GM looks to reassure staff of recovery amid cutbacks

DETROIT: As General Motors slashes its work force by a total of 30,000 manufacturing jobs and shuts down six assembly plants, it is stressing to staff that there is a plan in place to turn around the struggling carmaker.

DETROIT: As General Motors slashes its work force by a total of 30,000 manufacturing jobs and shuts down six assembly plants, it is stressing to staff that there is a plan in place to turn around the struggling carmaker.

"Employees were definitely at the forefront of our internal communications planning," said Katie McBride, director of internal communications for GM North America.

GM was also challenged to notify employees who would be impacted by the layoffs before the news hit the media, McBride noted. "That's a hard thing to do these days," she said.

In particular, GM wanted to have manufacturing leaders relay the news directly to staffers.

"They met face to face with as many people as possible," said McBride. "We wanted to make sure employees who were going to be impacted heard it directly from a manufacturing leader."

Messages were tailored to specific sites and focused on what the move meant to individual employees, she added.

GM also provided to its managers a "communications package" that offered guidance on how to respond to questions employees might ask.

The automaker unveiled its four-point turnaround plan, which includes a new sales and marketing strategy, in a satellite broadcast.

McBride confirmed that the PR team also would be heavily involved in the new marketing plan, which includes strengthening GM's brands, focusing on the value and benefits that its cars offer consumers (moving away from messages that emphasize prices and deals), and aggressively targeting markets where GM has underperformed.

MS&L, which works on a number of corporate and strategic issues for GM, declined to discuss whether it was involved with outreach to unveil the turnaround plan or whether the agency would help implement the marketing changes.

Employees were invited to listen to the press conference about the plan and hear the questions posed by reporters, McBride noted.

GM also used its internal text-messaging system and daily newsletter, Drive Time, to communicate information.

McBride noted that GM handled all internal outreach in-house. "Obviously, this was very sensitive, so we did it all internally," she said.

McBride noted that the layoffs were limited to manufacturing positions and did not affect the PR department.

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