employee stories

An engine room for continuous improvement - Toyota

An engine room for continuous improvement - Toyota

WORK180
WORK180Apr 6, 2021

Jack Hobbs has been driving gender equality since the start of his university education. Now the General Manager of National Sales at Toyota Motor Corporation Australia (TMCA), he shares his rewarding career journey and reflections on gender equality. We love talking to male allies and champions of gender diversity, so read on to hear Jack’s reflections and tips.

Diversity brings unique perspectives

In his thirty-two years at Toyota, Jack’s career has spanned across 14 countries and roles ranging from manufacturing, People & Business Development (human resources) to GM of National Sales.

Jack saw the gender imbalance in the automotive industry early on and knew something had to be done. Toyota is famous for its culture of continuous improvement, which means he was able to get support to create changes.

“Toyota’s culture is consistent throughout the global operations and is based on two pillars — Respect for People & Continuous Improvement, known as the Toyota Way. Toyota is also globally famous for the Toyota Production System (TPS), which is often studied and applied to all businesses — not just manufacturing.”

Toyota is geared around trying to solve problems and developing people. Focusing on diversity and inclusion helps the culture of the workplace by bringing in different perspectives.

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Grow our people, grow our business

Perhaps one of the biggest impacts Jack has made to move the gender equality needle was in his previous role as the General Manager of People & Business Development. He put wellbeing and Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) high on Toyota’s strategic map. We asked Jack to share his insights into his approach.

“As part of my previous role, we drafted a 5-year people vision with the tagline, 'grow our people to grow our business'. High on our agenda was to focus on better balancing our organisation through a Diversity and Inclusion strategy. Of the many facets of D&I, gender balance emerged as the headline for year one of our plan. Using some of our renowned Toyota problem-solving tools, we delved deep into some of the causal factors for our current imbalance and kicked off activities to correct the imbalance over the coming years.”

Performing a desktop review into gender balance, including at the leadership level, put things into perspective and Toyota put in place a sustained improvement plan.

We wanted to know why there weren’t more women in leadership roles. We found out we had lost female talent at the pre-management or at first manager levels. This meant that we needed to focus on growth and development very early on, from that pre-management level.

The next step was to understand the root cause. Jack says it has a lot to do with career progression due to low turnover in leadership roles.

“There is low employee turnover in management roles. They can’t be what they can’t see.”

While taking parental leave and embracing work flexibility has always been encouraged at Toyota, what Jack learnt was that women still felt like it could impact their careers.

“We found career women felt they were left behind if they took parental leave. And this flowed into our flexible working. In our organisation, no men took parental leave. We then put together some initiatives to encourage men to take parental leave. This is progressively rolling out over the next five years.”

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The Toyota way in action

Jack and the team also looked closely at the talent acquisition and development process to make sure there were no barriers and that it was inclusive. Some of the things they put in place were:

  • A careful review of all job advertisements: “Making sure ads were inclusive and didn’t discourage women from applying.”
  • Introduced a diversity pledge: “We put together a diversity statement to show Toyota’s commitment to D&I.”
  • Use storytelling: “Sharing stories of successful women at Toyota”
  • Having a voice at the table: “We identified there were no female voices in the executive management committee, so we needed to get one there. We now have a non-executive woman in the committee.
  • Sponsorship & Mentorship programs: “this year we are piloting a sponsorship program for a small selected number of high potential women and also introducing a mentoring program for our female professional staff to support with their careers.”

We’re all in this together

Jack understands the importance of networking and collaboration. Toyota helps women network and collaborate through its annual Women’s Conference.

“I attended the Women’s Conference in North America in 2019. The one after that was virtual. The conference helps women collaborate with colleagues globally.”

Proudly showing off the ‘cabbage patch’

A pivotal moment in Jack’s time at Toyota was when he hosted two Australian Prime Ministers and three State Premiers during his time in the manufacturing plant. One of them was Kevin Rudd. As the tour went on, he showed Kevin a large and open bin full of defected engine parts and scraps. This bin was nicknamed the ‘cabbage patch’. The point was to openly show the things that didn’t work so the problem can be solved swiftly.

Kevin was amused and said, “I don’t think anyone has proudly shown their rubbish to me before”.

When Kevin said that, I said if you hide a problem, you cannot solve it.

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Toyota is taking that approach to diversity and gender equality in the workplace. The company is transparent about its progress because continuous improvement has always been at the heart of Toyota.

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About the author

WORK180

WORK180

WORK180 is an international jobs network that connects smart businesses with talented women. We pre-screen every employer on our jobs board to see where they stand on pay equity, flexible working, paid parental leave, equal opportunities and a range of other criteria. We also take into account diversity initiatives focusing on age, ability, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The information we uncover is made public on our website, so that everyone knows what to expect from each employer before applying for a job. We continually review and evolve our pre-screening criteria to ensure workplaces are fair and equal for everyone.


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