General Motors has made a deal with Henry Ford Health System, a Detroit-based hospital system, to provide a new health care plan to its salaried employees and their dependents in southeast Michigan, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. The optional ConnectedCare plan, which will be available to some 24,000 GM employees and their dependents starting next year, replaces traditional group health insurance with a direct-contract system wherein Henry Ford will manage nearly all of the participating employees’ health care needs.
The company’s existing health insurance options will remain available, but the ConnectedCare plan is expected to save them anywhere from $300 to $900 a year compared with the current cheapest option. According to a press release from the Henry Ford system, the plan will give GM employees access to more than 3,000 health care providers offering “a comprehensive range of health care services including primary care, more than 40 specialties, behavioral health services, hospitalization and emergency care as needed, as well as pharmacy and other services.”
Under the five-year contract, the hospital system agreed to specific goals for quality, cost and customer service. For instance, plan participants are promised same-day or next-day appointments with primary care physicians and appointments with specialists within 10 business days. They will also have access to a range of digital health tools, wellness services, and assistance in managing their care and choosing the right health care options, Henry Ford said in its statement.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, GM’s insurance provider in that state, will continue to manage claims-processing and other functions, while again continuing to provide the PPO plans GM already offers its employees. ConnectedCare will not apply to GM’s large unionized workforce in Michigan, whose health benefits are negotiated under a labor agreement.
Ford Argo AI
In a sign of how serious the US automobile industry is about beating Silicon Valley to marketable self-driving cars, several AI startups working on this technology have multiplied in size since being bought by legacy automakers over the past two years, Christina Rogers reports at the Wall Street Journal. Argo AI, an artificial intelligence startup founded in Pittsburgh by former top engineers from the self-driving vehicle divisions of Alphabet and Uber, had fewer than a dozen employees when Ford Motor Company bought a $1 billion majority stake in it early last year. Today, it has 330 employees, including a number of software engineers and robotics researchers formerly employed by major tech companies like Apple and Uber.
Argo attracted these employees with an equity offer for new hires, which big tech companies can’t offer, Chief Executive Bryan Salesky tells Rogers. This ensures that each employee is “able to benefit from the upside being created in a direct way”—a potentially massive payoff given that Argo is helping Ford prepare to bring a fully autonomous car to market in 2021 while also developing a system it can sell to other companies. Being backed by a major company, but not owned outright or micromanaged by that company, gives Argo the agility to continue operating like a tech startup, while also benefitting from Ford’s economies of scale to manufacture and market the products it designs.
General Motors also bought a self-driving car startup, Cruise Automation, as part of a series of high-tech investments in 2016 that signaled the company’s intent to develop autonomous vehicles and made it a more attractive employer for tech talent. San Francisco-based Cruise, which GM also spent $1 billion to acquire, has staffed up to 740 employees and got $2.25 billion investment from Japan’s SoftBank Group last month, Rogers adds. Japanese automakers like Toyota and Nissan are also investing in the development of robotics and autonomous driving technology.
Since taking up the position of CEO at General Motors in 2014, Mary Barra has undertaken to transform the culture of the storied American automaker. As the automotive industry and other legacy manufacturers find themselves increasingly in competition with big tech companies for talent—in Detroit’s case, a product of the race to market self-driving cars—they have had to expand their talent attraction strategies outside their traditional blue-collar comfort zone and reach out to candidates with very different expectations and values, as well as more diverse backgrounds.
Barra’s approach to culture change at GM has focused in part on simplifying rules and policies that might strike this new generation of talent as arbitrary and overly bureaucratic, such as the dress code, which she shrunk from a detailed section in the employee handbook to just two words: “Dress appropriately.” Barra told the story at the Wharton People Analytics Conference in Philadelphia last month, from which Quartz’s Leah Fessler passes it along:
After replacing GM’s 10-page dress code treatise with a two-word appeal, Barra received a scathing email from a senior-level director. “He said, ‘You need to put out a better dress policy, this is not enough.’ So I called him—and of course that shook him a little bit. And I asked him to help me understand why the policy was inept.” The director explained that occasionally, some people on his team had to deal with government officials on short notice, and had to be dressed appropriately for that.
