Elevate

Ken Garff Automotive: Celebrating Gender Equity and Leadership in the Workplace

March 11, 2024 Patti Cook Season 1 Episode 2
Elevate
Ken Garff Automotive: Celebrating Gender Equity and Leadership in the Workplace
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This episode goes beyond the boardroom and touches on the ripple effects of gender diversity throughout our lives, enhancing not just our workplaces but also our family dynamics and community interactions. Join Dana Geddes and Joe Barnard from Ken Garff Automotive as they share how their company culture is changing. 

This episode also highlights innovative retention strategies, like a Texas-based controller's job shadowing program, revolutionizing employee longevity. And hear about the '00s initiative, which ensures women's presence in customer-facing roles, improving staff dynamics. Tune in for a celebration of the strategies and stories that underline the importance of empowering women in the workplace.

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to Elevate, a women's leadership institute podcast. We've been in the trenches with CEOs and entry-level workers for a decade, offering the value and vision of a more gender equitable workplace In a state where male CEOs lead 95% of the businesses and the state legislature is 74% male. We've had some work to do. This podcast showcases individual stories, celebrates successes and explores what is still needed to shift culture as we seek to elevate women's stature and status in our state. Hello and welcome to this episode of Elevate, a podcast from the Women's Leadership Institute.

Speaker 1:

I'm your host, patty Cook. I am joined by the ever lovely Pat Jones, who is the CEO of the Women's Leadership Institute, and our dear friends from Ken Garff, Dana Gettis, w i a seni direct o H, and Joe Bernard, w i t vi preside o H. Welcome, thank you. Thank you so much for having us. We're excited to be here. Yes, thank you for coming. We're excited for this conversation today. I just want to give a little bit of background about Kengar for those who don't know. You are in multiple states nine states, to be correct with 73 dealerships and over 6,000 employees, so it's quite a large organization in many different states. We've started working with you through our Elevate for Challenge. I want to lean into that, into retaining, hiring and promoting women. Before we get to that, I want you each to describe what you do at Kengar. Then share something a little personal so our audience can get to know you.

Speaker 3:

Go ahead.

Speaker 2:

Dana, you want me to go first. You want me to go first.

Speaker 3:

I absolutely do.

Speaker 2:

Okay so, Dana Geddes, I am the senior director of diversity, inclusion and belonging. I've worked with the Garf Group for 24 years. Something that might surprise people about me and probably gives a little bit about my personality, is that during the 2002 Winter Olympics, I was a backup dancer for KISS.

Speaker 1:

You were not. Yes, like they pulled you out of the audience. How did you?

Speaker 2:

get that. My mom, actually, and my husband on the same day heard it on the news that they were doing auditions and said you need to go for this, you need to apply and do it. I laughed and I was like, yeah, right, I did it. I went and auditioned and I was the mom of the group. I was the oldest one. I had to protect everyone from Gene Simmons because he was- no offense, gene, he was scary.

Speaker 4:

That could be another podcast. Yeah, that's awesome.

Speaker 2:

I like to just go for things.

Speaker 1:

So that tells you a little bit about me. Yeah, it does Very fair, okay, joe.

Speaker 3:

Awesome. I'm Joe Barnard. I'm the vice president of human resources for Kin Garf. I've been with the company for nearly a decade now. Love the company, love the family. We do the right things for the right reasons and that doesn't mean we don't make mistakes, but I've loved working with the company. I'm a pretty boring guy compared to Dana. I don't back up dancer.

Speaker 2:

So not true you are a kiss maybe.

Speaker 1:

Or do anything oh there you go.

Speaker 3:

I'm kind of in the thick of raising some kids and so we're at ball games and camping and doing all the things that you do there. So that's what I really enjoy doing. I spend all my time there.

Speaker 1:

I love that, and he's quick-witted, very quick-witted, which I really enjoy. He keeps us laughing for sure. Yeah, definitely. Thank you for introducing yourselves, pat. Anything you want to start out with?

