Revenue, Rigor, Results: The Global Spin at Whirlpool

Headquartered in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Whirlpool grew from a $2 billion company in 1987 to a nearly $20 billion company today.

Now, the company wants to grow to a $25 billion company and says its global strategic priorities include building on organizational capabilities; improving its leadership pipeline; and eliminating cultural barriers to growth.

The company’s mission — “Everyone passionately creating loyal customers for life” — means that everyone from receptionists to vice presidents have to be a part of that equation. And it’s these “human elements” that keep the company thinking late into the night, well after board-room strategy meetings.

Its plans by 2010 are to have developed a “deep innovation core” and by 2015 to be a leading domestic goods company, according to Bill Garagiulo, global director of talent management.

“Our focus is brand focus and customer loyalty, and HR is incredibly important to the strategic direction of a corporation,” Garagiulo explained to attendees at the Marcus Evans conference in Miami on Thursday.

Whirlpool’s chief executive officer agrees, having stated previously that he “expects the HR leadership group to significantly impact value creation and direct accountability” for many of the critical elements of a global plan.

According to John Havenaar, global director of talent acquisition, “every HR leaders’ entrance point to identifying long-term talent solutions is through performance. Great people do not work for poorly performing companies,” he notes.

For a company to succeed, it comes down to revenue, rigor, and results. Relevance, he says, drives great value. Rigor keeps things simple with “minimal scrap,” while results deliver the great values.

Havenaar jokes that “Boomers are going to mess it up for everyone.” He says this issue is the one he thinks about the most — but from an opportunity standpoint. In reality, he says he values the contributions from Boomers and quips, “We have to keep the Boomers alive and working as long as we can.”

Not such a crazy idea when analyzing the statistics Havenaar presents, since the Boomers of today have access to $1 trillion in disposable income and are responsible for 50% of consumer spending.

He says that while Boomers are the current topic of conversation, they simply are not the main challenge.

“You can have your fair share [of talent], but first you must de-institutionalize your organization. Peel back the onion,” Havenaar says.

During this process, he says to remember to embrace the differences between generations.

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One example the company cites is the work performed by the company’s Community Tour Director, a person responsible for guiding a potential recruit through the local community, pointing out schools or cultural activities that may appeal to the candidate or candidate’s family.

“We change it for different generations,” he says. For example, when the tour guide is taking a 22-year-old recent college graduate on the tour, emphasis might be on social and athletic offerings in the town rather than elementary schools or playgrounds.

“The key is that it’s targeted to reach different age brackets. If it was standardized, it just would not make sense,” says Havenaar.

In fact, Whirlpool was the recipient of ERE’s 2006 award for “Best College Recruiting Program.

Beyond holding highly visible recruiting events at target schools, the company innovated with unique branding elements such as “celebrity endorsements” with Ben Stein featured on recruitment communications.

The company also uses a global rotation program to ensure skill development in seven separate programs, from brand portfolio leadership to global supply-chain management. Each participant is paired with a mentor, receives feedback, a tiered compensation package, and a defined career path.

The company also uses an applicant-tracking system, though Havenaar says that for an ATS to work “it has to be used well and consistently. I don’t look at cost per hire; I look at quality per hire. ROI, for us, is all about quality.”

The company employs more than 80,000 employees at more than 60 manufacturing and technology research centers around the world. The company, which sells in 125 countries across the world, markets Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Brastemp, Bauknecht, and other brand names.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.


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