Toyota focuses on people and continuous improvement
“We’re a fit for anyone who wants to work in a humble, innovative organization that promotes teamwork,
continuous learning and growth,” says an HR exec
Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota, Japan) is one of the largest multinational organizations in the world. The automaker was founded in 1937 by Kiichiro Toyoda. Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America is Toyota’s North American operation; the company has U.S. manufacturing sites in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas and West Virginia, R&D centers on both coasts, and other locations in nearly every state.
“The two pillars of the company, as outlined by our founder, are respect for people and continuous improvement,” says Stacy Gallucci, manager of talent review.
“We are a cultural fit for anyone who wants to work in a humble, innovative organization that promotes teamwork and an opportunity for continuous learning, development and growth. That’s who we are and what’s important to us.”
The company is on target to hire about 300 engineers across the U.S. organization this fiscal year, according to Gallucci. Toyota typically looks for mechanical, electrical and industrial engineers, in addition to techies with expertise in computer science, packaging and safety, she says.
“Vehicles have become smarter, so we’ve found ourselves seeking people with advanced engineering degrees and experience in robotics. Of course, information technology professionals are critical to support our plants and production lines.”
Needs and training at all levels
The technical skills and experience Toyota looks for are determined by the position. Outreach to experienced candidates is done via social media, college alumni boards, and the career page at www.toyota.com/usa. The company has partnerships with organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society of Women Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers.
Once in the door, technical professionals get training in the “Toyota way”: the managerial and production principles that have evolved to govern operations across the corporation.
For students pursuing a four-year degree, Toyota has a co-op program that alternates fulltime work and classroom study. Co-op students must have completed their freshman year to be eligible to participate.
“Our co-op program is important to us,” says Gallucci. “We hire 400 to 500 students a year with the intention to hire a large percentage of them as fulltime employees. The program has three terms a year, and students are assigned a mentor and a supervisor. It’s an opportunity for them to apply their classroom learning to on-the-job development, education and training.”
Toyota also has a skilled technician program. “Skilled technicians support the technology and equipment that run the manufacturing plants in the U.S.,” she says. “For those positions, we have partnerships with community colleges and trade schools throughout the United States. Individuals pursuing these degrees can enroll in the programs in their second year. It’s a school-to-work type program on the manufacturing side.”
Holistic approach to an inclusive work environment
Toyota employees go through mandatory diversity training. “In addition, we have multiple diversity steering committees and councils to help support the growth and awareness of diversity and inclusion,” Gallucci reports.
The steering committees advise on D&I strategies and projects. The corporate office is represented, as is each of the manufacturing plants. Regional diversity councils also provide input and direction to specific sites and have oversight of their D&I programs.
“Our business partnering groups are another aspect of our diversity initiative,” she says. “They allow employees to share life experiences and characteristics that are important to them.” Groups address the concerns and interests of Hispanics, military veterans, African Americans, women, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Business partnering groups are created by employees, so other groups may be represented at specific plants.
“Each group has executive leadership, and funding for their activities is provided by the company,” she adds.
Toyota has well-established career development and succession planning programs, Gallucci says. The company evaluates internal talent at a regional and local level several times a year. “We look at our representation, as well as the developmental needs of each individual and what helps them accelerate their growth and promotion within the company.”
A formal mentoring program at Toyota is driven by the mentee. “Using an online tool, employees seeking a mentor can go online and apply for the program. Assistant managers and above can be mentors. The individuals work together to figure out the topics for discussion and what issues to tackle.”
To help employees achieve work-life balance, Toyota offers part-time positions, flex hours, and a competitive time-off program. “Our benefits program has been recognized nationally,” Gallucci notes. “We take a holistic approach to work-life balance.”
Each major manufacturing plant has a childcare center on site. “We also have family health clinics at most of our plants where team members can bring their children to see a doctor.”
Toyota’s STEM efforts
Toyota has partnered with many organizations to help promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. One active partnership is Project Lead the Way (PLTW).
PLTW offers a professional development model for K-12 teachers of STEM that helps give students the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. PLTW reaches more than 5,000 elementary, middle, and high schools in all fifty states and the District of Columbia in rural, urban and suburban districts, across all income levels, as well as in public, private and charter schools.
At the 2014 NSBE conference, Toyota received recognition for its participation in the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) program. Led by NSBE engineering students and technical professionals, SEEK has developed a hands-on design curriculum to help children in grades three to eight solve problems and create products and discover the underlying math and science principles involved.