Speaker 4:

Well, I would just say I could not be more delighted to be with the company that truly lives the Elevator Challenge Promise, and they have just jumped in full fledged and have been a source of inspiration, motivation for so many different companies.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Thank you for letting this be a part of WLI. It really has changed the way our company and the way that our leaders and the way that our women look at our future and their potential individually and as a company. It's been really remarkable to be a part of and to watch, yeah.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. It's made a world of difference, I think, in how we are able to recruit the confidence that our employee base has the normalization of everyone working together, and so it's made a huge difference in what we try to do.

Speaker 1:

Thank you. Let's put some timeframe on this, so a couple of years.

Speaker 2:

We're probably at probably more like four years Four years we started talking about it and we realized we had this huge population, this huge community that we were not tapping into, this untapped potential, that it's like, wait a second.

Speaker 2:

We have over 50% of our customers, our women, and yet only 14% of our sales advisors are women. So, hey, let's take a look at that and let's start thinking about what can we do more for women? And then it was cool to start watching and be like, oh, wait, a second, we actually have a lot of amazing women already in our organization, and so we got Pat involved and it was incredible to have our CEO, brad Hopkins, really wanting to be a part and saying, hey, we need to do more, we need to provide opportunity. So it was really fun to be a part of our first year as WLI. And then you see these women, because we've all been a bit of unicorns because we're in these different dealerships, right, and they don't know about each other because they're working at separate stores. And then all of a sudden they make these bonds and they realize I'm not alone, like there's other women here. And so it's been really fun, little by little, to see over the last four years, the growth that has come from, just simply focusing on it.

Speaker 3:

I love that we. It's so important, as you undertake a journey like this, to have really smart people who are fair and honest. And you know one of the things that Pat would say over and over we're not blaming and shaming, we're just trying to figure out and get it right. That was so huge to what we were trying to do. When you take out the stigma of somebody screwed up here, somebody's wrong.

Speaker 1:

Right, someone's in trouble.

Speaker 3:

Let's just get this right, then it becomes far more productive. And we leveraged Dana and Ninier who's our VP of DIB, and they're some of the smartest people in our company, some of the most well-connected people in our company, to tell us the truth and to really listen to them. And it's a little bit of a hard journey but you see the progress and it gets really. You get addicted to it because it's the right thing to do.

Speaker 4:

And Patty. I think it's helpful to understand the business case here, because when Brett Hopkins first called me he's the CEO of Ken Garf Automotive he said, Pat, we have a problem here. 20% of our employees are women, and yet we have two dealerships that are 40% women and they're killing it. One was in Orman, one's in California, if I remember, and so it was a business case at the beginning.

Speaker 3:

What happened. One of the statistics I took to our CEO early on when I joined the company was we were returning over 116% of female salespeople in the first year.

Speaker 3:

In their first year, in their first year, yeah, meaning we were going through some twice, and so for me that was a canary in the coal mine.

Speaker 3:

If our environment, if our culture, if our structure isn't sufficient that anybody could come in and succeed and these women were indicators that it wasn't then what is it like for everybody else? And so it is a business necessity we do. Employees don't quit companies, they quit people, and that was a hard reality. We've got to have better leaders, better people to take care of our employees, and this journey was fortuitous because then we went into COVID and it was about trying to take care of our employees, and it gave us an opportunity to try what we had been learning. Employees obviously became at a premium during that time too, as everyone was trying to hire employees, and so I think we got our unfair share. Compared to the auto industry, we've been down around 25% turnover for the last four years, which is maybe astonishing to some people, in the wrong direction, but in the auto industry the norm is about 50%, and so we've done better than most, and I think it's because we've leaned into some of these things.

Speaker 1:

I love that. You've said a couple of times that it started with a conversation right With the business case of noticing what was happening. It wasn't always comfortable but it was worth doing. And something that we talk about a lot at the Women's Leadership Institute is that to really make this happen well, it has to be from the top. So the fact that the CEO caught the vision and, as a vice president and senior director, caught the vision that it can really take hold. So I wanna kind of go into the developing of these seeds of change that we've been talking about. Dana talk to us about the programs and coming to our program and then watching other women come and how that kind of trickled into the company.

