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Denis Nicole. Photo by Andy Greenwell
Denis Nicole, SHRM-SCP, knows a thing or two about putting out fires.
Not only did he spend three decades as a globe-trotting HR professional for Ford Motor Co., including stints in China, Japan and Mexico, but he serves as an on-call firefighter and emergency medical technician in his hometown of Farmington Hills, Mich.
Both jobs involve helping people. And they both require continuous training, he says.
“While all situations are different, the more we can prepare for emergencies, the better the outcome,” says Nicole, who retired from Ford in 2007 and co-founded a cross-cultural consultancy. He also takes on interim HR executive assignments.
Nicole is the membership director for the Detroit chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management.
What is your work philosophy?
From a change management perspective, I strive for improvement in cost, quality, and employee and customer satisfaction in every organization I’m involved with. Experience has shown me that, unless all four of these move in tandem, any attempt to instill long-term change will be unsustainable. I also enjoy finding ways to free up people’s time, improving their work life and making the organization more efficient.
I was fortunate to be a part of the employee involvement initiative at Ford, which was launched in 1979. It helped me gain respect for the contributions that each individual makes to achieve the organization’s goals.
What obstacles have you overcome?
My grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Canada, so I grew up speaking French at home. When I started school, I had trouble separating English and French at first. Later in life, that experience helped me learn Spanish when I worked in Mexico for two years training workers for a new Ford plant.
What do you enjoy in your spare time?
I enjoy playing ice hockey, sailing and traveling. I’m a staff officer in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, vice commodore of Lake Shore Sail Club and an on-call district chief with the local fire department, responding to more than 600 calls a year.
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