General Motors steps back a bit Return-to-work policy it revealed to the employees last week.
On Tuesday, CEO Mary Barra sent a note to employees, somewhat apologizing for the timing of the release of a new policy late Friday, saying employees would need to return to the office three days a week.
She now said GM’s plan will still include more regular in-person presence, but it won’t implement changes to its return-to-the-office policy this year as the company continues to listen to employee feedback. The plan is for employees to continue to work in the office three days a week.
“The original letter was a notification and the purpose of the update is to provide clarification and additional details,” GM spokeswoman Maria Raynal said Tuesday. “The timing has shifted slightly, but the overall plan hasn’t changed.”
In Tuesday’s note to employees obtained by Freie Presse, Barra wrote, “We would like to take this opportunity to address some of the questions, concerns and misunderstandings we have heard. We acknowledge the timing of the news, late Friday afternoon, was unfortunate. It was also unintentional.
GM will share more information on its plan next month, Barra said.
GM faced immediate opposition from some employees over the new mandate it presented late Friday. GM originally said the policy would begin later this year. Some GM employees told the Free Press that the news caught them off guard.
“You can probably imagine what the general mood is like,” a GM employee said after the news. This worker asked not to be named for speaking to the media, fearing retaliation. “The company has been talking a good game about Work Appropriately since inception and we were completely blown away by this news.”
Over the past 24 months, many employees have either worked entirely remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic or have worked on a hybrid model called Work Appropriately, which was implemented after the pandemic subsided. It allowed flexibility between working in the office and working remotely, letting employees and their managers decide where best to do their specific tasks.
Collaborate with co-workers
In Tuesday’s note to employees, Barra wrote: “Our plan was, and still is, to work together to develop the solution that best aligns the needs of the company with the needs of each of you. The solution will involve even more regular, face-to-face presence. Ultimately, however, determining how, when and where teams increase personal collaboration is designed by the leaders who know their organization best. We do not intend to dictate the days of the week to be collaboration days. In no scenario will our further development of Work Approtraitly begin before Q1 2023.”
Barra said GM is providing the clarification “based on the dialogue that has taken place since Friday,” and GM plans to spend the next few weeks listening to employee feedback and incorporating it into the company’s plan. GM acknowledged on Monday that some employees had concerns about the mandatory three-day return-to-office schedule, although some feedback from employees suggested there are those who are keen to return to working in person, GM’s Raynal said.
“We understand our employees’ concerns and are committed to staying flexible to ensure they can meet their personal commitments,” Raynal said Monday. “As we implement this change, we are listening to employee feedback and will incorporate it into our planning. We will share more details with staff as plans solidify in the coming weeks.”
Last week, GM laid out its logic for the move in a note Barra sent to employees and received by the Freie Presse.
It said: “Over time, we’ve lost some of the important, intangible benefits of regular face-to-face collaboration, including occasional mentoring, more efficient communication, and incorporating an entrepreneurial mindset into our work. We are entering a rapid adoption cycle that, frankly, will define our future path, and we need to drive change quickly – individually and collectively – in order to achieve our goals.”
Barra’s note explained when GM introduced “work fair”. in April 2021, “we took great care not to call it politics but philosophy” in order to balance the needs of the company and give flexibility to employees.
Barra told the Free Press in May that there were days when she often worked from home or other remote locations.
In her note to employees Friday, Barra wrote that the COVID-19 pandemic has improved dramatically, allowing for a safe return to the office, and that GM’s push to transform the company requires more face-to-face collaboration.
For some who have posted on online message boards, the change was a betrayal of how GM has positioned “work appropriate” as the new cultural shift for the company post-pandemic. Executives said it would be a talent recruitment tool that would allow GM to hire the best by not requiring them to move to Michigan.
“What about this great software person who lives in Bismarck, North Dakota?” said Jeff Massimilla, GM’s executive director of connected customers and mobility solutions, in a 2021 interview with the Free Press. “We could allow them to stay there.”
That employed by automakers around 10,000 people worldwide in 2021 and 7,000 people this year, many of whom are working remotely.
The first to go
On Monday, some online forums babbled over GM’s three-day mandate, with some people calling the move short-sighted when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Others said it was the right thing. Few of the commentators give their names.
Economists say whatever GM decides, others will be watching to see how it plays out.
“If it’s a disaster, they won’t make the same mistake,” said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “If it works, they’ll be more confident in following GM’s example.”
But resistance is to be expected, Gordon said. He noted that before COVID, most people would have been happy to come to work from home two days a week.
“But after staying home every day, they don’t want to go in even one day,” Gordon said. “When you give employees a benefit, no matter how clearly you say it’s temporary, they get annoyed when you take it away.”
“Not Much Sympathy”
Returning employees to the office will bring equity across GM’s workforce, said Marick Masters, an economics professor at Wayne State University.
Being in the office fuels loyalty to the company, and working together gets their “creative juices flowing,” Masters said.
“You can get a feel for what’s working and what’s not working and make adjustments,” Masters said. “I think most people will realize that this is something they have to do and it’s more of a sense of justice because you have workers who have to show up every day.”
Some of the GM workers at the plant agree. They characterize a return to office as “putting COVID behind us,” said Eric Welter, chairman of UAW Local 598 at GM’s Flint Assembly plant, where GM makes its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy-duty pickups.
“We’ve always worked for the whole,” Welter told the Free Press, referring to hourly workers returning to the line after an eight-week shutdown during the height of the pandemic in 2020. “That might feel like justice. There’s not much sympathy for them and I don’t know how to run a business from home?”
“Great thing for the city”
There are others outside of GM who are affected by GM bringing workers back to the office on a more regular schedule.
The massive Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit had become something of a ghost town as COVID-19 sent workers packing. Among them: around 5,000 GM employees. This was asked for in June what would happen to the RenCen for being so empty became. GM owns part of the RenCen towers.
“This move represents many more office workers patronizing our stores and restaurants to help us get closer to pre-pandemic activity,” said John Roach, director of media relations for the City of Detroit and the Office of Mayor Duggan. “Not only will this add vibrancy to our central business district, but it will also generate more revenue for city services.”
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts told the Free Press Monday he supports a return. “We have many businesses and dealers in Warren and it is an asset to them. GM employs nearly 25,000 people there and recently invested $1.5 billion in the tech center. These are all new buildings and facilities and you can.” There is no justification for building ones like this without employees there.
Main Street may care, but Wall Street isn’t very interested in where GM’s workforce does its jobs “unless it leads to a mass exodus, particularly among the most senior executives,” said Morningstar auto analyst David Whiston .
And given that GM has agreed Maybe it was the suspension of hiring more people That year, Whiston said, “If they don’t want to hire a lot of people now because of the economy, then the change in policy has one less disadvantage.”
Staff writer JC Reindl contributed to this report. Contact Jamie L. LaReau at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. continue reading General Motors and register with us cars newsletter. become a subscriber.