The Role of HR

March 12, 2020

In the Toyota Way, there are two pillars:  respect for people and continuous improvement. The company realized that the vaulted Toyota Production System could only flourish when the employees were functioning at their highest levels. You will often hear Toyota employees past and present refer to the Toyota Way — many of us refer to it as the DNA and company culture. The Toyota Way binds Toyota employees around the globe, creating a common bond that allows us to speak the same language. Within the Toyota Way, HR is viewed not as a transactional organization, but as a critical and central function in the company. HR is truly a strategic partner because HR has responsibility for hiring talent and, in addition, for creating systems to ensure that this talent realizes their true potential. Among other roles, HR has responsibility for hiring talent exactly when needed and with the skill set to perform the assigned role. HR’s role is even more critical given Toyota’s commitment to employment stability in the cyclical and dynamic automotive industry. No pressure there . . .

I remain incredibly grateful to have learned this people management system from some of the best and brightest minds. I carry those lessons with me today, and try to teach others the lessons that I learned first-hand from experts in the Toyota Production System and the Toyota Way. My clients are often surprised when I visit their location and the first thing I request is a visit to the shop floor (known as “going to the gemba”). Why would an HR consultant want to do that? The answer is just as simple as it is complex.

A short tour through a facility can give me more information than hours of meetings. From that tour, I can quickly understand the effectiveness of that leadership team, the state of the company, and the morale of the workforce. Yes, really.

It’s simple, if you take the time to see – clearly see and understand – the condition before you. Is the environment clean? How much trash is there on the floor? Are the employee areas well kept or in a complete state of disrepair? Are there safety hazards? Are machines down with employees just standing around? Will the employees wave and speak to complete strangers? Is there a management presence? Are the work processes well organized? What do those bathrooms look like in the rear corner of the building? The list can go on and on, but you probably get the picture.

Now, this is where it gets complex. Management often misses this key point – the environment is a reflection of the management team and the culture. My premise is this – most employees want to come to work and do a good job. Yes, even in today’s incredibly challenging labor market! It is management’s responsibility to create and nurture an environment that allows them to flourish. If your company struggles with turnover, safety, and low productivity, take a walk around your campus from my viewpoint, as if you’re seeing it for the first time. The solution to these complex issues likely lies within your four walls.

Your work environment reflects the culture you have – is it the culture you want? Is the HR department a strategic partner in your organization? Foundations can help you establish the foundation and systems that promote lean and allow your employees to realize their true and full potential. Contact us to help put a strategy in place so your most important assets – your employees – can flourish and your business can prosper!

— Carol Sampson, Executive Director and Co-Founder

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"Human Resources is the foundation to any company’s success and my team and I build programs to enhance the work environment, promote trust, improve engagement, and strengthen management's relationship with their employees. Our work is done with a thoughtful eye to cost and compliance."

- Carol Sampson, Founder -
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