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2018 Corporate Responsibility Summit Speakers Offer Strategies to Win the War on Technical Talent

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The integration of sustainability and ethics into business was a popular topic among speakers at AIAG’s 8th Annual Corporate Responsibility Summit.

Nearly 200 automotive professionals convened at the event on April 18-19, 2018, in Novi, Michigan. The summit featured over 30 speakers, a choice of three tracks, and 25 exhibitors.

Sustainability, Ethics, and Business Integration: Industry Trends and Expectations
On day two of the summit, speakers Eric Whan of GlobeScan, Holly Duckworth of Kaiser Aluminum, and Marshall Chase, who contributed to AIAG’s Future of CR Report, spoke to an engaged audience about global ethics trends affecting the automotive sector and how the industry is responding.

“Trust in companies has been very low,” said Whan. “Companies that effectively evaluate and communicate social purpose and societal value are gaining respect and gaining ground in the market.”

The speakers asked attendees two intriguing questions:

  • Are you surveying employees for moral disengagement?
  • Where is unethical decision making taking place in the organization?

Duckworth pointed out that the automotive industry is “in a war” for technical talent, particularly in IT and engineering. “The key is to speak to the expectations of those employees, especially Millennials,” she said. “Use CR as a competitive advantage in this war.”

Chase agreed, adding that Millennials “are not going to age out of their progressivism.”

Chase also advised attendees to pay attention to the issues that attract higher quality workers. “Younger workers are more interested in company values,” he noted. “They are looking for greater collaboration with their peers and with suppliers. They want to find ways to address CR challenges collaboratively, including working collaboratively with competitors.”

Duckworth said that when it comes to specific CR challenges in automotive, there are lessons to be learned on integration. “There are questionable decisions being made in the bowels of the organization — it’s not the leaders or executives who are putting the organization at risk,” she said.

“This is solved by attracting the right talent, and we have to engage with employees all the way down to the front line to make sure good, moral decision making is happening there,” she continued. “As Deming has said, that’s the way to build quality.”

When it comes to moral disengagement, Duckworth encouraged attendees to survey employees with the right questions — those that go well beyond how do you like working here or how do you like your boss.

“If you want to get an understanding of moral disengagement among your employees, ask questions like: Have you ever seen someone at this organization take something that wasn’t theirs? Or, have you ever seen someone at this organization do something questionable because a supervisor told them to?” she suggested.

Tanya Bolden, AIAG’s director of corporate responsibility products and services, who moderated the session, pointed out the importance of AIAG’s new Future of CR Report in addressing these issues. “To find our true north, to find where we want to go, we have to figure out where we are,” Bolden said. “We are getting a sense of that now with AIAG’s gathering of data.”

Sustainability via Innovation
Speaker John Pittenger of Koch Industries said his company’s vision includes creating greater value with fewer resources in new and different ways. “Sustainability is not a program,” he explained. “It is a central part of our vision.”

The key strategies he recommends are digital transformation, supply chain partnerships to eliminate waste and create more value, and innovation in all aspects of your business.

“But innovation is much more than process and product,” he said. “You must engage employees at every level to find ways to improve value creation using fewer resources. You can do that by breaking your businesses down into specific functionality and looking for best practices within the industry, as well as in unrelated industries.”

Co-presenter Brad McKenna of Bosch, North America, said his company is committed to the care and stewardship of the community. This happens through Bosch’s support of environmental programs, spending R&D dollars on conserving resources, empowering a diverse workforce, and partnering with highly skilled organizations that know how to improve the environment.

In establishing why companies should care about CR, McKenna pointed out that 65 percent of Millennials said their first criteria in selecting a job is their ability to make a difference. Further, Millennial turnover cost companies over $30 billion in 2016 alone.

“Most Millennials will work for a socially responsible company, even if the salary is less,” he said, an important point for companies to consider in the battle to attract the best talent.

Look for more coverage of AIAG’s 2018 Corporate Responsibility Summit in the next issue of this newsletter. To get involved in AIAG’s Corporate Responsibility initiatives or to access additional information, tools, and programs, visit www.aiag.org.