Speaker 2:

It was really fun to watch that first year because none of us knew what we were getting ourselves into and to stop and look back on who came to, who attended that and the growth that they've experienced. We have Becca Anderson, who had been a regional employee and was overseeing the stores for the region and helping with sales and different things and just thought one day I wanna be a general manager one day, one day. One day and because of WOLI she was like, and because of Jason, an amazing ally, and people seeing it in her and helping her see it in herself it clicked and she is now the general manager of our Land Rover store downtown Salt Lake and is killing it and just doing an amazing job. But that was the amazing part of being a part of WOLI is that it helps women see their potential and see oh, wait, a second. It gives them this permission almost to have confidence and to say I can lean in and I can be a part of the conversation. I do have something to say. And so every single woman that's gone through it has experienced this incredible growth.

Speaker 2:

We put those women on the spot on panels and had them talk to all of the women at our WeSpeaker series, which is women empowered, and that was incredible and one of the best parts of the whole thing. There were, what would you say? Six to eight women on that panel, and it's all virtual right. So they're all in their individual dealerships, what we're talking to women and leaders all over the company right In those nine different states, and everyone was so articulate and did such an amazing job, and when we finished and said we're signing out before I could push the end meeting button, one of the women just got so excited and said we did it.

Speaker 2:

Oh my gosh, we did it, and they all just celebrated one another, and everybody just was commenting saying how cool that they were all excited for each other and happy about how well it went. And so it's helped women elevate women, but it's also helped the male leaders elevate women, and then what Joe has said so many times, so good I won't say it as well as he does, though is that when you elevate women, you elevate everyone, and, man, we've watched that happen. We've seen everyone elevated because we're focusing on the right things.

Speaker 4:

If I could just jump in, I think you're referring to the career development series that we hold once a month.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, yes, I keep saying WLI, but WLI has so many different programs.

Speaker 4:

So thank you. Yes, it's the CDS career development series.

Speaker 2:

So thank you for mentioning that.

Speaker 4:

And you fly in, I think, for women every month to attend those classes. We have 105 women in it with a waiting list, and so we travel to a new company, a different company every month. Who sponsors them? And these are mid to senior level. So we're seeing change happen, and because of great companies like the Garf Automotive Group. Well, and so you know we have.

Speaker 2:

You know, you have a lot of people wanting to come to career development series and so we had to go through a process of narrowing down like who would the 10 be? And last year we had people come from California and Colorado and Wyoming. This year we have people come from California, colorado, wyoming, arizona and Texas because they got word of the career development series and we had so many wanting to be involved that we're like, okay, we're going to. We need to open it up and make it possible company wide. It's that impactful.

Speaker 3:

I think the senior leaders have been impressed with the gratitude that these women express to that we've invested in them. They see that as the company believing in them and putting some money where their mouth is, and they'll remark over and over the leadership will remark over and over of how grateful these folks are compared to anything else we roll out. We give a brand new PTO plan and people are ho hum and grateful. But these participants in WLI are emotionally grateful. They just are in disbelief that the company would invest so much and the senior leaders will remark that wasn't very much. And so it's been an ROI, an emotional ROI from the leadership to feel really good about what we're doing, and I think that's also an important part. And so, as Dana said, there's a waiting list. There's a long line of folks that want to participate.

Speaker 1:

That is such a great perspective. It's really interesting being in these cohort and watching these women come. They not only network with other women and then go back, as you say, and there's an ROI, they network together. Like we all know who the Kengar people are. Right, they are all networked together and I think that as they go back, I really appreciate how you've created a culture that allows them to practice the leadership that we are teaching them about, like I think that that is a sweet spot that they come, they get permission, confidence, hone their skills and then when they go back, they have a space to actually practice that and use it.

