Stellantis to adopt a more flexible workplace model for Auburn Hills employees

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Jeep and Ram maker Stellantis NV will join the wave of businesses combining in-person and remote work following more than a year of working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This "New Era of Agility" aims to make the North American headquarters in Auburn Hills a tool for its 15,000 salaried employees there for collaboration and workshops, the transatlantic automaker said Friday. Meanwhile, an estimated 70% of employees' time will be spent remotely after finding employees enjoyed the flexibility it offers while also supporting recruitment and retention efforts.

Stellantis NV will seek to transition 15,000 employees at its North American headquarters in Auburn Hills to a hybrid workplace model mixing time spent on-site and remotely.

"The health and well-being of our employees is at the forefront," said Shannon Dziuda, lead of human resources special projects for Stellantis in North America. "We want it to be deliberate, right? We want their on-site time to be deliberate and be based on what works best for them, but also meets business objectives."

The profitable results last year of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV before it merged with French rival Groupe PSA in January to create Stellantis shows how the company hasn't skipped a beat, despite the remote environment, Dziuda said.

About 10% of the employees at the Chrysler Technical Center in Auburn Hills currently are working on-site as essential. Returning more employees to the campus will begin with a four-to-six-week pilot of 650 employees in two suites at the technical center. That is expected to start in October based upon Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's recommendation in early April extending the prohibition of in-office work another six months.

Whitmer last week, however, issued a four-phase plan to begin easing restrictions. The first phase includes lifting the requirement for remote work when it's feasible. That can be examined two weeks after 4.5 million residents, or 55% of the state's adult population, receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. As of Friday, 51.2% of residents had received an initial shot, according to the state's vaccination dashboard.

"It's a learning journey, and we're agile," Dziuda said. "So, we will adjust accordingly, and we could bring that timing up as we need to. But I think most importantly, we want to recognize the emotions and feelings that come with returning to work, and we want to take it slow."

The pilot will be a guide on how to extend the hybrid model on a rolling schedule to other Stellantis teams and other states and countries. A survey of employees showed 84% prefer remote work or a blend in the future. The company hopes to glean from the pilot any changes that might be needed to the setup of the physical space or additional technology required for more of a drop-in desk model.

Also behind the design of the program is recruitment efforts: "It's not only attracting the best talent, but diverse talent," Dziuda said. "We know that this results in better innovation for the company and a greater culture."

Plus, its crosstown rivals are also adopting a more flexible hybrid model. Ford Motor Co. in March said it was transitioning some 30,000 North American white-collar employees largely based in southeast Michigan and many thousands more around the world to a hybrid model that allows employees to structure how they work, including the flexibility of remote work and collaborative in-person time at the office. Ford has said it will begin opening certain facilities in July at the earliest.

General Motors Co., likewise, has said it is adopting a “Work Appropriately” culture that allows employees the flexibility to work from home, a lab, an office, or wherever they can do their best for their job. It doesn’t expect to recall employees working remotely before the summer, but the new flexibility that can allow for remote work from even different states has helped it to attract new talent.

In the coming weeks and over the next several months, small teams of Stellantis employees will clear out their workspaces, including securing and consolidating files and records.

"Well-being and flexibility have always been a priority of ours, but I think this is only going to magnify it," Dziuda said. "As a company, we want to be able to retain and attract diverse talent that are excited to serve the mission of the company."

bnoble@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble