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4 HR Practices of Toyota Culture

May 17, 2011

The Toyota Culture is something that many organizations strive to replicate.  Processes are put into place to create and maintain a lean culture.  One problem, not everyone thrives in a lean work environment. In fact many people do not.

What many organizations end up finding out is that without a hiring process that clearly identifies employees who excel in a lean environment, they are only addressing half the issue.  The reason is very straightforward, lean environments demand higher levels of energy, problem solving, collaboration, and continuous improvement. Hiring people who work best in a highly structured, non-collaborative environment, signals trouble for building a high performance, lean organization.

Michael Hoseus, co-author of the bestseller, Toyota Culture, The Heart and Soul of the Toyota Way, has this to say on the topic:

“Most companies miss seeing the blood flow of TPS – the human resource philosophies and strategies that make it work at Toyota.” Toyota has always understood the importance of hiring and developing employees with the capacity to succeed.

In order for an organization to truly develop a culture similar to Toyota’s, the organization should consider implementing the following important HR practices:

1. Define the competencies (behaviors/traits) employees must have, (e.g., teamwork, attention to quality, work pace, work ethic, continuous improvement, problem solving ability, job fit motivation, communication, integrity)

2. Hire only people who have those competencies

3. Provide lean systems and training for all employees. Encourage high performance by communicating the value and including it in your performance management system.

4. Coach and then remove those individuals who refuse to embrace your high performance culture.

Over time you will replace those who cannot or do not want to work in a lean environment with people who thrive and embrace high performance.  At the same time you will send a healthy message that lean is important.

For 30 years, Toyota has not wavered from it fundamental belief that the first step in becoming a lean organization is to hire for lean.

This is a sample of what we discussed in our seminar, "Applying Toyota's Proven Methods for Hiring and Developing a World-Class Workforce," which took place Friday, May 20th 2011 in Atlanta.


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Kevin Klinvex Kevin Klinvex was a founding partner of Select International, acquired by PSI. He is a thought leader in organization-wide hiring and retention programs. His work focused on combining powerful testing and assessment tools with the best in web-based delivery and data tracking. Kevin co-authored the best-selling book, Hiring Great People.