March 7th, 2018 Shanghai, – Ford Motor Company is ramping up its effort to create inclusive workplaces by tackling unconscious bias in Asia Pacific through a training program designed to identify and remedy subtle biases that can erode employee morale and slow innovation.
In 2017, the majority of Ford’s more than 14,300 employees in the region took an online unconscious bias training course and 80 percent of its senior leaders participated in a special half-day classroom training session as part of its Leaders as Teachers strategy.
Ford will continue to offer unconscious bias training to employees in 2018 and plans to provide all its senior leaders a follow up training to build on the program launched last year. In addition, the company will leverage new learning tools such as podcasts and mobile apps to sustain awareness for unconscious bias and diversity throughout the year.
Although most commonly related to ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disability, there are in fact more than 150 identified biases that range from judging others based on their academic background or spoken accent, to even something as benign as a hair style. These prejudices can be deep-rooted and far-reaching, especially in a region as ethnically, linguistically and culturally complex as Asia Pacific.
“The bottom line is that we need to have a work force as varied and diverse as the customers we serve if we are going to succeed in a region as fiercely competitive as Asia,” said Trevor Worthington, Vice President Product Development, Asia Pacific. “The most innovative companies in the world embrace diversity. Confronting unconscious biases and encouraging diversity will help us generate ideas from every corner of the organization.”
One example of diversity sparking innovation is Brenna Liu, an engineer based in Ford’s Nanjing Research and Engineering Centre, with 18 patents to her name. By contributing her unique perspective, she improved the usage and packaging of the car jack which has made changing tires easier and more convenient for everybody, and is now offered with most new Ford vehicles in China, including the F-150 Raptor.
Ford has always strived to be inclusive, forward-thinking and innovative, and was one of the first major companies to embrace diversity in its labor force. The company is building on that legacy with its unconscious bias training program.
“Unconscious bias training in the workplace is a relatively new concept in Asia Pacific, a region that is home to a mosaic of thousands of cultures, languages and ethnicities,” says Jose Maria Villarreal, Vice President HR, Ford Asia Pacific. “Dealing effectively with unconscious biases is an important part of our corporate culture of inclusivity, and begins with leaders learning about this and modeling the proper behaviors.”
Even within Asia Pacific, the biases can differ. In China for example, it can be difficult for people from the countryside or smaller cities to access the same opportunities enjoyed by those from larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Elsewhere in the region, societal constraints can form barriers to upward social mobility. By offering this training, Ford is moving to break down the obstacles that often slow employee advancement, reduce productivity and stifle innovation.
Over the past year, Ford Asia Pacific took the additional step of engaging training supplier Aperian Global to run sessions on unconscious bias for senior leaders, who the company believes should act as role models for promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. These leaders are now spearheading the training across Ford’s Asia Pacific locations as part of the company’s ‘leading by teaching’ strategy.
While Asia Pacific operates as one business region for Ford, its team is made up of people from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures, languages, and ages, making it the ideal place to supplement the online training with practical workshops.
“Examples of unconscious bias are everywhere in the business world,” says Dr. Ernie Gundling, Founder, Aperian Global. “We don’t just check them at the door when we come to work in the morning, we bring our prejudices and biases with us. But if companies help their teams recognize this, then together they can address the issue head on. Ford was a pioneer in anti-discrimination hiring and promotion, and it’s great to see them take a stand on something as important as this.”
In addition to this training, Ford promotes diversity and inclusion in its Asia Pacific operations and around the world. Initiatives include:
- Work-life flexibility programs including telecommuting options in China and ASEAN, to complement other flexibility initiatives such as new mothers’ lounges and onsite day care in some locations
- Awarding Ford Blue Oval scholarships to outstanding students pursuing majors in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) subjects through Ford Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company
- Female-friendly policies and mentoring, training and development programs to help prepare female employees for higher leadership positions
- Supporting the recruitment and integration of people with disabilities
- A Diversity Alliance Committee to that brings together and grows a number of existing initiatives such as STEAM and the Professional Women’s Network
- Leadership programs and a program for women to re-enter the workforce in India, which helped the company be named as one of the ‘Best Companies for Women in India’ by AVTAR Group in 2016.
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan. The company designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles and Lincoln luxury vehicles, provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions. Ford employs approximately 202,000 people worldwide.
About Aperian Global
With over 25 years of experience, Aperian Global partners with organizations to develop the skills necessary for success in a global work environment. We provide learning solutions via facilitated programs, online learning tools & consulting services in the areas of: Leadership Development, Global Mindset, Team Effectiveness and Global Mobility. With offices in Oakland, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, Bangalore, Boston, Kolding (Denmark) and Paris, Aperian Global is well placed to provide your company with success beyond borders.