GM will be making some big moves as to where its salaried employees work once the COVID pandemic is under control.
As to the exact nature of those changes, the company isn’t saying, although senior officials appear to be meeting with managers to explain how the shift in where salaried employees will be based will work, the Detroit Free Press reported last week.
GM spokesman David Caldwell declined to elaborate on the detail of GM’s plans to TheDetroitBureau, but he did confirm that the company will be shifting salaried employees to different locations around southeastern Michigan as a way to improve collaborative efficiency.
Changes aren’t entirely pandemic related
This move by GM was not in response to changes in how employees worked during the current COVID crisis, Caldwell said. Even through the worst of COVID, GM still had many employees working at its facilities, while at the same time many employees worked from home.
“Not everyone worked remotely,” Caldwell said. “And even without COVID, GM would probably have initiated a similar plan.”
The reason for such a change is simple, Caldwell said.
“Our goal is to have the best of both worlds,” Caldwell said. “To have the benefits of remote working, but we also want to have the benefits of in-person collaboration.”
GM will be enhancing its collaboration by bringing different teams closer together.
“Take the Tech Center in Warren as an example,” Caldwell told TheDetroitBureau. “We do a lot of engineering there and it has been a hub of product development. There are also lot non-engineering teams there, teams whose work is involved in product development, but they are based in other locations. Doesn’t it make sense to bring those teams closer together physically?”
Company shifting more than 1,000
It was reported that GM will move about 900 employees from Customer Care and Aftersales in Grand Blanc, Michigan, about an hour south to the Warren-based Tech Center. Additionally, GM would move marketing and product development teams from its global headquarters at the Renaissance Center (RenCen) by the riverfront in Detroit to Warren as well.
Last fall, GM hired about 3,000 IT employees. Some would work in Austin, Texas and some in Warren.
“This isn’t about cost-cutting,” Caldwell said. “It’s about increasing the ability to effectively collaborate.”
Ford making similar plans
GM isn’t the only Detroit automaker doing this.
Ford expects to offer some of its salaried workers the opportunity to return to an office setting, but through a hybrid schedule that will see them working from home part of the week and then on-site on other days once the COVID emergency is under control.
The company currently reports about 30,000 employees in North America working from home. Ford officials said the hybrid model was developed due to significant interest from its employees. The details of exactly how will work were not revealed, but one Ford employee told TheDetroitBureau it would be a dramatic change from the office environment they left last spring.
Each workspace would be configured to be used by employees with vastly different roles and tasks. The plan called for crews to clean each area every night so workers would come to a safe workspace.
GM remains dedicated to Detroit
Rumors of GM moving out the RenCen have been around for a while. The Free Press story reported that since 2019 there have unnamed sources saying GM CEO Mary Barra was looking to sell the RenCen, which GM acquired in 1996, to Detroit real estate mogul Dan Gilbert.
GM celebrated how the company’s efforts and ownership of the RenCen since 1996 have improved the riverfront, in a March 12 press release. It also stated the company remains committed to the city of Detroit.
“After 25 years of our involvement in the transformation of Detroit’s riverfront, our commitment to the city is steadfast,” said GM President Mark Reuss in a statement. “We look to the future with our global headquarters continuing as the flagship of Detroit’s riverfront.”
GM’s Factory Zero, just four miles from the GM RenCen, will open this year as the flagship plant in GM’s all-electric future, Caldwell said. GM’s $2.2 billion investment in Factory Zero (formerly the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center) for retooling and upgrades will position the facility to build EVs at scale.
It represents the single largest investment in a plant in GM history. Once fully operational, the plant will create more than 2,200 manufacturing jobs in Detroit.