Western Digital 2017-06-28T22:16:24+00:00

Project Description


Industry disruption and rapid consolidation are changing roles in business faster than people can understand the roles they will play in the future, much less learn the skills to take on these roles. When Western Digital acquired HGST, a traditional factory manufacturing workforce of 42,000 employees was mixed with 3,000 new “knowledge worker” leaders, and thrown into the battlefield that is the Silicon Valley war for talent. Add a geographical divide between operations in China and corporate headquarters in Silicon Valley, and you have a dangerous concoction. Western Digital called Oxygen for help averting a major culture clash and redefining how performance was measured across the wide-ranging workforce. Western Digital tapped us for help defining future roles in their new, combined workforce.


We started our discovery by asking key questions of the CEO and executive team: Why were knowledge worker leaders evaluated using all of the same criteria as assembly line workers? How could we implement career paths, mentoring and motivation that would help leaders make better decisions, and feel more satisfied with their work? And how would they possibly attract talent and evolve their business?

Oxygen then arranged deep-dive sessions with other Oxygen clients who had gone through similar transformations, so that the Western Digital team could learn what worked, what didn’t – and what pitfalls to avoid.

Workshops, interviews, and concept sessions helped the Western Digital team involve their leaders, stakeholders, and managers formulate their own vision where, instead of ratings, bell curves, and canned reports, knowledge workers could expect mentoring, conversations, and career development paths to help them gain a more rewarding experience as leaders at Western Digital.


Understanding how employees are valued, knowing how to coach for retention, and learning about how to recruit and hire in Silicon Valley were all part of the knowledge gained by Western Digital leaders. Over the next 18 months, Oxygen and Western Digital developed and delivered a series of modules that introduced managers and knowledge workers to the new model, helped them feel comfortable in getting started, and provided reinforcement along the way. They began to take on the future roles we worked with Western Digital to define.

We made transformative updates to norms and systems that had been in place for years. We helped the Western Digital unit convert a system optimized for manufacturing operations to a system designed for knowledge workers. We overhauled an automated rating system with low interaction to highly engaging performance conversations, coaching, and career development. And we updated a “one size fits all” model that was unattractive to Silicon Valley talent to a specialized, modernized model that factored in the needs and motivations of tech knowledge workers. In the land of technology, Western Digital worked with Oxygen to invest in its people.