Speaker 4:

I would love to hear from Joe because, joe, you're a person that I cite in most of my presentations about how some of this training and how men and women think differently and the value of gender diversity and our complementary differences, how that is not just something beneficial in the workplace, but also at home.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, absolutely, I think. In my own life I have a daughter who I'm crazy about. She's amazing in every way, but she's a little bit nontraditional. She wants to be like her brothers in so many ways, and so for me it's caused me to think differently. Sometimes I overlook or don't invite her to participate in things like mowing the lawn or different things that I've just decided in my mind or traditionally the boys work or what have you. So it's caused me to just open the invitation and she invariably always wants to participate, and so it's allowed me to be a better father and to be more inclusive of her.

Speaker 3:

And whatever you do shows up other places in your life, and for us that's important that our leaders are good people in the dealership and at home, we build people and they build our business, and so that's important at home as well. As I think about what we're also trying to do is provide opportunities, I think, for our women too, and all of our employees, to network. I certainly have gotten into the positions I've gotten to because I knew people, I had experience with people, I had opportunity to sit at the same table, and so by providing not only the opportunity through WLI but through our champion program for them to sit in leadership meetings and someday one of them or somebody in their cohort will get promoted somewhere and look back and say I've got to have Dana on my team and pull her forward. And so these opportunities to see people in their best light and in different micro leadership roles allows them to envision them in a greater role and pull them forward. And so yeah, pat, I think the beauty of true principles is they just carry through into the other aspects of your life, and that's a huge deal for us.

Speaker 3:

Bob Garf, who's passed away. If he drilled anything into my head it was that, joe, take care of my people. These are like my family members, just in these people. Help me build these people.

Speaker 1:

That's really beautiful.

Speaker 2:

In fact, that was our last conversation with him before he passed. Really, he passed from COVID, he was the second person in Utah to pass and he was leaving for Palm Springs and Joe and I were in a meeting with Brett I get teary, I'd even thinking about it and he came in and talked to us and said please promise me that you'll take care of these people. They're my family. And it was so weird. I remember after he said that I had this thought come to my mind, Like that was almost like he was saying goodbye and he did believe in that. I mean working with Kathy Garf she is remarkable, she's our chairwoman of the board and having her come along and like he had a strong woman in his life and he championed strong women. And so, yeah, you've definitely carried on the charge of what Bob asked you to do, that's for sure.

Speaker 3:

We're lucky to have Brett too, and the other leaders of our company and Brett. As Pat said, it doesn't happen if the leaders don't buy in, and Brett is absolutely leading the charge on this as well. So, between John Garf and Brett Hopkins, they really give you the air cover in terms of our leaders being able to really lean into this and to try in their own way to figure it out. And we make tons of mistakes, and that's maybe the other secret is, you're just not going to get this right out of the gate. You're going to say dumb stuff, you're going to make mistakes, you're going to trip a little bit as you try to do the right thing. We tried to design a parental leave program and, by the way, we've done it for the first time in company history.

Speaker 1:

We have a fully paid parental leave program.

Speaker 3:

But as we were trying to figure that out, the initial meeting was nine men sitting around discussing what was the best thing for a new mom, and of course we were experts on it. And so the irony, after we kind of figured that out, wasn't lost on us that maybe we ought to talk to a new mom. And so you just learn, did you know?

Speaker 1:

that yourselves, or was it a new mom? That was like hey.

Speaker 3:

I mean, somewhere in the conversation, Jason Frampton, who's one of our great leaders too, said well, I'm glad that we've got the experts in here to discuss this, and it kind of caused us to chuckle and pause and say, yeah, let's, let's take a break and involve some people that might have a good opinion here.

Speaker 4:

Joe and Dana. I remember Brett talking about the numbers behind this and seeing his charts. He was very metric driven. What was the metamorphosis for him as he was looking at me? Did you see a change in him and what caused that?

Speaker 3:

A hundred percent, Candlely. There was probably twofold. He had a really annoying VP of HR that would continuously put people data in front of him.

Speaker 1:

Who might that be?

