A Defining Moment for Caterpillar

Kim Hauer, chief human resources officer and vice president at Caterpillar, addresses a key topic on everyone’s mind: our employee experience. She speaks candidly on challenging times and current perception, where improvements need to be made – and what we’re doing about it. Kim highlights our first priority – our people – and how the new employee insights platform will enable us to get open and honest feedback from them more often and take action faster than ever before. 

What is the new employee insights platform? How is it different from the annual employee opinion survey we’ve done in the past? 

The new employee insights platform is all about hearing from our people more often about what matters most to them. We used to ask a lot of questions about a lot of things, but only once a year. If we think about today, everything is moving at such a faster pace – the way we receive information, the way we talk to each other. This idea of getting a snapshot in time only once each year is a bit outdated. Now, we’ll be asking for feedback more often from a random but representative group of employees. This means we can keep a more accurate pulse of employees’ feedback, which allows us to take action at a quicker pace. 

The new employee insights platform is guided by Leo. Why Leo? 

We wanted someone to guide employees through the new feedback process. C.L. Best, known to his friends as Leo, was Caterpillar's first and longest-serving chairman. He was an innovator whose concepts are still used today. Leo embodied many of the traits that helped us become a global leader. He was an innovator, transparent leader, had a great competitive spirit, but was also the ultimate team player. There are fundamental core values and thought processes in Leo that resonate through the test of time. I think Leo is the right persona to encourage employees to share their honest and constructive feedback.  

A lot has changed at Caterpillar since Leo was chairman nearly a century ago. Do you think Leo’s story still applies today?

A lot has changed in the way people work and how they want to work, but what makes up our core – our values, our dedication to the customer, our teamwork – has stayed consistent since Leo first lead Caterpillar. I’m more surprised by how much is similar. Think to the spirit of Caterpillar – and who we are and who we want to be. Some of that spirit which was true decades ago is fundamentally still the same today. Leaders have to continue to evolve, innovate and inspire employees to do their best work. Leo had his challenges, and so do we. But Leo never gave up when things got tough. This winning spirt is something I still see within our people today. 

Will the new employee insights platform change how we measure success?

Success of employee feedback will now be based on the quality of feedback provided and our ability to take action, not the participation rate or metrics. No one person is solely responsible for engagement – it takes a united team to help build a better work environment. We need every employee to take an active role in suggesting how we make a positive impact from their insights. Each employee has an opportunity to participate and influence change. 

We often talk about Caterpillar’s competitive advantage in regards to product development, unmatched solutions and customer support. How does this create a competitive advantage from an HR standpoint?

The one constant thread through everything we do at Caterpillar is our people. Behind every great idea and customer solution is the work our people are doing around the world. We need to know what employees are thinking and feeling so we can focus on what is most important to their everyday experience as a Caterpillar employee. The things Leo stood for when Caterpillar was created in 1925 are still important to us today. We need to make sure we are still delivering on that – meeting employees where they are today – and we need to be ready to constantly evolve to meet the speed of change. 

Why is this important now?

This is a defining moment for Caterpillar. We can’t rest on our laurels. Every employee has an opportunity to impact our culture. Every employee has an obligation to share transparently their thoughts and insights and help Caterpillar be better. This will help us move forward as a company and enhance our employee experience.