Blog Post

Diversity Dialogue with Adrienne Trimble, General Manager of D&I at Toyota

April 11, 2017
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Adrienne Trimble

Adrienne Trimble is General Manager of Diversity & Inclusion at Toyota, where she is responsible for leading Toyota’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies across North America to directly advance the company’s business goals. She also plays a key role in supporting Toyota’s headquarters unification in Plano, Texas. Adrienne regularly speaks about strategies and best practices related to D&I at top conferences, including recently at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference in November 2016. Diversity Best Practices asked Adrienne to share a little bit about what Toyota is currently working on and how the company is managing some serious culture change by putting diversity and inclusion front and center

Tell us a little bit about diversity and inclusion at Toyota and what the key objectives are currently for your work in 2017 and beyond.

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) have long been top priorities for Toyota and stem from our company’s founding principles of “respect for people” and “continuous improvement.” D&I are integrated into every aspect of our business, not just standalone programs.

We recently brought all of our D&I efforts across North America together under one team with a single strategy. This new strategy helps us better serve our customers, current and future team members, dealers, suppliers, partners, and the communities where we live and operate.

A key role our D&I team plays is working hand-in-hand with other departments to make sure we’re helping make Toyota a mobility company of choice for all of our stakeholders by following these guiding principles:

  • Deeply understand our diverse customers’ expectations to help create a superior sales experience that drives customer loyalty and attracts new owners;
  • Attract talent that reflects the communities where we live and operate, and sustain a company culture that thrives because our people bring a broad range of ideas;
  • Maintain supplier diversity programs that drive innovation, build meaningful partnerships, and connect us to communities;
  • Prepare our dealerships to serve a wide range of customers; and
  • Make positive contributions to society and diverse communities.

Toyota is going through two major cultural shifts simultaneously, one a physical move and the other a redefinition of the kind of company it is striving to be. Let’s start with the first. Toyota recently consolidated and moved its administrative workforce from multiple locations across the country to one central location in Plano, Texas — a huge undertaking for the organization. Obviously this had a direct effect on Toyota’s people and talent strategy. Tell us what role diversity and inclusion played in the transition and what work is left to be done to continue to grow the organization in its new community.

The move to Plano is part of our transition to “One Toyota,” which, as you said, is both a physical move and a shift in mindset. The goal is to become a more cohesive and collaborative company that is better prepared to serve our customers.

As part of the move, we’re going through one of the biggest recruitment phases in our history. Toyota is hiring over 1,000 people for professional and leadership positions at our Plano campus, so we have a unique opportunity to live out our values and help shape what the company will look and act like in the future.

Our senior executives in North America are driving these efforts and understand that we can strengthen our company by hiring the people we need from all sorts of backgrounds. Importantly, the company is also committed to continuing to build an inclusive culture where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas.

Our D&I team has helped with the transition by working with other business units across the company to do things like:

Leverage our Business Partnering Groups (BPGs) – our version of “Employee Resource Groups,” – as essential resources for our people to stay involved and contribute beyond their day-to-day jobs; and Deepen our relationships with external stakeholder groups – many of which are diversity-focused – to support recruitment, retention, and employee engagement efforts.

In addition to a physical move, Toyota is moving from defining itself as an automobile company to a mobility company. Tell us what that means and how it affects your talent strategy moving forward.

Like so many industries today, the auto industry is experiencing unprecedented transformation. It is largely driven by the rise of new technologies and fast-changing consumer demographics, expectations, and behaviors.

This is why we’re shifting from being a car company to a mobility company, one that believes social equity is critical to our long-term business growth. While we’ll continue to make great cars and trucks, we’re also looking at other ways to help people get around – whether that’s across town or across a living room. We’re focusing on mobility more broadly because mobility has the power to reduce limitations, expand opportunities, and empower people to fulfill their potential, no matter where they live. This includes extending mobility to underserved communities, such as supporting paratransit options for the elderly or developing human assist robots to help people with disabilities move around more easily.

Our talent strategy is vital for us to make this mobility vision a reality, because we have to make sure we have the right people in our company as we position ourselves for the future. This is where diversity and inclusion come in: we need different perspectives, mindsets, and points of view to drive these mobility innovations and to better understand the varied needs and interests of our customers.

What implications do both of these changes have for branding Toyota as an employer of choice for a diverse pool of talent?

Research shows that millennials are more purpose-driven than the generations that came before them, which is another reason why our mobility vision is so important. To compete for the best talent, we know our values have to match theirs, and we have to make it known that we’re a company with a genuine social mission – providing access to mobility so people can achieve their ambitions.

We want to make it clear to current and prospective employees that we not only invite, but also expect them to contribute to the progress of our company beyond their job description.

You mentioned your Business Partnering Groups (BPGs) earlier. How has Toyota been able to leverage them in some innovative ways to support both these cultural shifts? What has been the key to their success?

Our BPGs have always been important to our company as valuable and diverse networks for our team members. We are now unifying and elevating these groups as part of our “One Toyota” transition to help us achieve key business results. We currently have 65 integrated groups across North America that serve three areas of impact for our business:

  • Workforce inclusion: BPGs help with recruiting and hiring efforts, training, professional development, and succession planning.
  • Workforce engagement: BPG activities include mentoring and reverse mentoring programs.
  • Marketplace connection: BPGs also help us understand, engage, attract, and retain diverse customers through targeted philanthropy activities (such as mentoring STEM middle school students). They also serve as good points of reference for our multicultural marketing and supplier diversity efforts.

BPGs help our people build new skills, stay engaged, and contribute to our company beyond the work they do at their cubicles or on the factory floor. They’re a way for team members to connect more closely with our business, their peers, and the communities we serve.