How does a manager motivate his people to do their best work? In today’s challenging economy, this question is vitally important as companies look for ways to streamline operations. At Boeing, the aerospace and defense system global giant, managers have a multifaceted approach to employee motivation that all comes down to one thing: investing in their people so that every morning, those people get up and want to go to work at Boeing. That was part of the message Rick Stephens, senior vice president of human resources and administration at Boeing, shared with students on a recent visit to Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

Rick Stephens, Senior VP of Human Resources and Administration at Boeing, talks to Mays students about his company's approach to keeping employees motivated.
Rick Stephens, Senior VP of Human Resources and Administration at Boeing, talks to Mays students about his company’s approach to keeping employees motivated.

Boeing spends millions annually on employee training, including a generous tuition reimbursement program for those going back to school, said Stephens emphasizing the importance of engaging your employee’s heart as well as mind. To that end, Boeing is also dedicated to growing leaders within their company, putting 7,000 employees through their leadership institute each year. “We believe as leaders grow, Boeing grows,” said Stephens.

Stephens has spent 29 years with the company in a variety of progressive management capacities. In his current position he is responsible for all leadership development, training, employee relations, compensation, and benefits, as well as global corporate citizenship and diversity initiatives at the Chicago-based company. It’s a big job: Boeing has a presence in 49 states and 70 countries, employing 160,000 people.

Stephens’ career has taken him around the world, from assignments in Washington D.C. to Australia. He says that one of the most valuable lessons he’s learned about managing people is that even when everyone is speaking English, communication can be challenging. Understanding what people mean by what they say is a vital component of maximizing a team’s potential, he said.

Stephens’ visit was part of a speaker series provided by the Center for Human Resource Management at Mays. Stephens holds a BS in mathematics from the University of Southern California and an MS in computer science from California State University, Fullerton. He is nearing completion of an MBA from the Claremont Graduate School of Business. Prior to his career with Boeing, Stephens was an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.