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Helen Robinson

Helen Robinson

Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement Manager
Auto Trader
Auto Trader
United Kingdom

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  • inclusion
  • employee-led
  • volunteering

Helen Robinson is the Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement Manager at Auto Trader UK, a British automotive classified advertising business that specialises in new and second-hand automotive sales.

Hear her full story on the Purpose Heroes Podcast or continue reading, below.

Auto Trader’s Programme Mission

With roughly 1,000 employees, Auto Trader is headquartered in Manchester with smaller offices in London, Dublin, and remote workers dotted around the UK.

As a whole, their company purpose is, “To drive change together, responsibly” and they approach their ESG strategy through three main pillars:

  • Diversity & inclusion (D&I)
  • Community and charitable work
  • Environment and sustainability

While Helen and her team put a focus on all three aspects within their CSR programme, everything they do aligns back to this overall company purpose of driving change, responsibly.

She said, “We’re very proud of our culture here at Auto Trader. I believe that it’s important to have a culture that is both top-down and bottom-up, where everyone feels they’re making a difference. And it’s important to be open and honest. We’ve got an environment where people ask us challenging questions constantly, which is a very good thing. We want people to be able to ask those challenging questions because that keeps us on the ball. And, naturally, we’re always striving to do better.”

To create a transparent company culture that encourages employees to live out Auto Trader’s shared sense of purpose, Helen and her team follow a number of specific steps – and they’ve seen some impressive results!

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Read on to learn how they use the following approaches to build an effective programme so that you can do the same at your company.

Auto Trader’s ingredients for building a successful CSR programme

Empowering teams through employee-led networks

Led by eight Key Facilitators and two Network Leads, Auto Trader’s employee-led networks, or guilds, are a space where anyone at the company can belong and be a force for change. From D&I to wellbeing to their ‘Make a difference’ guild, this bottom-up strategy gives all Auto Trader employees the opportunity to have a voice when it comes to doing good.

From an operational perspective, each of these employee networks has specific commitments that they focus on, which are brought to the senior leadership team twice a year. This cadence ensures that all groups consistently meet their targets for driving social change.

“Our Employee Networks are very important in terms of delivering and driving the work that we do internally because these are led by our employees. But they aren’t just a social space for individuals; they’re very much about helping us to drive strategy.”

Helen Robinson – Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement Manager at Auto Trader UK

Helen works closely with the People Team and Learning Development Team, as well as meeting up monthly with Network Leads, to ensure that they build a collaborative, intersectional space, where everyone works together to support one another’s efforts.

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In fact, they see this collective mentality reflected back in their networks, who often cross-collaborate to embody the community-first environment that Auto Trader works hard to create.

Helen shared, “Essentially, any Awareness Day that our employees want to celebrate, we will support them with that. We believe it has to be employee-led to give everyone an opportunity to have a say in what we do. For example, we supported our colleagues by doing sponsored fasts for Ramadan. So we had around about 30 individuals from across the business doing a day of fasting with fundraising opportunities as well. So obviously we provide the support – but it has to be employee-led.”

Not only do these networks enable Auto Trader to share their community-first culture, they’re also a useful tool for mining information about their employee interests and skills to better tailor their programme to individual preferences.

From there, the work of properly communicating their programming and initiatives to all employees comes in to ensure maximum participation in the company’s shared sense of goodness.

Establishing strong means of communication

To connect team members to their corporate purpose and inspire participation throughout the year, Auto Trader communicates their programming via a number of channels:

  • Auto Trader Life: Every Monday, Helen’s team sends out a weekly email that showcases news and updates from each employee-led network.
  • CSR platform: With the help of their CSR platform, Benevity, the whole team has access to volunteering and giving opportunities in their region and receive periodic notifications to inspire participation in company initiatives. With a dedicated space to communicate internally on all things related to goodness, team members are constantly reminded that lending time, skills, and resources to worthy causes is not only encouraged – but celebrated at Auto Trader.
  • Slack: Helen and her team also push every volunteering and giving opportunity that appears on Benevity through their network Slack channels to increase visibility and motivate people to join in.
  • Tribe Leaders: To increase participation regionally, they also employ team leads across the business to champion their programme and more easily share information with individuals.

“One of our volunteer leads did a lightning talk where we were joined by a representative from Benevity to run through a live demo of how to use the platform. This increased engagement and spread the word because everyone could see how easy it was to participate.”

Helen Robinson – Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement Manager at Auto Trader UK

Of course, communicating your programme is only relevant if you have meaningful opportunities available to all employees, no matter where they are based. This is something that Helen and her team also work hard to provide via their CSR platform.

Offering volunteering and fundraising opportunities for everyone

With employees across the UK, Helen put a focus on building a programme that would give everyone an equal opportunity to lend their time to personlalised volunteering opportunities based on skills, locations, and preferred causes.

Helen said, “When we initially launched Benevity, we reached out to our People Team to get an understanding of where our colleagues across the business were located. This was important to ensure that all areas in the UK had opportunities for volunteering on the platform.” She continued, “We didn’t want to only have opportunities available in the Greater Manchester or Greater London area, where our offices are, we also wanted to provide opportunities for our remote workers. This helps to get everyone on-board and ensure that they have opportunities for taking their volunteering days.”

With the launch of their volunteering programme, 19% of the company took a volunteering day last year – and this year they’re hoping to hit 50%. Helen feels confident that they will achieve their goal.

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To enable even more people to get involved, regardless of location or ability to give time, they also applied this model to other aspects of their programme. This includes fundraising and habit-building challenges, which they discovered could be leveraged through the Benevity platform.

“We were initially looking for a third-party platform to help us with our volunteering work. We needed support, and Benevity was perfect for this. But then it happened that Benevity could help us do more with our donation pages...so we got more from the platform than what we initially wanted.”

Helen Robinson – Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement Manager at Auto Trader UK

As Auto Trader’s Make A Difference Guild  (community and Charity) is made up of a number of different streams – volunteering, sponsorship, fundraising, payroll giving, and sustainability – they found they were able to support all areas through the platform and collect interesting data to improve how they approach each stream in the future.

Helen said, “The Benevity platform has really helped us in terms of building fundraising pages. It helps us to see all of the work that our networks are doing for charities. And from a data perspective, we’re able to see how much collectively Auto Traders has helped by matching funds as well. It’s really good from a data perspective to see the impact that we are having and how we’re making a difference. It makes it easy because from a visibility perspective it makes sense to have everything all in one place.”

Tips & advice for other companies

  1. Understand the diversity of your organisation by collecting data through your HR system.
  2. Discover your own way of giving employees a voice when it comes to your programme so that you can create campaigns, activities, initiatives, and fundraisers that interest and inspire them.
  3. Use every mode of communication that you have available to get the message across to employees that volunteering and giving are a priority at your company.

“My biggest piece of advice is a lot of people talk about leading top-down, but I don’t think that should be the case. I think it needs to be a collective thing that’s part of your culture...Everyone needs to know that they’re making a difference.”

Helen Robinson – Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement Manager at Auto Trader UK

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