Is a Two-Word Dress Code Good Enough for General Motors?

Is a Two-Word Dress Code Good Enough for General Motors?

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.

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Corporate Titans Push for New Governance Standards—How Big a Deal Is This?

Corporate Titans Push for New Governance Standards—How Big a Deal Is This?

A group of prominent CEOs and heads of major institutional investment funds, including Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, General Motors’ Mary Barra, and JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, have issued an open letter calling for an overhaul in corporate governance principles, along with a detailed set of guidelines for how to achieve that. Jena McGregor outlines their proposals at the Washington Post:

Among the more notable recommendations: The group said in the guidelines that “dual class” share structures, which are often found in founder-led companies and give select stockholders outsize voting power, are “not a best practice.” It called for director compensation to be made up of a “substantial” portion of company stock, suggesting 50 percent or more, to keep goals of directors in line with those of investors. It made a statement in support of board diversity, and said companies should maintain “clawback provisions,” which allow them to recoup compensation given to executives in the event of earnings restatements.

It also said companies “should not feel obligated to provide earnings guidance – and should determine whether providing such guidance for shareholders does more harm than good,” warning against the game of trying to beat expectations provided to Wall Street: “Making short-term decisions to beat guidance (or any performance benchmark) is likely to be value destructive in the long run.”

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