August 05, 2015
Grace Macaluso

At Fiat Chrysler’s sprawling headquarters and technology centre, innovation isn’t just about producing better vehicles. It’s also about producing better ideas.

Taking a page from high-tech giants, such as Google, the automaker is literally and figuratively tearing down walls between the more than 14,000 workers who occupy the 5.4 million-square foot complex in Auburn Hills, Mich.

The goal is to create a Google-like work culture that fosters creative collaboration among employees ranging from engineers and designers to human resources and communications staff, said Glenn Hoffrichter, senior manager-facilities planning and business services. In a bid to encourage informal brainstorming, more than  40 “collaboration pods,” have been installed along various concourses where employees can lounge in comfortable, brightly coloured chairs and exchange ideas.

“People were saying  ‘I want a Google space,’ but you also have to have a Google culture and this helps create that,” said Hoffrichter. Millennials, in particular, are drawn to open settings versus conventional, closed-in work stations, he added.

“We had people in the hallways, they interact, we saw them stopping and talking to each other, but there was no place for them to go,” said Hoffrichter.  “We had white space that wasn’t being used, so we came up with different carpet patterns and furniture to define this as an area where people will collaborate differently together. You see people using it more and more.”

The Windsor Star