How Otis Builds a People-Centric Agile Organization in the Digital Era

How Otis Builds a People-Centric Agile Organization in the Digital Era

Otis, a company with a history dating back to 1853 and a global presence in nearly every major city, is an elevator industry giant. This historic company transports approximately 2 billion passengers worldwide every day and employs over 70,000 people. They maintain more than 2.1 million elevators and escalators, making them the largest player in the industry. In 2021, Otis’ business operations extended to over 200 countries and regions, with a net sales revenue of $14.3 billion.

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Jordi Casas, Vice President of Human Resources and Transformation at Otis, attributed their continued growth over the centuries to their outstanding performance in corporate culture and talent development. He stated in an interview, “Otis has always been committed to building a people-oriented, diverse, and inclusive corporate culture globally. This is the cornerstone that has allowed Otis to continue growing for over a century.”

01- Accelerating Digital Transformation Empowers the Organization

In the current era of global digitization and automation, China’s “14th Five-Year Plan” has emphasized the importance of “accelerating the construction of a new type of infrastructure.” The role of digital new infrastructure in supporting economic and social development has become increasingly prominent, driving industrial transformation and the development of smart cities. This has brought significant opportunities for Otis China.

Jordi Casas, Vice President of Human Resources and Transformation at Otis, explained that Otis has been operating in the Chinese market for nearly 40 years. They have built an integrated digital ecosystem based on IoT (Internet of Things) technology for their products and services. IoT technology facilitates data exchange between devices, creating an integrated digital ecosystem that positively transforms the entire value chain of the elevator industry, which is traditionally a conservative sector.

For a large multinational corporation like Otis with a rich history, any transformation is a challenging task. To drive the implementation of their digital strategy, Otis is promoting the creation of an agile organization from top to bottom to enhance response speed.

Jordi Casas mentioned that in less than a year and a half, Otis’ digital transformation project team visited branch offices across the country. Through communication with local business teams and partners, they gained insights into business needs and areas for improvement. Simultaneously, the company implemented a rapid response approach internally, requiring all internal and external customer demands to be addressed within two days. They tracked, documented all requirements and responses while fostering cross-border collaboration within Otis’ global network.

“Traditionally, it would take several years for Otis to launch a new product. Now, through focused collaboration, our teams globally were able to complete the global release of Otis’ first interconnected elevator, Gen3TM, in just six months,” added Jordi Casas.

During the digital transformation, to strengthen team collaboration, Otis China places a greater emphasis on its mission and values centered around the customer and service-oriented approaches. They promote internal corporate culture deepening, encouraging collaboration, and fostering empathy among employees. This motivates employees to genuinely prioritize customer-centric principles, driving the implementation of the digital strategy through corporate culture.

People play the most crucial role in the digital transformation. In Jordi Casas’ view, his main focus is to create a better atmosphere of cooperation within the organization, enabling employees to collaborate effectively, contribute to innovation, and help the company continue to grow. To transform corporate talent into digital talents and support the company’s digital transformation strategy, Otis has implemented internal competitions for the use of digital systems, tracking, evaluating, and encouraging employees from various functions such as frontline maintenance personnel, sales, engineers, etc., in their usage of digital tools.

The successful implementation of the digital strategy also relies on the enhancement of employees’ innovative capabilities. For this reason, Otis focuses on nurturing entrepreneurial spirit within its workforce. The company has established an internal innovation platform called the INNOVATIONS Platform, encouraging employees to submit creative ideas. Valuable ideas and concepts receive financial support, helping employees bring their inspirations to life as projects. Moreover, each quarter, the company recognizes the most innovative employees of the season, encouraging the submission of the most ideas and the greatest innovation output in the company.

Apart from encouraging innovation internally, Otis has launched the “Believe in Yourself, Create the Future (Made to Move CommunitiesTM)” campus innovation competition globally. They invite student teams to participate in the competition, with Otis employees volunteering as mentors to guide students in transforming imaginative ideas into feasible projects. This initiative sparks employee’s innovative thinking and passion.

02- People-Centric Approach to Foster Employee Growth

The success of a great company is always closely tied to its focus on talent development. Jordi Casas explained that Otis has tailored diverse talent development programs for different types of employees, helping the organization build a diverse and versatile workforce.

Firstly, for frontline maintenance employees, Otis has established an effective talent development system that encourages employees to enhance their technical competencies through a mechanism that leads to promotions. This system also paves the way for their career development and goals. Through elevator and escalator skills training, the company conducts regular technical competency certifications annually. Additionally, the company provides real-case study seminars and knowledge-sharing forums to ensure that frontline employees have comprehensive access to technical information and can achieve better growth at Otis through these communication platforms.

