General Motors is taking a step back from a back-to-work policy it revealed to employees last week.
On Tuesday, CEO Mary Barra sent a memo to employees offering some kind of apology for the timing of a new policy being released late Friday saying employees should return to work in the office three days a week.
She said now that GM’s plan will still include a more regular in-person presence, but it won’t make any changes to its back-to-office policy this year as the company continues to listen to employee feedback. The plan will still require employees to work in the office three days a week.
“The initial 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 changed slightly, however, the overall plan has not changed.”
In Tuesday’s memo sent to employees, which was obtained by the Free Press, Barra wrote, “We want to take this opportunity to address some of the questions, concerns and misconceptions we’ve heard. We recognize that the timing of the message, late on a Friday afternoon, was unfortunate. It was also unintentional.”
GM will release more information on its plan next month, Barra said.
GM faced immediate resistance from some employees over the new mandate it introduced Friday night. 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 the general vibe,” a GM employee said after the news. This worker asked not to be named for fear of reprisals for speaking to the media. “The company has been talking about a good game on Work Appropriately since the beginning of all of this, and we were completely taken aback by this news.”
Over the past 24 months, many employees have either worked completely remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic or worked a hybrid type model called Work Appropriately, which was introduced after the pandemic ended. This allowed for flexibility between working in the office and working remotely, letting employees and their manager decide where they could best do their specific job.
Collaborate with employees
In Tuesday’s memo to white-collar workers, Barra wrote, “Our plan has always been, and still is, to collaboratively design the solution that best balances the needs of the business with the needs of each of you. The solution will include a more regular in-person presence. However, determining how, when and where teams will strengthen their in-person collaboration will ultimately be designed by the leaders who know their organization best. We do not plan to mandate the days of the week that be collaborative days. Under no circumstances will our Work Appropriately evolution begin before the first quarter of 2023.”
Barra said GM was providing the clarification “based on a dialogue that has taken place since Friday” and that GM intends to spend the next few weeks listening to employee feedback and incorporating it into the company’s plan. company. GM acknowledged on Monday that some employees were concerned about the mandatory three-day return-to-office plan, though some of the employee feedback indicates some are eager to return to in-person collaboration, GM’s Raynal said.
“We understand that our employees have concerns and we are committed to maintaining flexibility 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 continue to share details with employees as plans materialize in the coming weeks.”
Last week, GM laid out its logic for the move in a memo Barra sent to white-collar workers and was obtained by the Free Press.
He said: “Over time, we have lost some of the important, intangible benefits of regularly working together in person, including occasional mentorship, more effective communication and bringing an entrepreneurial spirit to our work. We we’re entering a rapid launch cycle that, frankly, will define our future trajectory, and we need to drive change with speed – individually and collectively – so that we can achieve our goals.”
Barra’s memo explained that when GM introduced Work Appropriately in April 2021, “we took great care not to call it a policy, but rather a philosophy” to balance business needs and give employees flexibility. .
Barra told the Free Press in May that there were days when she often worked from home or other remote locations.
After:Rare behind-the-scenes interview with GM CEO Mary Barra: who she leans on in her ‘lonely job’
In his memo to employees on Friday, Barra wrote that the COVID-19 pandemic has improved significantly, allowing for a safe return to the office and that GM’s efforts to transform the business require more in-person collaboration.
For some who posted on online message boards, the change was a betrayal of how GM has positioned Work Appropriably as the new cultural shift for the company post-pandemic. Executives said it would be a talent recruiting tool allowing GM to hire the best by not requiring them to move to Michigan.
“What about this awesome software that lives in Bismarck, North Dakota?” said Jeff Massimilla, executive director of GM’s connected mobility and customer solutions, in a 2021 interview with the Free Press. “We could allow them to stay there.”
The automaker has hired some 10,000 people globally in 2021 and 7,000 people this year, many of whom are working remotely.
The first to go
On Monday, some online message boards lit up with chatter about GM’s three-day tenure, with some calling the move shortsighted in terms of attracting and retaining talent. Others said it was the right thing to do. Few commentators have put their name there.
Business experts say whatever GM decides, others will watch how it goes.
“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 feel more confident to follow GM’s lead.”
But expect resistance, Gordon said. He noted that before the pandemic, most people would have loved working from home two days a week.
“But after staying home every day, they don’t want to go even one day,” Gordon said. “If you give employees a benefit, even if you make it clear it’s temporary, they’ll resent you if you take it away.”
“Not much sympathy”
Bringing salaried workers back to the office will create equity in GM’s workforce, said Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University.
Being in the office builds allegiance to the company, and the collaboration makes their “creative success flow,” Masters said.
“You can get an idea of what works and what doesn’t and make adjustments,” Masters said. “I think most people will realize that it’s something they have to do and it’s more of a sense of fairness because you have blue collar workers who have to show up every day.”
Some of the GM workers at the plant echo that sentiment. They characterize a return to power as “putting COVID behind us,” said Eric Welter, president of UAW Local 598 shop at GM’s Flint Assembly plant where GM manufactures its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy-duty pickups.
“We’ve always worked for the whole thing,” Welter told the Free Press, referring to hourly workers returning to the line after an eight-week hiatus at the height of the pandemic in 2020. “It might look like justice There’s not much sympathy for them and I don’t know how you run a business from home?
“A good thing for the city”
There are others outside of GM affected by GM bringing workers back into offices on a more regular schedule.
The sprawling Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit had become something of a ghost town when COVID-19 sent workers packing. Among them: about 5,000 GM employees. In June, we wondered what would happen to RenCen due to its emptiness. GM owns part of the RenCen towers.
“This move represents many more office workers frequenting 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 Mayor Mike Duggan’s office. “Not only will this add vibrancy to our central business district, but it will generate more revenue for city services.”
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts told the Free Press Monday that he supports a comeback. “We have a lot of businesses and traders in Warren and this is a boost for them. GM employs nearly 25,000 people there and recently invested $1.5 billion in the Tech Center. new buildings and facilities and you can’t justify building there those that don’t have employees.”
Main Street may care, but Wall Street doesn’t care much about where GM’s workforce does its work, “unless it leads to a mass exodus, especially among the most senior executives,” said Morningstar automotive analyst David Whiston.
And given that GM said in May that it was suspending hiring more people this year, Whiston said, “if they’re not looking to add a lot of people now because of the economy, then there’s has one less downside to policy change”.
After:GM leverages NASA sun sound recording for feature on Cadillac Lyriq
After:A unique GM lab in Milford holds the secrets to future electric vehicle driving here and on the moon
Writer JC Reindl contributed to this report. Contact Jamie L. LaReau at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Learn more about General Motors and sign up for our automotive newsletter. Become a subscriber.