The executive order issued by President Trump on Friday, which temporarily barred refugees and citizens of seven designated countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—from entering the US, has been met with some criticism from the ranks of America’s corporate leaders. In statements to employees and to the press, many CEOs have expressed concern that either the order itself or the new administration’s more restrictive approach to immigration in general will be disruptive to business and harmful to their ability to hire and retain talent, as well as their diversity and inclusion initiatives. The Washington Post’s Jena McGregor gives an overview of corporate America’s reaction to the president’s polarizing order:
“Employees do hold their CEOs and leadership accountable for defending those values when the line has been crossed,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, Weber-Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist. After years of communicating and focusing on diversity and inclusion as a corporate value, she says, CEOs “do feel under a lot of pressure right now, and are trying to figure out what to say about Trump’s ban and how to speak to their employees. They’ve set a high bar and an expectation that diversity really matters. That is adding a lot of firepower to getting CEOs to speak up.”
Some of the statements from CEOs have included not only concerns but personal reflections. “I am deeply concerned, as many of you are, with this fracture in our society,” wrote MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, who was born in India. “I am an immigrant into this wonderful country. I came here midway through my career and have over the past years made this my home and pledged my allegiance to all that the Constitution stands for.” …
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As manufacturing becomes an increasingly high-tech and talent-driven sector, many manufacturers have found themselves at pains to woo software engineers and other STEM talent away from Silicon Valley tech firms with deeper pockets and more attractive company cultures. The Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Tangel looks into why fighting this talent battle is such a heavy lift for heavy industry:
Software engineering and developing jobs were the second most in demand in manufacturing over the past year, after high-turnover sales positions, according to labor-market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies. But manufacturers at times can’t compete with the pay and benefits tech companies offer, said Andrew Dugenske, director of the Factory Information Systems Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology. …
On average, tech companies pay $105,227, 12% more than manufacturing employers, for software developers, according to Burning Glass Technologies. For entry-level software jobs, tech companies pay $88,820, 5% more than manufacturers.
To try and close this gap, manufacturers like Caterpillar are taking a page from the tech sector’s playbook and pitching themselves to millennials as places where they can make a difference in the world:
Kelly Wojda, Caterpillar’s global director of diversity and talent, said the company is trying to bridge what she calls a “perception gap” and highlight how job candidates could, for example, make its machines more fuel-efficient and safer to operate. “Our message to them is: You would be doing work that’s helping all around the globe, make big projects happen and really working to make life better in a lot of communities,” she said.
One manufacturer that is going to exceptional lengths to attract tech talent is General Motors, which finds itself up against a whole new class of competitors as companies Uber, Tesla, and Google press into the nascent market for autonomous vehicles. To compete in this new business environment, GM’s CEO Mary Barra has launched an ambitious campaign to overhaul the company’s culture and lure more millennial techies to Detroit. Rick Tetzeli at Fast Company checks up on how that’s going:
General Motors is seeing a marked increase in job applications, and its recent investments in high-tech firms like the autonomous-vehicle startup Cruise Automation may have something to do with it, Joann Muller reports at Forbes:
GM usually sees about 27,000 white-collar applicants globally each month, but in April, nearly 35,000 people applied for non-factory jobs. Most apply for more than one position, so the number of applications submitted also jumped, from the usual 50,000 to nearly 68,000. It’s hard to say whether the March 11 Cruise Automation deal for a reported $1 billion – or GM’s $500 million investment in the Lyft car-sharing service two months earlier – contributed to the surge, but GM Chief Executive Mary Barra thinks so.
“Quite frankly,” she said in an interview, “it has changed the conversation about GM,” which will hire 27,000 salaried professionals worldwide over the next five years. The moves signaled to outsiders that a resurgent GM intends to be a leader in advanced technologies and future mobility, she said.