Employee Response

happy mug Mug Shot by Glen Wright licensed under CC by 2.0I was not too surprised to find that none of the General Motors employees I’d hoped to speak with about the recall declined my request for an interview. Still, I’d hoped to see what insiders were saying about the effect of the recall. I decided to examine employee reviews on Glassdoor to see if I could determine any trends.

Surprisingly, the employee reviews for General Motors were fairly strong. Their average rating was 3.5/5 and 73% would recommend working at GM to a friend. Ford’s ratings are lower, with an average rating of 3.1 and only 53% who would recommend working there to a friend. Toyota in Kentucky rated 3.7, with 72% willing to refer friends. Subaru of America scored 3.7/5, with a 78% recommend rate. I will admit that these statistics surprised me. I thought GM would be rated lowest given the turmoil over the past five years with the government bailout and recall.

Individuals visit and review companies on Glassdoor on an entirely voluntary basis. Usually, that means the most and least satisfied will participate. GM could be a great place to work. In the 1990s, it did appear in Working Mothers best places to work list. I’m dubious, however, because the type of challenges GM has been facing typically lead to lower job satisfaction.

Most of the GM current and former employees who gave the company a “recommend” status mentioned good work-life balance and a generous benefits package. An employee favorable to GM described the advantages of working at the company:

Flexibility, challenging work tasks, learn something new everyday, usage of the latest and greatest technology set. Ability to drive a new car four times a year. Great benefits, even better 401K plan and very competitive salary/bonus structure. All the software development training one could ever ask for along with a hefty tuition reimbursement package! (June 10, 2014)

On November 17, 2013, a current employee, a Senior Quality Engineer, expressed optimism about GM’s future:

I am paid fairly, treated with respect and consideration of my personal life. The new GM is more focused and determined, possibly because we were able to get a glimpse at the grave. I recently attended an auto show and as I strolled through it, I was very proud of the products that GM has to offer. The fleet of Cadillacs are awesome and the new Impala is gorgeous.

One former employee provided detailed advantages and disadvantages related to General Motors:

PROS: Making better cars and putting the customer first has improved greatly since bankruptcy. Great non-management co-workers. Quickly becoming a major technology company vs  just an automaker.

CONS: Very poor leadership. Management actively tries to keep down individual contributors instead of fostering their growth. Mistreatment and retaliation against employees who speak up is common. (March 10, 2014)

A current Assistant Director with GM would recommend the company and has a positive outlook about its future (March 6, 2014). Interestingly, he mentions the 2009 bankruptcy:

PROS: Company is growing again around the world. Lots of opportunities to shape the future of personal mobility. Great intellectual challenges. Good work-life balance. Easy to move between functions and often regions.

CONS: Cyclical, highly competitive industry that is also highly visible and regulated. Lower margins than some other companies and profit centers narrow. Still some scars from bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy was also addressed by a former employee (March 15, 2015):

GM needs to finish the job of “cleaning house” — As long as the pre-bankruptcy executive leaders are in power (with only a few exceptions), GM will continue to sustain business as usual. Intense focus needs to be placed on building automotive manufacturing capability and intellectual capital to encourage innovation and creativity that will bring on youth engagement and excitement around the GM brand.

The same sentiment was expressed by a current employee, a Project Manager:

Still too much frozen/ineffective middle management left from the historical pre-bankruptcy “old GM”. (September 10, 2013)

A senior Research Scientist agrees:

R&D Directors and higher remained mostly unchanged after bankruptcy resulting in more of the same decisions that put us there… (October 29, 2012)

A senior Financial Analyst expressed a contrary view:

Since bankruptcy we are on the right track, moving fast, and making a difference. General Motors is the World Class Leader for Automobiles! We design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles! (February 10, 2011)

Another recognized the difficulty of changing a company’s culture (February 23, 2014):

Bureaucratic: things don’t move fast enough. The new (CEO and CIO) leadership is trying to change things but it takes a while to change the culture
Some areas can be political
The leadership tolerates low performers — takes a lot of work to handle these
Could do better to recognize and reward high performers
HR policies are outdated
Leaders think they know everything and don’t like to acknowledge that the world outside has better ideas: I don’t see them adopting new techniques from conferences etc.

Vault.com, a site similar to Glassdoor, provided no additional clarification. Only one employee provided a review, negative. They wrote:

With all the talk about how GM is doing better with the new management, it isn’t. The mindset hasn’t changed. In one forced training class another employee (of over 20 years) told me it was the third time he had to take the class, they had just changed the name. The material was all the same. And a lot of it was actually incorrect, showing the wrong way decisions are still being made. (February 2015)

Employee reviews on Indeed.com, a job listing board, are even more positive than those on Glassdoor.

gm reviews

A more detailed statistical analysis, outside the scope of this project, might reveal correlations between job category, job location, and employee rankings.

Only three reviews on Glassdoor mentioned the GM recalls:

Recalls affecting morale across all departments (September 1, 2014)

Everyone works <= 8 hrs, leadership isn’t there, and the biggest issue is that morale is completely out the door. GM Recalls happened for a reason. (September 16, 2014)

Recent employee survey results show employees satisfaction deteriorating
Leadership is paralyzed, slow to move, and afraid of taking risks after CEO fired many for ignition recall fiasco. (August 12, 2014)

Based on reviews from these job boards, the 2009 bankruptcy impacted day-to-day work more than the recall. However, these comments represent a limited sample who self-selected by writing reviews. Mark Ruess, President of General Motors, revealed that an employee survey administered to all salaried employees indicated that morale was higher than in 2012, the last time the survey was administered (Burke, 2014, May 28). In fact, Ruess reported that it was one of the most dramatic upswings in morale seen by the company who administered the survey. He attributes Mary Bara and his own leadership styles as contributing to the turnaround.


Burke, K. (2014, May 28). Ruess: GM morale high despite recalls. Automotive News. Retrieved from http://www.autonews.com/article/20140528/OEM02/140529863/reuss:-gm-employee-morale-high-despite-recalls


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