Speaker 3:

I firmly believe again I said it a little bit earlier people quit people, not, not, not companies and I could just show him empirically over and over that our employees, through exit surveys and other places, were quitting because they had a bad experience with their leader or they felt unseen, or they didn't belong, or and that we needed to do something differently. There you look at the turnover rates that we had. You look at the in particular, some of our non-traditional groups turned over at a higher rate and that you can't explain that any other way than maybe we need to change what we're doing a little bit. Then you look at the employee base and the population base. We're more than 50 percent women in the population base and the employee base is 40 plus percent. You're just not very smart. I mean that about us as leaders. If we don't fish in the whole pond, if we're not considering the entire talent pool, we're just ignoring a way to help the business and that's not wise. On top of that, I think Brett had daughters entering the workforce.

Speaker 3:

That never hurts as he starts to see some experience that they have and the difficulty getting an internship or getting training or getting your start and getting a foothold and getting respect. You start to see those little nuances as you have life experience too, and all that came together. Yeah, there was a change. For sure. Brett's a great leader and so Brett's also not emotional about stuff. When you show the data, when you have someone like Pat come in and talk to you and give you the aha moments of hey, we should do this better. Integrity means that you change when the data causes you to think differently, and that's one of our values, that's our respect. Integrity, our values are right. Our IGHT and the I is integrity. It means that we change. It means that we adapt, even if that's painful.

Speaker 4:

I can say, having been there and presented to Brett three times that he asked me to, I could see the aha in his, but really the humility that he was feeling. It was almost emotional for him. When you say he's not emotional. I felt it there that he could see there's something amiss here. So he was teachable.

Speaker 2:

I think that, right, there is the biggest difference. If I had any piece of advice for leaders, especially C-suite, is to ask questions and listen, because that's one of that's, something that's. I don't think it's easy for him, because he does know so many of the answers, but I watched him metamorphose because he was getting experts like you, patty, in the room. He also at the at the time of George Floyd and you know Police riots and different things. He pulled in people from the community of all different Ethnicities to say help us, help us understand, and, little by like, by listening, his eyes were opened, his heart was softened and, and from the time that I started To the time of where we are now, I have he, he has changed. He's willing.

Speaker 2:

You know, right now we're, we're in a because of our economy, we're, we're looking at our expenses and saying, okay, let's be careful. But this is one area that he, he is like no, we. It gets me emotional. It's like, no, this is necessary, this is needed, this is what, this is what we're doing, we're not gonna take our eye off of this. So, yeah, it is emotional for him because I think he, his heart, has been softened and he realizes there's, there's power in these, these women and men, that that we can change lives, as you all said earlier, in Not just professional, in business, but in in homes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's powerful. So that ripple effect that you've talked about and true leadership I feel like you're talking about true leadership, right. That ability to be we heard it the other day as hungry and humble at the same time, right, that's really value aligned with what's important to you as a company. That's one reason why we at the Women's Leadership Institute last year gave Kengar for our a Scott Anderson ally award that we give to a company that we feel is doing really great work in this area, and so I just wanted to point that out and congratulate you, and it's even reconfirmed as we're talking to you today that that was such a wise choice because you're doing such good work and Not only impacting individual lives but also the company bottom line and how you retain and promote women.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. It was such a huge honor for us when we heard that that we were getting that award. It just like because we feel like there's still so much work to do, we felt a little bit undeserving. But what a huge honor and it's just been in our front office of our, of our corporate office. We have our, we have our award and it's every time I see it when I walk by, I I just I Get I. It just makes just a lot of pride and feel really, really good about what we're doing as a company.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's reinforcement, right? Dana said we felt super inadequate of us, we're just trying, but but we certainly felt grateful for it and it and its evidence that were that we're trying to do some, some good things, and so we were really flattered by it. I think what it represents Because it represents that that we're trying to take care of our people and we're trying to see all of our people, and so for us, you know, inclusion and, and it has, you know, so many meanings to so many different people. But for us it means that everybody feels like they're a part of winning strategy and and that's important to us belonging. We want our employees to feel, like Bob described, family members, and so that's not a hard or difficult concept for us. We just had to kind of put it in our own way and embrace it in our own way.

Speaker 3:

You know, diversity is certainly to some represents ethnicity and gender and some other things, and and and it does, but to us it also represents the very unique population that we have as an, as an employee base, and the love what Brett would call their freakish talents. Everybody is spiky, he would say. He's come to the conclusion. We don't need well-rounded people because most people aren't. We're really spiky, we're really good at handful of things, and then we have some blind spots.