Secondly, for frontline elevator commissioning personnel, Otis provides a complete set of career development programs. Detailed job requirements for each position are outlined, supplemented with online and offline training, hands-on practice, and assessments. Employees have opportunities for promotion based on their performance assessments, allowing them to achieve self-development.

Lastly, for management talents at different levels, Otis designs customized training plans in a tiered and graded manner, operating and implementing management through project-based approaches.

For example, the “Star and Fire” training program is designed for grassroots managers to help them quickly establish role awareness and master basic management skills. The “Future Program” targets high-potential reserve talents, combining business operations with leadership enhancement to groom future middle-level managers. The “Inspire Program” is aimed at middle-level managers, leveraging the knowledge platform of the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) and a business perspective to comprehensively enhance leadership skills. For branch general managers and company executives, programs like “MDP” and “SPARK” are individually designed to broaden their horizons and drive company innovation and transformation. Otis creates a dynamic talent incentive and growth mechanism, effectively enhancing the core competitiveness of talent and promoting mutual development between the organization and its employees.

03- Safety First, Creating an Inclusive Work Environment

Over the past two years, the global COVID-19 pandemic has not only increased market uncertainty but also presented unprecedented challenges to Otis, a company with approximately 40,000 maintenance engineers worldwide. To enhance organizational resilience, Otis has adopted “Safety, Compliance, and Quality” as its three corporate cornerstones and has used these principles to build a diverse and inclusive cultural environment internally.

Firstly, Otis has fostered a safety-oriented psychological environment. As a leading global elevator and escalator manufacturer, installer, and maintenance service provider, Otis is committed to creating a “zero accidents” safe working environment, which is documented in the company’s ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) report. Internally, all Otis employees and subcontractors have been granted “stop-work authority” to halt work at any time if they identify safety hazards or behaviors that could lead to danger. The company continually strengthens its safety culture to ensure that employees are not deterred from stopping work due to safety risks.

In addition to safety awareness in the workplace, Otis also focuses on creating psychological safety for employees. Jordi Casas explained that Otis encourages employees to speak candidly, express their opinions freely, and values mutual understanding and recognition among colleagues. During lockdowns and restrictions related to the pandemic, Otis required its management team to enhance interaction and communication with employees through various means such as online meetings, text messages, and emails to maintain contact and care.

Furthermore, during the pandemic, Otis invited psychology experts to provide a series of training sessions and lectures for employees, helping them cope with stress, promote open communication, and improve their work-life balance through online training and psychological support. Otis also launched the “Heart” Employee Assistance Program (EAP), offering psychological and emotional support, life information services, and stress relief for employees and their families through hotlines, public accounts, websites, and third-party experts.

A company that helps employees build a sense of security can also foster a stronger sense of belonging among employees, ultimately better serving customers. For frontline employees, Otis has established a “Service Excellence Program” that recognizes and rewards employees who provide outstanding service to customers, enhancing their sense of belonging and value. “During the pandemic, some frontline employees not only remained at their posts but also participated in volunteer work. They represented Otis, contributed to the community, and made us feel their commitment to the company’s culture,” added Jordi Casas.

Secondly, Otis encourages gender equality. According to Jordi Casas, Otis is committed to achieving gender equality in its global executive team by 2030. Currently, 36% of Otis’ global female executives and 56% of board members are women, belong to minority ethnicities, or both.

In Jordi Casas’ view, male and female are not binary oppositions, and discussions about how to help women adapt to the work environment or support their growth are ultimately about meeting the individual needs of employees. Therefore, eliminating bias, meeting individual employee needs, and providing career development plans for employees are paramount.

To achieve this, Otis conducts independent reviews globally to discover and eliminate “unconscious bias” that affects employees in recruitment, compensation, career development, and other business processes. In 2021, almost all managers worldwide participated in the company’s unconscious bias training.

In addition, Otis collaborates with the China Women’s Development Foundation to launch the “Mulan Growth Plan – Otis Scholarship.” This program offers scholarships to outstanding female Chinese university students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), helping young women establish a solid foundation for entrepreneurship and employment while promoting a spirit of diversity and equality in society.

Finally, Otis emphasizes both corporate development and ESG goals. In 2022, Otis released its first Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) report, making contributions to the community based on four dimensions: health and safety, environment and impact, human-centric and community, and governance and ethics.

By creating a people-centric and inclusive corporate culture and work environment, Otis China continuously taps into the sustainable development potential and capabilities of its employees. While adhering to the three corporate cornerstones of safety, compliance, and quality, Otis China embraces digital technology and plays a leading role in the global elevator industry’s development.

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