Building a Great Workforce

How P&G Finds and Keeps a Prized Workforce by Roger O. Crockett

“We actually recruit for values,” says Chief Operating Officer Robert McDonald. “If you are not inspired to improve lives, this isn’t the company you want to work for.”

The P&G strategy starts on college campuses. The Cincinnati company dispatches line managers rather than human resource staffers to do much of its recruiting.

For the few who get hired, their work life becomes a career-long development process. At every level, P&G has a different “college” to train individuals, and every department has its own “university.” The general manager’s college, which McDonald leads, holds a week-long school term once a year when there are a handful of newly promoted managers. Further training—there are nearly 50 courses—helps managers with technical writing or financial analysis.

Career education takes place outside the classroom, too. P&G pushes every general manager to log at least one foreign assignment of three to five years. Even high-ranking employees visit the homes of consumers to watch how they cook, clean, and generally live, in a practice dubbed “live it, work it.” Managers also visit retail stores, occasionally even scanning and bagging items at checkout lanes, to learn more about customers.

Going to visit the gemba, the actual place is incredibly important, and far too often ignored by managers today.

The emphasis on life long learning (in practice, not just words) is also very wise. In my experience far to little emphasis is placed on continual improvement of what many companies will say is their most important asset: their people. If you don’t invest in education of your staff that is going to harm your long term success. The investment P&G makes shows a respect for people.

Related: Jeff Bezos Spends a Week Working in Amazon’s Kentucky Distribution CenterWorkplace Management by Taiichi OhnoRespect for People, Understanding PsychologyOhno Circle

An Interview With Masaaki Imai (author of Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management):

You advocate that management go to gemba regularly. Why do you think management is reluctant to do this?

Imai: Managers often avoid going to gemba because they don’t want to be embarrassed by their ignorance. They are afraid that in gemba, they will expose the fact that they don’t know what is going on there, and often don’t even know the right questions to ask. Add to that the traditional view which says that being assigned to gemba is a dead-end for career development. Perceptions about status and class, fear of unions, the glamour of the front office and the excitement of R&D and marketing are also probable reasons.

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