General Motors, Casio and Hewlett-Packard share their HR experiences on entering the developing markets in the Asia Pacific region
Vice president global HR, General Motors, talks about the HR lessons she learned through the recent launch of the Zafira by GM Thailand
I prefer to think of a "challenge" as an "opportunity" just waiting to happen. If you mix together the uncertainty of a developing market, with an unproven workforce and a collapsed economy, then you're ripe for quite an "opportunity".
That describes what General Motors Thailand faced in its decision on whether to go forward with a $650m investment in a manufacturing facility just two hours south of Bangkok. We chose opportunity!
Today, GM Thailand is GM's first wholly owned subsidiary and is considered a linchpin of GM's Asia expansion strategy. It manufactures the Zafira, a minivan that was the first Thai passenger vehicle to be mass-exported to Europe. Production began in May 2000; volumes have increased by 50% for 2001 and a second shift started in January.
GM Thailand did what many said could not be done - we launched a world-class facility with a completely new product, new organisation and a new brand in less than 22 months. Our biggest HR challenge was to recruit, train and develop a local Thai staff in a very compressed time frame, while maintaining industrial peace and meeting quality standards.
How did we do it? Simply put, we found and developed people with the right skills at the right time. First, we set up a rigorous, proven assessment process that helped us select the best and brightest employees. Then, we secured a handful of GM employees from all over the world who had technical skills or start-up greenfield operation experience to come over and literally "transfer knowledge" to our local national Thai employees.
Third, we developed aggressive leadership and production training programmes with employees averaging 37 hours per year. And finally, we institutionalised a safety culture that has by far the best record in Thailand and GM. GM Thailand is fast-approaching 10 million hours without a lost work day case.
A key HR business objective is to create a &