Magna International

A Welcoming Feeling in a Manufacturing Setting

In her role as senior human resources generalist at the Magna Decostar plant in Piedmont, South Carolina, Dawn Gilbert juggles a wide variety of duties, including conducting orientations and doing health-and-safety presentations. She also has an unusual personal goal: to know the names of each of the plant’s employees.

It’s a daunting task, given that the plant, which makes parts for the BMW X-Series SUVs, is so successful that the employee roster has ballooned from around 170 in mid-2017 to 353 today.

“I like to know a little bit about them,” Gilbert said. “When I walk through the plant, I ask them about their lives and their families. It’s all about following the Magna Employee’s Charter.?

“So many companies treat their executives different from people on the shop floor. But we want them to understand that without them, none of us would have a job. They are as critical as the parts we make or the customers we have.”

Her desire to build a welcoming feeling in a manufacturing setting was a lesson learned at the family dinner table. Gilbert’s father was a supervisor at a textile mill in Greenville, South Carolina, and her mom worked at a couple of different plants in the accounting department.

“My dad always wanted people to be treated fairly and he talked about that frequently when I was growing up,” she said. “He knew everybody’s name in the plant and they knew his name. He always told me it was important to work for somebody who cares.”

Gilbert earned a degree in human services from Piedmont Technical College and honed her skills at a mail-order company, where she said she “grew into my HR role.” A longtime fan of racing, Gilbert lists Shirley Muldowney, a high-profile female racer who paved the way for women in motorsports, as an inspiration.
We want them to understand that without them, none of us would have a job. They are as critical as the parts we make or the customers we have.

“I love manufacturing and I love cars, so this job has been a perfect fit for me,” Gilbert said. “But there’s still a lot to be done in our field for women.”

When she attended the recent Women in Automotive Southern Conference, Gilbert was inspired by the words of a female executive from another supplier who was one of the speakers. Her speech was entitled “Sorry, Not Sorry.”

“Stop apologizing!” she told the crowd. “In business, mark that word off your list and don’t say it anymore.”

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