The People Industry
While strikes and shortages continue to affect our industry, the relationships we cultivate have a far greater impact.
Not too long ago, I had an open and frank discussion with a leading automotive executive. One of the things he told me was that the auto industry was a 9-1 job multiplier. For every vehicle manufactured, another 9 jobs and businesses were directly impacted. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen firsthand how vehicle manufacturing can cause a ripple effect through the entire automotive industry and by extension the economy, resulting in higher prices, low inventory, and parts disruptions to name a few.
History repeating itself?
Today, it looks like we might experience a further wave of disruption as United Auto Workers embark upon some of the most aggressive strike action the industry has ever seen. In the U.S., vehicle assembly at several plants has been halted and it looks like the situation could get worse before it gets better. It reminds me of something that happened many years ago in my native country, Great Britain. The so-called Winter of Discontent in 1978-79 saw the country crippled by widespread strikes in public sector unions, which combined with the coldest weather in 16 years, resulted in a series of unprecedented economic challenges, exacerbated by a period of high inflation and stagnant growth. Today, we face similar issues and while it is likely that the UAW disputes will be resolved, their impact will have lasting effects on our industry.
Review and revamp
This means that in order to mitigate those impacts, now is the time to review our businesses, take a long, hard look at our processes and find ways to ensure we not only survive this period of uncertainty and disruption, but are able to thrive within it. While technological advancements have transformed our industry in many ways, the core of our businesses has and always will be people. Whether they’re employees, partners, stakeholders, suppliers, or customers—all are vital to the health and success of our sector and the economy. And while we might call it the automotive industry, what we are actually involved in every day, is the people business. How we take care of the people that work for us, with us and whom we serve will ultimately determine how successful we are. And that particularly applies when times are tough and our mettle is tested, as is the case for many of us right now.