General Motors Focuses on Team Thinking When Recruiting Workers

By Lindsay Chappell

Aug. 6, 2012

Manual dexterity is nice.

But team thinking is better, according to the new hiring philosophy at General Motors Corp. as it recruits workers for new factory jobs.

Pared back by plant closings, workforce reduction and global reorganization, GM now finds itself in the unfamiliar position of needing new workers. Until now, in recent decades, GM has peopled its new factories mostly from banks of laid-off workers and employee transfers from other locations. GM is now forecasting enough manufacturing expansion to require large-scale employee recruitment.

But expectations have changed since the last time GM was recruiting, says Scott Whybrew, GM’s executive director for global manufacturing engineering.

It’s no longer enough to hire a plant worker who is good with his or her hands, handy with tools and in good physical condition, he says. “We’re looking for people who display teamwork, and people who can handle multiple jobs.

“We want people who can drive quality through the organization,” Whybrew says. “The people we’ll be hiring off the street will need to be problem-solvers, and have an aptitude for leadership.”

The reason for the change is the global spread of GMS—the General Motors System of standardized operations, says Whybrew, who spoke at the 2012 Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan, on Aug. 6.

GMS relies on shop-floor employees working in teams to make their own calls on product quality. New vehicle production lines rely on workers to make decisions about quality “in-station,” or at the spot where a task is being performed.

“That represents a change for us,” Whybrew says. “It’s a different personal attribute than we’ve looked for in the past.”

GM is still working through a pool of workers displaced by its 2009-10 downsizing. But new projects are triggering recruiting drives.

Since late last year, it has revealed plans to hire 1,110 in Arlington, Texas, 1,900 in Spring Hill, Tennessee, 437 in Wentzville, Missouri., and 200 at its Hamtramck plant in Detroit. All of the projects will involve a mix of existing workers and new recruits.

Lindsay Chappell writes for Automotive News, a sister publication of Workforce Management. Comment below or email

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