80 HR Magazine December 2017/January 2018
Denis Nicole, SHRM-SCP
Denis Nicole 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
Nicole is the membership director for the
Detroit chapter of the Society for Human Resource
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 t wo 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.