Peace, Love and VW Lies?

Brittany Hink

When the average person thinks of Volkswagen, they imagine the VW bug or beetle in bright flashy colors with peace signs and hearts. A common saying "Peace, Love and VW Bug" can be found on t-shirts, stickers, and baseball caps. Others might imagine the VW bus with that infamous VW symbol on the front. The culture and following is one that is hard to beat, especially in the motor vehicle space. There are sites and forums for the dedicated Volkswagen fans where discussions can range from the best places to take the VW bus camping to what types of flowers Beetle drivers are holding in their vase.
With over a 20% drop in market value, Volkswagen is having a rough week.
Over the weekend, VW sales came to a halt when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board released information regarding manipulated environmental standards tests that have affected millions of Volkswagen diesel cars. VW allegedly admitted to cheating on U.S. emission tests for several of the popular diesel vehicles.
In a statement released on Sunday, Professor Dr. Martin Winterkorn, the Chief Executive Officer of Volkswagen AG stated, "I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public."
What lessons can HR professionals learn from Volkswagen, one of the world’s largest carmakers?
Build a strong learning organization: Many organizations focus on creating a strong learning environment and they start at the top. Having a strong leadership team that will present themselves as teachers and educators will enhance the communication throughout the entire organization. When the leadership team focuses on enhancing learning throughout the organization, employees stay focused and engaged with the company.
Talent Acquisition: Hiring the right people can be tough, and once you hire them you want to do everything possible to keep them. Volkswagen just made a big mistake and could lose some top talent. Having a strong internal culture is critical for recruiting and retaining top talent. Most job seekers are looking for a work environment that will be a smooth transition with their current "likes" and joining an organization with a sour reputation is not high on the list for job seekers. Did they have the right people in management positions? Only time will tell.
Keep Motivating Employees: Motivation is key. Keeping employees motivated is a challenge for some organizations and human resource executives are always trying to stay ahead. Keeping employees motivated and engaged could be a challenge in the coming weeks for Volkswagen but an HR team that maintains employee motivation through a tough time will overcome many obstacles.
There are many lessons to learn from the Volkswagen story that is unraveling before our eyes. What impact will this have on the HR department? What impact will this have on the motor vehicle industry?