AutoCanada’s Jennifer Lennox is growing automotive’s future leaders

'Giving them the tools, and focusing on leadership development programs…so they have everything in their tool belt to make a difference': AutoCanada's People VP on future leader growth

AutoCanada’s Jennifer Lennox is growing automotive’s future leaders

Jennifer Lennox’s career is a testament to resilience and determination. Starting from her early years working multiple jobs while living independently at 16, Lennox quickly learned the importance of hard work and building relationships, and is bringing those unique lessons to her current role as Vice President of People, Culture and Learning at AutoCanada,

“I was on my own at a very young age – I think that created that opportunity for me to know that no one's going to hand you anything on a silver platter. You’ve got to go get it yourself,” says Lennox.

Working several jobs just to finish high school, Lennox learned the value of relationships while serving in restaurants, which is where she was offered her first step into leadership unexpectedly by a large retailer in Toronto.

“They recognized me as somebody who was positive and outgoing, and they saw me getting yelled at by other patrons, and bossed around by the owner … we'd love to get you to come work in our store,” Lennox told HRD Canada.

“I got the job and that was my first foot into leadership. And I can tell you, the only reason I got it was because of who I was." That opportunity led her to pursue a business and public relations degree, eventually landing a position at CIBC.

AutoCanada University, educating future leaders, in-house

Today, Lennox is leveraging her extensive experience to lead initiatives like AutoCanada University. "The whole concept of AutoCanada University is to have multiple playbooks on every possible play within every department and every role in the organization," she explains.

The implementation of these playbooks involves a multi-step process, she goes on.

"We're creating all of this right now...and iterating each time so we're like, okay, we learned that on this playbook. We'll make sure we do it right in the future," says Lennox.

The University's first playbook, focused on used car sales, showcases this meticulous approach; but beyond technical training, the University also emphasizes leadership development.

"We're partnering with Gallup on Clifton Strengths...focusing on leadership development programs," Lennox shares. By investing in mid-level managers and up-and-coming hires, AutoCanada aims to create a strong foundation for future growth.

“There's a lot of talk about mid-level management right now, because if you think about this big ship we're trying to turn right now, the best access for us to our frontline are the mid-level managers,” she says. “So giving them the tools, and focusing on leadership development programs, that is going to be our next piece, so they have everything in their tool belt to make a difference.”

AutoCanada Women’s Network, working to welcome women into automotive

Lennox is also spearheading the AutoCanada Women's Network, aiming to attract and grow women in the male-dominated automotive industry. "We just want to create a network that grows and attracts women. That's it," she states.

“On average, women in automotive represent about 25% of the workforce, and then you look at the customers that are over 50%, and it doesn't make sense.” It’s a matter of perception, Lennox says, which the Women’s Network aims to rectify.

"In my opinion, the only reason we do not have more women here is because they think that they're not welcome here, or they think that it's not made for them," says Lennox. “My alternative to that is, go ask many of the women that are in automotive, and they would tell you it's the best thing they've ever done in their life…. once you deal with some of the people in here, you will realize they're just good solid salt of the earth, good people that work here.”

The network seeks to dispel these misconceptions by highlighting the positive experiences of women in the industry and encouraging community, starting with the first even this summer which will bring 32 of the organization’s senior women leaders.

“We want to solve two problems: how do we attract more women, and how do we grow more women?” Lennox says. “It's just a starting point. But it's a good conversation to have.”

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