Speaker 2:

You'll say what? What's your freak like attribute?

Speaker 3:

It's kind of yeah. I really like that yeah people off guard, but a great team as a collection of these different strengths in aggregate, and, and so we want balanced teams, not necessarily Perfectly balanced people.

Speaker 4:

Have you seen this kind of leadership and kind of awakening permeate the different dealerships? I mean, to what degree is it actually bleeding out from the top down to the retail stores?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, gosh. I think getting the water to the end of the row is always the challenge, and and so we you know anecdotally, look for some evidence. I think our biggest evidence is the turnover battle that we're winning by cutting that in half. I think we had 476 promotions on the service side last year, which was a record. In total, we had Nearly a thousand people promoted, which is a record.

Speaker 3:

You start to value people individually and differently. That's the beauty of trying to look at groups that you may have ignored a little bit or over Passed over a little bit. As you start to see everybody a little bit better, it bleeds into other areas. An anecdotally All of these general managers come forward in their anxious to share, mostly with Dana, because she is the most positive person you'll ever meet, but they're really excited to share with us what they're doing to take care of their employees. Whether that's creating Awards which, by the way, is something we struggle with a little bit is recognition. They're kind of on their own, saying I get it increased one-on-one Connection.

Speaker 3:

So we do exit interviews, but that's kind of postmortem right, and and they've started to do what we would call a stay interview, which is where they're sitting down and spending Professionally, personal time with employees to say how are you doing? Never mind the numbers, how are you doing and you feel engaged here, and is there something I can do to help you Feel differently about your role so that you're more engaged? Those interactions, as you hear the GMs and the other leaders talk about them. So there's certainly the statistical evidence and the metrics there to back it up, pat, but there's also the feeling, the momentum, the anecdotal evidence that it's making a difference.

Speaker 4:

We have data that show that the biggest reason why women leave the workplace is because they don't feel valued, and I think what you're doing is describing what that looks like, and I would guess I'll just say that I think that's one reason you have cut your retention rate or increased your retention rate, absolutely, absolutely.

Speaker 3:

I think of one of our controllers in Texas that on her own volition decided I've got all of these employees, mostly women, that work in these entry-level positions. If I'm really going to affect them staying around with us, I've got to show them a path forward. So they have a monthly job shadowing program where they bring in someone from a department and say this is what you'd have to know to move into this path, and into this path that's in some entry-level positions that are normally high, turnover has really bent the curve on that to where they stay a little bit longer with us and they approach other job opportunities. So absolutely.

Speaker 4:

That's very important for people to know that what they do is important to the outcome or the end product. Yes, sounds like you're doing that very well.

Speaker 2:

Another initiative that we have that has made a huge difference and we know that it's affecting every single store is we call it 00s and that means that we want in the two most customer-facing positions service advisor and sales advisor that in every single store we want at least one woman that's a sales advisor on the team and one woman that's a service advisor on the team, and we have just seen great growth from that. We have 90, 92%, something like that in the 90s that 90% of our stores at least have at least one woman sales advisor.

Speaker 4:

What have you seen as an outcome of that. Oh, it's huge.

Speaker 2:

What is it? It's so fun because it's so interesting, because a lot of the general managers male general managers will be like they're doing it to check the box right, because that's a mandate. It's not a mandate, it kind of is, but it isn't. Ninye and I are working with the general managers and talking it through with them and helping them, but then what happens is you have one woman that will start and they end up changing the whole dynamic of a team and then they're like wait a second, we want to get another woman. And then you see the team start to grow. I met with someone this morning that now has six women's sales advisor on the team. And so they start to see wow, this really makes a difference. And the other thing that I would add to everything that we're saying I think originally, when we started talking about it as a company and saying our goal is to have 30% women, a lot of the men said oh yep, see, you're pushing us out. You're, you know you're pushing us out. The scarcity mentality, yes. And Ninye, I get chills thinking about it, but Ninye has has said

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