. This is where you find the talent you need
to operate in your field, and then start engaging this talent. Outline a set of attributes you want to see in
your candidates, considering their strengths, weaknesses and values in a realistic manner.
You need to know what you are looking for before you begin your search. Build this ideal candidate profile ahead of time so that you can begin to compare and contrast your candidates against this benchmark.

Show your candidates that you are decisive and efficient in your processes. This means making decisions
quickly once all the information has been gathered. Project a strong image for your company, and don’t
keep candidates waiting around for an answer.

Even when you know what you want, you may not have the hiring background required to make this happen. To avoid any mistakes in the process, you may want to consider working with a third-party
professional who can manage this process for you.

The more qualified candidates you have access to, the more effective your hiring strategy will be. Engage
with professional bodies and communities in the automotive industry, make your name known and connect with an increasingly broad network of talent.
Negotiation is another area where business owners can get into difficulty. Even when you know what you
want to offer the candidate, negotiation is a unique skill and you could be at risk of missing out on the best hires. Consider bringing in an expert to help you with the process of negotiation.

Onboarding your new hires — and managing their transition into your team — is an important part of the process. Offer the right support and development to your new team members, and build a strong
foundation of engagement that will assist them in their new role.

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