By on May 25, 2017

tesla factory fremont

For some reason, the term “Chief People Officer” is at the same time cringe-inducing and rational. That’s what Tesla calls its head of HR. “Human Resources,” of course, is another cringe-inducing term that could only have come from the mid-century expansion of the federal public service. It’s an awful thing.

At Tesla, the face of HR — or people, if you will — has suddenly changed, and at a very interesting point in the electric automaker’s history. The company has announced the departure of longtime HR head Arnnon Geshuri, who oversaw workers at the company for eight years. In his place is Gaby Toledano, a veteran of high tech.

The timing of the departure could simply be a benign career change, but what’s occurring in the background at Tesla have many thinking otherwise.

Tesla announced the new addition to its California team on Tuesday, less than a week after a scathing report on workplace conditions at the automaker’s Fremont factory. That report, published in The Guardian, relied heavily on historical recollections from years past and data showing the company’s above-average accident rate between 2013 and 2016. Tesla issued a response to the claims even before the story came out. In it, the company detailed recent safety and health initiatives (like a move away from 12-hour shifts) while claiming its earlier drive was for the good of the company and its workers’ jobs.

The company claimed that in the first quarter of this year the recordable incident rate fell to a level 32 percent below the industry average. Stories fed to the media were the product of an aggressive unionization push by the United Auto Workers, Tesla said.

It isn’t known whether the departing People Officer left on his own accord. Tesla stated in a blog post, “Arnnon will be taking a short break before moving on to a new endeavor,” before wishing him well.

As for Toledano, her most recent position was at video game producer Electronic Arts, where she spent 10 years as an executive. Before that, she held positions at Microsoft and Oracle, and currently sits on four technology boards.

[Image: Tesla]

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14 Comments on “New ‘People Officer’ Arrives at Tumultuous Time for Tesla...”

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Isn’t Electronic Arts the poster child for abusive work practices by an employer? Isn’t it basically Foxconn America? Except maybe worse?

  • avatar

    Yes, EA is exactly the reason that in California, you have to pay computer programmers overtime unless you pay them at least $86,000 a year.

  • avatar

    So is Gaby gonna be the Tesla version of Harry Bennett? (you youngsters will have to look that one up).
    I think old Elon is gonna be treading a fine line in union-loving progressive California.

  • avatar

    Gotta manage that “human capital”.

  • avatar

    Oh great, an “oracle” in the field of….video games!

    Earth to Elon – the automobile business is, at the end of the day, all about people actually, physically MAKING THINGS, not ephemeral bits and bytes. That’s why the REAL heroes of Model X are the now-departed-from-Tesla experienced auto engineers from – horrors! – Detroit. They are the ones that brilliantly built the automotive platform that contains Elon’s neat electrics. But you’d never know that from Elon’s hype about “his” vision.

    I’m going to be watching the roll-out of the Model 3 with great interest. Hope your HR, er, “people” expert manages the massive ramp-up in shop floor “people” activity and challenges as the new-age guru she undoubtedly is.

  • avatar

    Correction: I meant Model “S”, not “X”.

    A personal note: we rode in a Model “S” taxi (!) from central Paris to CDG airport last May, driven by its owner who said he loved it. As he squirted through traffic, it felt like he had a 1960s Hemi under the hood, except with just a discrete whine, all in luxurious comfort.

    Last Saturday, I passed an accident on Oak Street in Vancouver where a Model “S” was virtually completely destroyed. The front and back ends were completely crunched and one side was caved in almost half way to the other side. But there was no smoke, no fire, and the battery packs were obviously intact. It is a very good design.

  • avatar

    A quick Google search reveals that: ‘The term “human resource” was subsequently in use during the 1910s and 1920s as was the notion that workers could be seen as a kind of capital asset.’

    Sure doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the ‘mid-century expansion of the federal public service,’ and more to do with lazy writing / axe grinding. I agree it’s an awful phrase, but you owe your readers more if you want to be so certain in your proclamations.

  • avatar

    “The company claimed that in the first quarter of this year the recordable incident rate fell to a level 32 percent below the industry average. Stories fed to the media were the product of an aggressive unionization push by the United Auto Workers, Tesla said.”

    “Recordable”, or really, “recorded” is the key word there. The people I know at the factory do feel there’s a workplace safety problem, they’re getting burned out after months and months of mandatory overtime, and they’re disappointed that they’re being compelled to ship products that haven’t received the time they need to be of the expected quality. Tesla’s initial response was to turn factory floor meetings into pep rallies and to distribute loyalty oaths for everyone to sign (letters telling the UAW to F off).

    But you only have to go back a couple of years when the UAW approached the workers and no one was interested. They were happy.

    On a more positive note, I have a friend who worked at EA during its bad times, and he actually thinks highly of Toledano.

  • avatar

    *Authentic Millennial Double Highfive Management Fistbump*

  • avatar

    Here’s the Guardian article.

    From this, it appears that it really is easy to damage your body working there, and Elon is not worried about you.

  • avatar

    Dogbert: (to Pointy-haired boss) “From now on, refer to your employees as ‘knowledge assets.’ That will send an unmistakable message.”

    Dilbert: “He calls us ‘knowledge assets’ now. He must think we’re complete morons.”

    Dogbert: “It’s an unmistakable message.”

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