Let’s Talk Leadership: Bill Hogg Interviews Don Walker-CEO Magna International

Business people sitting at meeting and  working on laptop. Teamwork at office.

Engaged people are the engine that drive desired results. Building strong relationships with your team is a key part of building successful relationship and there are countless ways you can engage your team. Your challenge is to find the processes, programs, and methods that are most effective for your organization.

In this article, Bill shares insights from his interview with Don Walker, CEO, of Magna International as they discuss the unique approach Magna takes to build relationships with their people, improve engagement, and the role their Employee Charter plays in creating a high performance work environment.

Finding ways to keep your team engaged is something that successful companies have in common and Don agrees that employee engagement is a key to success:

“I think everybody believes it but if you look at the real successful companies it’s really where they’ve come up with some techniques that will engage everybody’s mind and make it, hopefully, as pleasurable a place to work as possible. …Throughout the 50 year history of Magna, he’s (Frank Stronach) has put together some very interesting programs that will track how we’re treating people and get them engaged. So we have a lot of different programs that really do make people feel like they’re part of the company.”

Even though Magna’s approach has been successful, it has also stirred up a little controversy because it’s a little bit out of the norm where there seems to be a higher degree of empowerment towards people in the organization and there’s profit sharing with the people within the organization.

The company’s internal operations somewhat divides people in two different camps – Managers and employees. Managers – including assistant general managers, general managers of our plants, vice-presidents, presidents, and the corporate senior people – all get paid a percentage of the profits of whatever they’re running.

“We are a very entrepreneurial company, we’re very decentralized, and that’s got pros and cons to it. But everybody is extremely motivated to run a successful business and maximize the profitability for the long term, which is good for shareholders,” says Don.

“We also have to make sure we are treating our employees well and engaging them and making sure we’re being competitive and looking after our customers. If you look at the management group, they are expected to be very knowledgeable in all areas including how to treat people as well as being good in business and grow the top line,” he adds.

Employees also have access a lot of different programs that will engage them. This is summarized in the company’s Employee Charter. Don explains:

“The Employee Charter… talks about a number of different things to make sure we are treating people fairly, we communicate, that we’re paying people well. We’ll do surveys to make sure the average of the wages and benefits we pay people are at least average to the competition and then, on top of that, people can be making extra money with profit sharing. Then we have Safe and Healthful workplace and a number of other things. But it really spells out on a piece of paper what we stand for, how we want to work, and we’ll track how we’re doing in those various areas.”

Magna’s approach really speaks to one of the key things that drives employee engagement – transparency and knowing what’s going on in the organization. We’ve read in all the management books that people don’t leave their company, they leave their boss and that communication is one of the key issues that are important to employees and Magna has taken it to the next level. They have literally laid it out and said here’s exactly how it’s going to be.

Part 2 of our conversation with Don Walker will look at how Magna generates feedback from their people and how much input employees have on company internal processes and operations.

Watch the full interview on Bill’s YouTube channel

About Don Walker

Don Walker joined Magna in 1987 after spending his early career at General Motors.  He was appointed President and CEO of Magna in 1994 and was named Co-CEO and member of the board of Magna International in 2005. Don is also a recipient of The Top 40 under 40 Award and was named Global Leader for Tomorrow in 1998 by the World Economic Forum.

About Magna International

Magna International is truly a global success story. Frank Stronach started a small tool and die company in Toronto in 1957 which subsequently grew into the production of automotive components. Today, Magna is a $28 billion dollar global automotive supplier that designs, develops, and manufactures components and systems for the world’s leading auto makers. Magna’s management philosophy is known as fair enterprise based on a Business Charter of Rights and a Governing Corporate Constitution. You can find out more about Magna at www.magna.com.

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