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Talent-grooming Prowess

AU Optronics Shuffles the Deck


At AUO rotating senior managers through different positions stimulates their learning abilities, helps them overcome personal limitations, and challenges them to think outside the box.



AU Optronics Shuffles the Deck

By Benjamin Chiang
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 415 )

In May last year when the global LCD panel industry was still doing quite fine, AU Optronics (AUO) quietly carried out its biggest management shuffle since the founding of its predecessor company Acer Display Technology twelve years earlier. More than 200 senior managers were assigned to new jobs at the time, rotating between the sales, production and R&D departments.

Most high-tech companies shy away from rotating senior management in times of high volatility in the industrial cycle. But AUO, the world's third largest maker of TFT-LDC panels, is taking the opposite approach, rotating senior management every two years on the average.

Panel manufacturing is a highly complex industry. From capital- and technology-intensive front-end manufacturing to labor-intensive back-end module production processes, more than 10,000 different items of material need to be purchased. On top of that, during the past decade AUO needed to build a new fab once every 12 to 18 months on the average to keep pace with rising panel demand. Since it proved impossible to recruit as many senior managers as would have been needed to run the additional production facilities, the company was forced to rotate its existing senior staff.

"Senior managers who don't have comprehensive practice and experience in the industry will hardly be able to make correct judgments," says AUO vice chairman H.B. Chen, in explaining the company's rationale behind job rotation. The goal of rotating managers is to break departmental egoism and strengthen senior management's comprehensive thinking, Chen explains.

Nine years ago AUO took the lead in introducing job rotation. In the first stage the senior managers and employees of different departments within a factory were reassigned to new jobs. Those working on the production lines, for instance, switched jobs with those in quality control. Two years later, during the restructuring of AUO's main business groups, the senior managers in R&D and production were reassigned to frontline sales work. When AUO merged with Quanta Display Inc. in October 2006, more than 20 veteran managers at the level of section leader and above were assigned to new positions in another major shuffle.

Aside from implementing job rotation, AUO has also begun to strengthen cross-discipline and cross-industry training for its top-level managers. For example, the company arranged for executives from President Chain Store Corporation to share their marketing and customer-service experiences, and also invited choreographer Lin Huai-min, the founder of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, to lecture on visionary leadership. "We can't always know about nothing but glass – we need to stretch out our feelers," notes Chen.

Cultivating New Talent for New Projects

A few months ago AUO drew up a talent cultivation program that aims to train more than 250 high-level managers as back-up for the company's plan to expand into the solar energy sector and to globalize its new LED business segment.

The human resources departments have designed a comprehensive new employee-orientation program toward that end. Ku Hsiu-hwa, head of human resource strategies, notes that AUO designates specific personnel to be in charge of recruiting, and a dedicated unit that groups top management at the level of vice president is in charge of interviewing and assessing job applicants to make sure that newly recruited talent matches the company's needs. "The vice presidents are able at any time to track the new employees' current performance as well as future internal job changes," she says.

After new employees have reported to work, they undergo a three-month new employee orientation program that covers daily life, the job and personal support networks. A four-member team – consisting of an employee's direct supervisor, his designated mentor, the production site's human resources manager and the human resources manager who was present in the job interview – conducts the program. Once the orientation is completed, the new employee is given an opportunity, in a luncheon with human resources managers, to make suggestions on how the program could be improved or adjusted.

AUO has also designed a course for its more than 200 middle- to high-level executives on how to be a competent and capable boss. In the future these training courses will be expanded to team leaders at manager rank, to further boost the company's talent-grooming prowess.

Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz

Chinese Version: 主管大風吹,輪調練將才