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CIPD Conference: Toyota GB dismantles business silos to drive through recession

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Toyota GB has "consistently increased" customer retention since the downturn of 2008, without forced redundancies, by breaking down the silos in its business to increase staff performance, delegates at the CIPD Conference were told yesterday.

Addressing delegates, Francesco Mereu, director of HR corporate planning and CSR at Toyota GB, said: "The past three years have been years of challenge. A global product recall and the Japanese tsunami have had a negetive impact on our brand attractiveness. We had to re-energise our change management efforts and devise an approach for cost savings without forced redundancies."

The company asked all employees to share the sacrifice "for the benefit of the collective" by taking bonus cuts and a pay freeze, but the company also moved to break down the silos between its five functions (sales & marketing; customer services; HR, corporate planning and CSR; finance and systems; and Lexus).

Some 50 senior and middle managers from across the five functions (about 20% of the company's 4,000 staff) were moved to take a cross-functional approach, giving them additional mobility across the company and developing their career paths.

Mereu told the CIPD: "I am responsible for five departments, three of which are not related to HR and it takes years to do this in a sustainable way. We needed compelling evidence that change was needed, but we believe this is the most effective way to foster teamwork, break down barriers, generate engaement and give the opportunity for cross-functional moves.

"We are not out of the woods yet, but we are on target to give 15%-20% of our managers the chance to work in other functions. It is an ongoing challenge, but cross-functional teamwork does drive business performance."

Mereu explained dealer satisfaction surveys put Toyota GB "well above" the industry average, that customer retention has "significantly increased" since 2008 and the organisation's break-even point has reduced by 30%.

He added: "HR is not an afterthought. It can drive cross-functional change, if it is aligned to a business objective."