Kia Motors: Driving Performance from South Korea to Mexico

Categories: Diversity & Inclusion, Global Leadership, Global Teams

From time to time, we like to feature real client case studies to exhibit the impact our solutions have. The next story demonstrates how pertinent understanding cultural differences and work styles are for a healthy and productive team.

Expat Managers, Local Employees

In 2014, the construction of KIA Motors Mexico (KMM) plant in Pesquería, located in the state of Nuevo Léon, begun. KMM had their Start of Production (SOP) in May 2016. The production plant, alongside its affiliates, hired roughly 2,700 Mexican employees. The majority of management came overseas from headquarters and plants in South Korea, while the majority of managers, supervisors, and staff were hired locally.

KMM conducted a corporate culture analysis, which consisted of a 360-degree assessment and a core value and engagement survey. These organizational exercises uncovered the need to improve trust, communication, and cultural understanding. KMM partnered with Aperian Global with the goal to uncover the root of team issues, restore trust, develop a shared vision for the team, create common ground rules to help prevent misunderstandings in the future, and begin to align work style and culture differences.

Increasing Team Effectiveness in Practical Ways

Aperian Global began with key stakeholder interviews, followed by an executive alignment session to review findings, gather feedback, brainstorm and align on key actions that could be taken by leadership to support positive team building initiatives. Each team member then completed the Global Team Assessment (GTA), which uses seven critical elements of high performing global teams to assess performance and identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas in need of improvement. Aperian Global debriefed the assessment results with the heads of departments and planned the delivery of 2-day team workshops.

The workshops, which were called “Driving Team Performance,” were held for 21 departments including Painting, Stamping, Welding, General Assembly, and Maintenance, and took place over a total of 7 months. Each workshop was led by two Aperian Global facilitators who contributed to the language requirements of the team – English, Spanish and Korean. In each session, a Korean and Mexican manager from the department assisted with the workshop. Aperian Global also certified internal facilitators on how to debrief GTA team reports for the remaining teams within the organization.

Each workshop directly utilized the results of the team’s GTA survey results. Activities focused on team discussion and detection of issues, developing a shared vision, and action planning to improve team relationships and overall performance. Teams participated in a group dinner and stayed overnight at the resort to build comfortability with one another. Over 400 KMM administrative employees took part in these sessions. After each team session, there was a debrief, and feedback and suggestions were fed into the next teaming session.

A New Team Outlook in Pesqueria

The “Driving Team Performance” seminars were met with overwhelming success. Participants built a high degree of trust during their sessions, were willing to speak up about their needs, and listened to each other well. As one participant stated, “We could openly express our concerns about our department.” Heads of departments were eager to own improvement ideas and initiatives moving forward, which helped secure buy-in from managers, supervisors, and employees.

Participants were able to unpack the general lack of trust between team members; cultural differences, language and comprehension issues were at the root of the majority of misunderstandings and issues. One participant shared,

GTA is the best. To know the situation is the key to solving the problem.

— Driving Team Performance Participant

Another similarly stated the workshops were a “very good chance to know and realize the actual situation.” Work-style differences between cultures were explored for better collaboration and understanding, leading to a focused team committed to creating a shared vision. According to various team members, the workshops opened minds to change the way we work,” and helped toachieve agreements like a solid team.”

Internal Award: Honorable Mention

Every year the multinational conglomerate company Hyundai Motors Group (HMG) holds an internal contest for companies and subsidiaries to compete for the “Change and Innovation Leaders Award.” Last year most submissions were new technologies or systems – “Driving Team Performance” was the only organizational development project submitted. Out of 98 submissions, KMM received an honorable mention as one of the top 12 projects in the HMG contest.