GM reveals 'Work Appropriately' flexible working model

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. confirmed Tuesday that it's moving to adopt a more flexible working culture, with employees essentially deciding where they work.

“Work Appropriately” is described as a new mindset — not a policy — that gives GM teams the flexibility to work from home, a lab, an office, or wherever they can do their best work. 

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GM is one of several companies, including crosstown rival Ford Motor Co., that officially are embracing a more flexible working culture after the pandemic last year pushed salaried workforces to leverage technology and figure out how to work from home as coronavirus cases surged.

General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra

"The future of work is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and our values and behaviors will guide us in this culture change," GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. "Work appropriately means that where the work permits, employees will have the flexibility to work where they can have the greatest impact on achieving our goals. It is up to leaders to focus on the work, not the where, and we will provide the tools and resources needed to make the right decisions to support our teams."

The "Work Appropriately" mindset evokes Barra's announcement as head of GM global human resources when she broke down the staid automaker's multi-page dress code into two words: “Dress appropriately."

Any time spent in the workplace will follow local employment laws and would be focused on business needs like building products, working in labs and developing and reviewing physical properties, GM said. Employees aren't expected to return to the office before summer. 

The flexible working model has helped GM with its recruitment efforts. "It's significantly opened up the talent pool for us," said Cyril George, global talent acquisition director, noting how he was looking to fill a position and it was easier because there was no "constraint from a location standpoint." 

GM has hired more in the last quarter than it did in all of 2020, George said. 

"If this was a few years back most of this hiring would have happened in and around Michigan, but now there's so many options from a satellite offices standpoint, either our regional offices or one of our innovation centers ... that we have across the United States, so most of them are around that," he said. 

It's unclear still what the move to a more flexible working culture will mean for GM's offices and other spaces that may go underutilized by the change. Laura Jones, GM's global talent director, said “we really want this work to take precedent and to happen first."