Ford’s Drive for a ‘Cooler’ Workplace

If you’re looking for additional signs of the digital economy’s impact on the workplace, check out this article appearing earlier this week on Forbes’ website titled “Ford Will Spend at Least $1B to Make Itself a Cooler Workplace.

300px-Ford_Motor_Company_Logo_svgAccording to the article, Ford Motor is reportedly looking to invest more than $1 billion into making its workplace a lot cooler.

The piece called into mind last year’s General Electric commercial, in which the main character, Owen, is surprised by friends with a cake, balloons and noisemakers. Why? Because they heard he had landed a job as a software developer. When he explains he’s going to be working for General Electric writing code for trains and planes, however, his friends seem confused, with one saying, “You mean you’re going to work on a train?”

It’s a clever commercial (a favorite of mine, I might add) that successfully gets across the point that GE in no longer just an industrial powerhouse, but rather an organization that’s increasingly depending on technological innovation to drive its businesses.

Nor is GE alone in that regard. Automakers such as Ford are also realizing they’re competing in a very different business environment today.

As Doron Levin writes in Forbes’ piece, “The No. 2 U.S. automaker has been saying that it believes digital companies like Uber Inc. and Good could overturn auto making unless it can create mobility products and services instead of just cars and trucks.”

Ford, in response, is now committed to revamping its workplace in order to make it an attractive place to work and, as the Ford press release puts it, “foster innovation and help drive the company’s transition to an auto and a mobility company.”

According to the release, the 10-year transformation of the company’s 60-plus-year-old Dearborn facilities will co-locate 30,000 employees from 70 buildings into primarily two locations—a product campus and a world headquarters campus. More than 7.5 million square feet of workspace will be rebuilt and upgraded into even more technology-enabled and connected facilities.

Changes include “a walkable community with paths, trails and covered walkways,” a new design center, autonomous vehicles, on-demand shuttles, e-bikes, new on-site employee services, wireless connectivity speeds that are up to 10 times faster than today, and more green spaces.

A second campus location—around the current Ford World Headquarters building—will feature “a new Ford Credit facility and provide on-site employee services, improved connectivity and enhanced accessibility to the expansive green space that surrounds the building.”

As Ford President and CEO Mark Fields notes, “As we transition to an auto and a mobility company, we’re investing in our people and the tools they use to deliver our vision. Bringing our teams together in an open, collaborative environment will make our employees’ lives better, speed decision making and deliver results for both our core and emerging businesses.”

It’s just one more example of how new business models, including those coming out of Silicon Valley, are increasingly borrowing from the Silicon Valley playbook and are beginning to think differently about their workplaces.

Think different? Now wouldn’t that make a nice ad slogan for someone.