2016/05/26

In War For Talent, GM May Be Helped By Rise In Buzz Quotient And Recruiting Revamp

CEO Mary Barra says the conversation about GM has changed.
The month after General Motors GM +1.93% announced it was buying Cruise Automation, a Silicon Valley start-up, GM executives noticed a sharp increase in the number of people seeking jobs with the automaker.

GM usually sees about 27,000 white-collar applicants globally each month, but in April, nearly 35,000 people applied for non-factory jobs. Most apply for more than one position, so the number of applications submitted also jumped, from the usual 50,000 to nearly 68,000.

It’s hard to say whether the March 11 Cruise Automation deal for a reported $1 billion – or GM’s $500 million investment in the Lyft car-sharing servicetwo months earlier – contributed to the surge, but GM Chief Executive Mary Barra thinks so.

“Quite frankly,” she said in an interview, “it has changed the conversation about GM,” which will hire 27,000 salaried professionals worldwide over the next five years. The moves signaled to outsiders that a resurgent GM intends to be a leader in advanced technologies and future mobility, she said.

Amid a fierce talent war for IT professionals, software and electronics engineers and other scientists, GM is also getting more proactive about hiring, assigning a former human resources executive from Google GOOGL +1.14% to head up global talent acquisition.
When Bill Huffaker joined GM three and a half years ago, the company was still crawling out of the hole it fell into during the global recession. His job was not to “Google-ize” General Motors’ human resources department, but to modernize it.
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Bill Huffaker, GM’s head of global talent acquisition
“When we were in bankruptcy, it eliminated our ability to recruit people. We weren’t growing. We just shut that down,” Huffaker said. “GM went from a fairly large [recruiting] team to four people that was put on life support.”
In 2013, under former CEO Dan Akerson, GM launched a sweeping overhaul of its global IT operations, bringing back high-tech jobs that had been outsourced for decades to companies like H-P, Cisco and others. GM built redundant state-of-the-art data hubs near Detroit, and opened four IT innovation centers in other U.S. cities.
Because it had to hire thousands of IT people quickly, GM turned to a third-party recruiting firm to handle everything from posting the jobs, screening applicants, setting up interviews and extending offers. GM ended up outsourcing even non-IT jobs in the U.S.

“Then we thought, we’re a growing company now. We need to hire people around the world,” Huffaker said. So GM selected a new vendor with global capabilities but quickly concluded it had made a mistake, given the fierce competition for talent and the difficulty it was having finding candidates with the right experience who understood GM’s aspirations.

“It’s very difficult for a third party vendor to understand and reflect our business around the world,” he said. “How can you convincingly talk to someone and describe the culture and convince them to move?” Huffaker said. “We had reduced recruiting to a transaction and a cost to be minimized. We realized we made a strategic error.”

So GM exited the vendor contract and gave Huffaker six months to build a talent acquisition team in-house. The hiring staff went from fewer than a dozen people to more than 200 around the world. Now U.S. job candidates are greeted in a new modern space in the Detroit Renaissance Center, reflecting where GM is going, rather than its past.
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At GM’s new talent acquisition center, the focus is on the future.
GM’s reversal of course isn’t that uncommon, according to Todd Raphael, editor of ERE Media, a recruiting industry website. “It’s a story I’ve heard before, but that doesn’t mean outside recruiting is bad.”

Cynthia Pasky, chief executive of Strategic Staffing Solutions, a Detroit-based firm that supplies talent for many companies, but not in the automotive industry, thinks GM made the right decision.

“A big recruiting agency can’t always sell job candidates on your company, and more importantly, where it’s headed, when they’re also selling 20 or 30 other clients,” she said.
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