since we last hired new workers? And what
employee skills and aptitudes will be most important in our plants tomorrow?
The answers to those questions ended up
fundamentally changing the profile of the people the plant looked to hire. Plant leaders decided that, in order to meet escalating demands
for agility, operational excellence, and digitization, the plant first and foremost needed workers who could communicate and collaborate.
As the latest ML Council research—
reported elsewhere in this issue—suggests, GM isn’t
the only manufacturing organization striving
to install flatter, more collaborative organizational models, with the goal of becoming more
efficient and more agile. And, like the leaders
at the St. Catharines plant, many manufacturers have correctly concluded that breaking
down hierarchy and becoming more collaborative will, first and foremost, require cultural
and behavioral changes.
Unfortunately, not all have the luxury of
calling a time out to rethink and fundamen-
tally change their hiring priorities and prac-
tices to effect cultural change. But however
difficult, the cultural change at hand will re-
quire manufacturers to prioritize commu-
nication and collaboration skills in next-
generation workers as highly as mechanical
aptitude and physical strength was in previ-
It will also require manufacturers to rethink the experience and aptitudes that supervisors and middle managers will need to
bring to the job of managing in a more collaborative culture. The good news is that
Millennial and Gen-Xers entering the manufacturing workforce are highly motivated by
the chance to make a difference by embracing collaboration and continuous learning.
But they’re not likely to thrive or even stick
around if their companies cling to hierarchy.
– Jeff Moad
OT LONG AGO, MEMBERS OF THE MANUFACTURING LEADership Council got the chance to tour General Motors’ St. Catharines, Ontario, engine and transmission plant where manufacturing leaders were engaged in an interesting cultural transformation. After many years of virtually no hiring, the plant was growing once again and needed to expand its
workforce. But, before putting out the call for new hires, leaders at the plant stepped back and
asked themselves a couple of very fundamental and important questions: What’s changed
LEADERSHIP JOURNAL .................... ....................
A supportive culture must be built from the ground up.