Toyota: how focusing on employee engagement & customer value drives this automaker’s success


Toyota, as one of the world’s most admired companies in the Fortune’s Annul List and No.1 Asian most admired company. How can it stand out as an automaker among others? The answer falls into 2 aspects – employee engagement and customer value.

When it comes to team building, Toyota appears to be leading the way, much as the company has done in pioneering just in time production – a management philosophy the “Big Three” are still taking notes on.

This article from this weekend’s Evansville Courier and Press underscores how Toyota is re-emphasizing workplace team building in tough economic times like these, which are hitting all automakers equally hard.  Yet, rather than simply lay off workers and close plants, at least at the Indiana-based plant highlighted in Dan Shaw’s piece, Toyota is using this time of decreased production of pickups and SUVs to help their 2,000 employees here double down on “corporate ideals and building techniques.”

The result, as Shaw writes, is that even in an industry giant like Toyota, which employs over 300,000 people in many countries, employees in a single location can be empowered to improve processes, giving them a sense of ownership over their work.

For more content, please search the internet for Toyota Leads Again, This Time in Team Building During Down Times

Toyota is one of the best run companies in the world. With less revenue than the Big Three automakers, its market capitalization is still larger than that of General Motors, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler combined.

A big part of Toyota’s success is that it applies “lean thinking” not just to products and manufacturing processes, but also to relationships with employees and customers. Indeed, Toyota has been an early adopter of HumanSigma, Gallup’s process for measuring and managing the human difference in a company’s performance. Toyota finds HumanSigma compelling because the process focuses on improving employee and customer engagement, which in turn drives business outcomes and increases shareholder value.

As Dean of Toyota University, Mike Morrison is responsible for providing education to Toyota’s U.S. associates. He is a pioneer in applying “lean thinking” principles and practices to people. Morrison recently spoke with Gabriel Gonzalez-Molina, Ph.D., Gallup’s Global Practice Leader of Path Management Practices and coauthor of the book, Follow This Path, about his management discoveries.

For more content, please read Toyota Applies Quality Management to People


In the wake of Toyota’s high-profile recalls (and, in full disclosure, having recently purchased a new Toyota subject to the recall), it is an opportune moment to recognize that every company’s crisis communications plan should include timely contact directly with customers.

While Toyota’s handling of the recall(s) has been criticized extensively – and rightly so – there’s no need to pile on further.  Our thoughts here are not pointed as much at Toyota, but rather at most large companies and their crisis communications plans for often omitting direct customer communications.

It is understandable that media relations are emphasized during crises given the speed of information across both traditional and social media. Information in a crisis is usually fragmented and often inconsistent, in spite of well-crafted crisis plans and highly competent counsel. This makes it more difficult for a brand to manage and deliver its story and can ultimately lead to a wide range of (mis-) understanding on the part of various stakeholders, especially customers.

However, Peter Hunter gives a completely different view and treats Employee Engagement as the root cause of Toyota’s failure.

We have seen in recent weeks the joy with which the press seem to have jumped onto the back of Toyota when they recalled some of their vehicles due to unforeseen design faults.

Their joy seems little to do with the faults or their rectification but seems more of a celebration of the fact that the great Toyota has finally been found out.

For decades we have been assailed with tales of their profitability, their invincible progress and their second to none labor record, so it seems natural, in a schoolboy sort of way, to take the opportunity to lash out at them at the first sign of weakness.

What would be of greater value would be to discover the possible causes of this failure.

For more content, please read Root Cause of Toyota’s Failure: Employee Engagement

Written by:

Scott Friedman

Scott Friedman, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) and former President of the National Speakers Association (NSA), is an internationally sought after professional speaker and author. As a motivational humorist, Scott inspires and entertains with engaging, interactive, and content-rich programs. Scott’s main areas of expertise are employee innovation & engagement, customer experience, and creating a happier, more connected workplace and life.

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