In Perfect Alignment

Given the state of the economy, how are HR expectations changing?
Leadership and professional development are a high priority for us. We’re focused on specific competencies, like knowing and having a passion for our business and our customers, and having a continuous improvement philosophy and practice driven by facts and data. We’re rigorous in our profession in understanding where the market is going, understanding our workforce, our demographics, scanning the industry externally and internally, and being fact-based in our decisions.
There are business challenges facing the world that are unprecedented. In the auto industry, excess capacity, [the plunge] in consumer confidence, and the meltdown of the financial industry obviously are problems for us. But because we have a plan and a point of view about where we’re going, we’re proactively responding to our business challenges, primarily by implementing our “One Ford” business philosophy: one team, one plan, one goal.

What is Ford HR doing differently to keep the company competitive?
We’re doing a lot of restructuring to meet changing customer demand. We are retaining and leveraging talent to deliver the plan, so you have to make sure you have the right people in the right jobs. We’re also recognizing, particularly, the benefits of scale with a global company. We can’t afford waste so we’re driving commonalities and global brand consistency. We’ve been a company that was focused on multiple brands—we had Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, Volvo, and the Ford brand. In the last two years we’ve worked to get focused on the Ford brand, bringing it together globally to leverage our assets. It’s been a clear strategy to remove the clutter, to focus and make sure it’s consistent so it represents the same thing in Europe as it does in North America and South America.

What are Ford’s expectations for talent now?
Like all people, people of color thrive in workplaces where everyone is valued, respected, and given the opportunity to contribute to a company’s success.
We’re very centered on having people who have what we call “working together” behaviors, things like developing teams, having a can-do, positive attitude, people who find a way, who are resourceful and have emotional resilience, people who are great communicators, who are courageous, who take initiative. Even in difficult times, we ensure that our employees are offered opportunities for continued development, mentoring, and participation in our employee resource groups.

Has the downturn taught you strategies that in hindsight you wish you’d had in place before?

We have “One Ford,” so we have one process, we have one brand identity. As an HR leader, I’m building one global skill team. When you don’t have the resources and you still need to deliver excellent products and services, it forces you to re-examine everything and see how you can use your scale. For example, our leadership program—some are developed in Europe, North America, or Asia, and we use them all over the globe. In the past, everyone used their own programs for their own region.

This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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