Cadillac Retooling HR as It Aims for Global Approach

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

Sept. 28 — Cadillac is retooling its human resources approach to assist the General Motors luxury car subsidiary in remaking itself from “a U.S.-centric brand” to a global one, Tonya Hallett, the new HR director at the company, said in a Sept. 28 interview with Bloomberg BNA.

Hallett brings many years of experience at GM to her new post, having started out as a labor relations and employment specialist at the parent company in 1996. She has been with the car company for most of the years since, with breaks to work for the Pepsi Bottling Group and as vice president of HR at TouchTunes Interactive Networks, a New York City-based music company.

Cadillac's HR department is making use of three current trends in the field: data-driven HR analytics, customized performance reviews and heightened efforts to improve employee engagement.

According to Hallett, GM brought her back last summer to work with Cadillac CEO Johan de Nysschen “to make it aglobal brand,” which she called “definitely a challenge.”

The reason for this global shift in focus is plain to see in Cadillac's sales figures for the first eight months of the year, which the company released Sept. 2. From January through August, 174,389 new Cadillacs were sold around the world, up 1.3 percent from the corresponding period of last year.

U.S. sales were close to two-thirds of the total, at 110,791 Cadillacs sold in the first eight months of the year—but those domestic sales were also down 2.8 percent from last year, while sales in China, which were 49,186 cars or just over 28 percent of the total, had grown 7.8 percent over last year. Sales in the Middle East totaled 3,454 cars, a whopping 32 percent increase, while 1,111 cars were sold in Mexico, just under 30 percent growth compared to last year.

Global Exposure

A first step in Cadillac's globalization, Hallett said, is to make sure employees at the company's new New York City headquarters get global exposure. To illustrate the need for that, she told of a recent car show in Geneva where a European driver was very impressed by the way the new Cadillacs handled but noted they hadn't been designed fornarrow European city streets.

A crucial question for Cadillac, Hallett said, is “do we have employees who can step up to the global market?” That means taking account of everything down to “accessories and aftermarket sales,” she said.

In building up its global workforce, Cadillac's HR department is making use of three current trends in the field: data-driven HR analytics, customized performance reviews and heightened efforts to improve employee engagement.

Speaking of HR analytics, Hallett said, “It's key for an HR leader not just to have the proverbial ‘seat at the table,' but to be a credible confidant” of top management. Cadillac is able to draw on a lot of accumulated data, Hallett said, to answer such questions as “are we attracting the right people for retention?”

A Feast of Early Data

A critical source of data for HR analytics, she added, is the information collected in the recruitment and onboarding process. “We are continuing to look at attracting new talent by recruiting and getting analytics on the early hand wavers”—people who have shown excitement about working for Cadillac.

The use of analytics extends into other areas as well, and Hallett said she has “passion” about it. For example, job candidates' data can be mined for diversity and demographic information, she said, and employees can be assessed asto their short-, medium- and long-term expectations.

In performance reviews, Cadillac operates on a traditional annual January-to-January cycle, with a “midyear touchpoint,” but Hallett is looking to “encourage more frequent conversations.”

The electronic performance review system currently in place, known as Commitment Accountability Partnership or CAP, was “inherited” from GM, she said, and involves company leadership sharing short- and medium-term organizational goals, with employees attempting to match their own short- and medium-term goals to those broader aims, and conducting self assessments. Moving toward “more frequent and timely conversations” makes sense, she added, especially in light of the large number of new hires Cadillac made last summer.

To strengthen employee engagement, Hallett said, “we have partnered with our communications department to make sure employees are involved in our business as it evolves.” Leadership meetings, dubbed “Cadillac Connections,” are being organized to bring in employees at all levels, she said. “There wasn't a playbook on how we do this,” Hallett added.