Ford Motor Company: diversity in the fast lane
Hiring’s hot at the global automaker, where most available positions are in tech-related fields. Inclusion, work-life balance and outreach are part of the culture
Auto manufacturer Ford Motor Company distributes automobiles across six continents and operates in seventy-seven locations worldwide. Increased global demand for its cars, trucks and SUVs means that Ford is on target to hire 3,000 employees this year. Notably, 2,400 of them will be in technical fields, says Debbie Weaks, manager of personnel and organization planning, and the company’s chief diversity officer. She predicts that technical professionals will continue to be in demand into 2014.
These technical employees will work in product development, manufacturing, quality assurance, purchasing and information technology. “There is a lot of technology in our vehicles, for applications like the blind spot information system, adaptive cruise control and active parking assist.” Specific needs include professionals in architecture, information and business analytics, mobility, in-vehicle connectivity, project and program management, application development and testing, network and systems engineering, and more.
In addition to technical skills, ideal candidates will have analytical and troubleshooting skills, as well as the ability to work well with others, assess complex work processes, seek multiple perspectives and identify key issues, says Weaks. Ford also looks for a customer focus, solid verbal and written communication skills, flexibility, the ability to handle multiple priorities, and cultural competency. “It’s not unusual for our IT professionals to communicate with counterparts in India, Asia and Europe, all on the same day,” she says.
Recruiting future leaders
Ford increasingly uses social media outlets like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as part of its recruiting strategy. The company also has relationships with professional technical societies: the National Black MBA Association, the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.
Ford is active on college campuses, including several with large populations of ethnic minorities in technical majors, like Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (Tallahassee) and the University of Texas-Austin. Summer internships are the first step to a job. “For new college graduates, we have a structured program that provides rotational positions to help them grow in their experience,” explains Weaks. “We also have an IT leadership program for the more seasoned professionals so they can gain exposure and work on assignments that are key to the business.”
Inclusion training and support
All newly hired salaried employees at Ford participate in several online training modules, including a module on mutual respect, Weaks says. “We also provide cross-cultural training and information,” she says. “We want our employees to be aware of the different perspective each of us brings to the business.”
Ford’s executive personnel committee, which consists of Ford CEO Alan Mulally and his leadership team, also serves as the company’s overall diversity and inclusion council. “Each of the various functional teams at Ford, such as IT and human resources, has its own diversity council as well,” says Weaks.
Eleven corporate-approved employee resource groups at Ford focus on people of African, Asian and Hispanic ancestry, employees with disabilities, LGBT employees, veterans, women and more. “Our employee resource groups help us with community outreach, summer internship programs, campus hiring and recruiting through the national diversity professional organizations,” says Weaks. “They are engaged with local high schools, making sure students are exposed to our technologies before they get to college. They also conduct lunch-and-learn programs to spread awareness and information and build relationships,” Weaks says.
In addition to companywide and external mentoring programs, mentoring is also provided to interns and new hires through the employee resource groups, say Weaks. Mentoring is offered one on one or in a group, where one person mentors a number of protégés at the same time.
“Our work model is becoming more global, so it’s critical that our employees have access to work-life balance programs and the tools to work flexibly,” says Weaks. To that end, Ford has an array of flexible work practices like flex time and alternative work schedules like four-day, forty-hour weeks, plus job sharing, telecommuting and reduced work schedules.
Outreach at Ford
Ford, a founding partner and top contributor to the United Way of Michigan, has a strong showing in community outreach, Weaks points out. Last year, 25,000 Ford employees, retirees, dealers and their staff logged approximately 112,000 hours of participation in community service projects such as food pantries, she says. The company has a structured volunteer corps with a fulltime director who manages teams around the world to address needs in diverse communities.
“Along with providing scholarships, working with leaders in education is one of the most important things we can do at Ford,” Weaks says. One such initiative is the Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies, an innovative high school curriculum that engages students who are looking to enter engineering, technology, business, and other high-demand fields. “It provides students with critical skills to succeed in college and the workplace,” Weaks notes. “This program currently reaches more than 100,000 students in twenty-seven states.”
Another feather in Ford’s cap is the recognition it received from Fast Company business magazine as one of the world’s most innovative companies. “To be a full-line automaker on the list alongside companies like Apple and Google is a testament to our commitment to be a leader in technology,” Weaks declares.
Ford Motor Company
||$134.3 billion (2012)
manufacturing and distribution
across six continents