Magazine article Workforce Management

Outsider Thinking for GM Hr

Magazine article Workforce Management

Outsider Thinking for GM Hr

Article excerpt


Automaker names engineering exec HR chief, signaling new direction for firm's people practices.

General Motors completed the thinning of its executive ranks last month with the announcement that Mary Barra, a GM executive with an engineering background, v,ill replace longtime human resources head Katy Barclay

The leadership change was seen as long overdue and came just weeks after the new GM emerged from a structured Chapter 1 1 bankruptcy with the goal of overhauling the company's bureaucratic and bloated corporate culture, especially within its executive ranks.

"[Barclay] is one of the same senior leaders who is responsible for the destruction of the company," says Rob Kleinbaum, managing director of auto industry consulting firm Rak & Co. "She is responsible for it and should be accountable for it."

The troubled automaker has yet to bring in executives from outside the corporation. Still, the replacement of Barclay, who retires October 1 , with an executive whose background is in engineering and has no formal HR experience signals a new direction for the company and its HR department.

"It's a positive sign they want to make deep changes in HR and don't want to draw from the HR community," Kleinbaum said.

Appointing an engineer with no HR experience as the department s head suggests the company is looking to infuse HR with the manufacturing principles of continuous improvement and operational efficiency.

Barra appears to be a natural choice. At 47, she is vice president for global manufacturing engineering and has been with GM since 1980. She has served in a number of engineering, manufacturing, management and communications positions and was plant manager for the Detroit Hamtramck assembly center. Barra was appointed executive director of vehicle manufacturing engineering in 2004 and was named to her current position in 2008, the company said in a release.

In recent years, Barra worked closely with former GM chief executive Rick Wagoner.

Barclay, 53, had spent her entire career at GM working exclusively in HR. …

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